Thursday, 29 January 2015

How Soon Is Now?

It's the school holidays here so I guess its time to forget about all that educational stuff and focus on the music.
And for me, the past week has been dominated by what might be my very favourite song ever,

 How Soon Is Now? by the Smiths.



I must admit I fell in love with my wife Jane, just a little more when she chose the Smiths Singles CD on our drive home from our holiday last weekend.

But in an album of great songs, this is the one that towers above the rest. I get why it's been called the Stairway to Heaven of indie. It's just that preposterously good that the songs around it feel like filler.

So let's break it down.

First and foremost is Johnny Marr's finest moment on guitar. The vibrato delayed rhythm guitar that drives the song, the slide that cascades in and out, the harmonics that sound like angry chime bars, all add up to a wall of sound that Phil Spector could never dream of.

Now listen to the rhythm section. Andy Rourke is working overtime on the bass while Mike Joyce plays a solid, hypnotic but never boring drum groove.

The whole song hinges on a Bo Diddley beat, one of the most primal, sexy grooves in the history of rock and roll. But when played in slow motion the urgency of the riff becomes woozy and semi stoned just like the protagonist in the story who has wandered into a disco or nightclub but is too shy to ask anyone to dance with him.

The lyrics switch between the first and second person narrative. He's basically having an argument with himself, and we've all been there, or at least I have...

Now it must be said that The Smiths, and Morrissey in particular have a reputation for being miserable, gloomy killjoys.

A quick read though their song titles does nothing to dispel that idea: Cemetry Gates, Girlfriend in a Coma, Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now...

But if you can get past the titles and listen to any of those tracks it quickly becomes apparent that not only is the music up-tempo and at times, positively jaunty, but the lyrics are witty, playful and absolutely unique. (There's a reason that Cemetery is spelt Cemetry, but don't let me spoil it.)

But!!!

 "How Soon is Now" IS absolutely miserable.

This is rock bottom stuff for a teenager.
Turning up to a party, knowing no-one, losing an internal battle of wills to shyness:

So you go and you stand on your own
And you leave on your own
And you go home and you cry
And you want to die

Yep, that's pretty bleak. Possibly none more bleak.
Even for Morrissey.

But these bleak words are  backed by this powerful and somehow uplifting, multi textured rhythm.

Maybe it's the way that harmonic guitar chime refrain ends on an unexpected high note or maybe it's because this song sounds like nothing else in The Smiths canon, let alone anyone else's.

It's a unique slab of indie rock n roll, and if I haven't yet convinced you to click the link above, then you've probably already stopped reading...






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