Friday, March 25, 2016

Smiths 8: Rank

Something of an official epitaph, Rank presents selections from a concert on the Smiths’ last tour, in support of The Queen Is Dead and the singles that followed. Various live performances had appeared as B-sides over the years, but this is the closest thing to a full Smiths concert, before or since.
For the most part, the songs are pretty close to the standard studio versions, save Morrissey’s occasional outbursts and introductions. “Rusholme Ruffians” begins with a verse of “Marie’s The Name (His Latest Flame)”, paying back that musical debt, and “What She Said” is rearranged, using “Rubber Ring” as its frame. The big difference is the addition of Craig Gannon on guitar, to take some of the pressure off Johnny Marr. Above all, Rank shows off the band as a band, and is a testament to that rhythm section, despite all the reports of the bass player still detoxing from heroin in those days.
The setlist is upbeat for dancing, and while “I Know It’s Over” seems to slow things down when it arrives, the power of the song and the performance keep the emotional impact high. It’s even followed by “The Draize Train”, an instrumental otherwise only available as a B-side.
Rank certainly presents the band at an apex; they only played six more shows together as a band, and had even just cut short their American tour due to “exhaustion”. The complete show had been broadcast on the BBC and subsequently bootlegged, making this album ripe for expansion. Don’t bet on it.

The Smiths Rank (1988)—3

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