Friday, April 24, 2015

Smiths 6: Louder Than Bombs

As good as it is, The World Won’t Listen doesn’t quite provide the breadth of Louder Than Bombs, the Smiths compilation released in the US only a month later. This two-record set (or single cassette/CD) served basically the same purpose of mopping up extra tracks, but had the advantage of adding a few more recent recordings, and further muddied the shelves by including several songs already on Hatful Of Hollow.
Designed as a listening experience rather than a definitive history, Louder Than Bombs is chronologically jumbled, but sequenced very well—side one presents the most recent recordings, while side four is an exercise in dynamics, starting from “Hand In Glove” again down to “Asleep”. The 13 or so songs repeated from The World Won’t Listen are scattered throughout, in between earlier singles and B-sides not on any US albums (“William”, “Please Please Please”, “Heaven Knows”, “Girl Afraid”, to name a few).
Even with all the repetition, several songs can be considered “new”. The big production of the suggestive “Sheila Take A Bow” was the most recent single; its B-sides, both taken from a BBC session, were the only recordings of “Is It Really So Strange?”, a comical Morrissey travelogue, and the unfortunate “Sweet And Tender Hooligan”, whose lyric strains to keep up with the music. “Back To The Old House” and “These Things Take Time” appear in their studio, non-BBC incarnations; the former pales while the latter prevails. Slightly different mixes of “Stretch Out And Wait” and “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby” further ensured purchase on both sides of the pond.
As a more comprehensive overview of non-album tracks covering the Smiths’ career to date, Louder Than Bombs does somewhat negate the need for The World Won't Listen, and makes Hatful Of Hollow more for absolute completists, but then those people would miss out on the BBC versions of “Reel Around The Fountain” and “Back To The Old House”. Now that all three albums are considered part of the canon, there’s no easy answer, and future Smiths collections wouldn't help streamline things any. Nevertheless, with 24 songs in 73 minutes, Louder Than Bombs is as enjoyable for longtime fans as it is for newcomers.

The Smiths Louder Than Bombs (1987)—4

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