Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Smiths 5: The World Won't Listen

With two fingers up to those who either had all the band’s singles or didn’t like the band anyway, The Smiths compiled another music-crammed LP of hits and otherwise. The World Won’t Listen was basically a sequel to Hatful Of Hollow, but while that album at least offered alternate tracks in the form of BBC performances, this one stuck to the band’s own releases, and ended up repeating four album tracks that were also singles, so fans now had at least three versions of the same song(s) in their racks.

But, as we’ve asserted, the band’s singles were as good as (if not better than) the albums, so this is hardly a mopping-up of leftovers. Two terrific singles from the previous summer start off the collection. “Panic” urges the populace to “burn down the disco” while making sure to “hang the DJ”, and “Ask” is a simple, sunny song with shimmering acoustic guitars and even backing vocals by Kirsty Maccoll. “London” is a surprising blast of punk, while “Shakespeare’s Sister” gallops along under a frenetic piano. “Shoplifters Of The World Unite” repeats the Bo Diddley beat of “How Soon Is Now?” with little of the excitement. In between, “Bigmouth Strikes Again”, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” and “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side”, all from The Queen Is Dead, keep the quality high.

Side two is nearly all B-sides, and somewhat subdued musically. “Asleep” is a solid departure, a waltz on piano with wind effects and a music box coda of “Auld Lang Syne”, lying just this side of a suicide note. “Unloveable” is a typical Morrissey lyric, heavy on repetition and short on subtlety, but as quotable as it is lovable (“I wear black on the outside because black is how I feel on the inside”, for instance). “Half A Person” is a bit more toe-tapping but just as mopey. “Stretch Out And Wait” is another predominantly acoustic strum that pales as a close copy of “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore”, from Meat Is Murder. But instead of the fake ending, it’s followed by “Oscillate Wildly”, a striking piano-led instrumental that ups the tempo to meet “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby”, a completely new song that was this close to being their newest single. A reggae rhythm begins “Rubber Ring”, but luckily abandoned for a more straightforward arrangement to match a lyric that tries to bridge (and meld) singer and fan. (Later reissues included the rare instrumental “Money Changes Everything”, which likely caught Bryan Ferry’s ear, and the hideous cover of a song called “Golden Lights”, in a most un-Smiths-like arrangement that sounds exactly like the kind of insipid ‘80s pop we thought the band was actively trying to eradicate.)

For kids who’d been immersed in The Queen Is Dead since June, here were more songs to save their lives. Being a Smiths release with heretofore unavailable tracks in the US, The World Won’t Listen did brisk business as an import, until another release stirred the pot further.

The Smiths The World Won’t Listen (1987)—4

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