“How Soon Is Now?”: The Smiths’ Discography Deep Focus

Story posted April 23, 2023 in

The Smiths is one of the best bands to ever come out of the 1980s. The band evokes a sound that is the quintessential definition of awesome. Yet somehow, it only lasted half a decade on the music charts.

Luckily, this legendary group left behind a stellar discography, with four main studio albums, three notable compilation albums, and only one live album.

The discography of The Smiths is an adventurous journey of the group’s ever consistent sound (that being Johnny Marr’s unforgettable guitar riffs and Morrissey’s iconic voice) but also their evolution. 

“The Smiths” was the group’s first studio album released in 1984, after gaining prominence in Great Britain and landing several hit singles on radio airwaves.

“The Smiths” is good on its own, but it is obvious that this album was basically a “pilot” for what would come later. It contains the earliest demos of “What Difference Does It Make” and “Reel Around the Fountain,” which would be rerecorded at later points.

The Smiths’ self-titled album was also good for establishing the group’s signature “sound,” and it served as an intro for what was to come.

“Meat is Murder”, the follow-up album, is essentially the “sequel that’s better than the first.” It improves upon the previous album’s foundations in every way, allowing for groovier rhythms, and a perfection of Johnny Marr’s signature guitar “sound.”

The opening alone (“The Headmaster Ritual”) is an awesome way to begin the album, letting the listener know that they are in for a “banger.”

“Meat is Murder” solidifies The Smiths as a legitimate band and a force to be reckoned with, but their next studio album would be their perfection.

“The Queen is Dead,” the third album, is still considered by many fans to be their best album to date and contains many of their classic songs.

“There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and “The Boy with a Thorn in His Side” are beautiful entries that must be listened to by anybody, Smiths fan or not, and they found their home on this album.

For a while, it seemed like The Smiths would get better and better and up the ante with each album, but then there was “Strangeways Here We Come.”

Now, “Strangeways Here We Come” is not a bad album by any means, but it does not contain the perfection that “Meat is Murder” and “The Queen is Dead” possessed.

It is a “mixed” success, probably because it was released just after the band had infamously separated. It has great tunes like “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” and underrated gems like “Unhappy Birthday,” but the rest of the album is “decently listenable."

Thankfully, despite the group’s breakup, “Strangeways Here We Come” is a good album with hopeful intentions. 

Surprisingly, the compilation albums of The Smiths are better than the studio selections. The compilation albums served as an expansion of the band’s work, while also containing the “official” recordings of the band’s released singles that differed from their studio album counterparts.

Also, the compilation albums featured many popular songs not on the main studio albums. “How Soon is Now,” the most famous Smiths single ever, was never featured on any of the studio albums, but had a home in the first compilation album, “Hatful of Hollow.”

“Louder Than Bombs” and “The World Won’t Listen” also feature the rerecorded “official” versions of many great songs like “Reel Around the Fountain” and “Hand in Glove” and includes underrepresented gems like “Back to the Old House” and “Rubber Ring.”

The compilation albums are some of the best entries of The Smiths because they expanded on so much more material than the studio counterparts. They are better by comparison because the studio albums merely “scratch the surface.” 

As well, in the band’s five-year run, The Smiths also only released one live album, “Rank”.

The album itself was released a year after the group’s breakup and was only on the music markets due to a contractual obligation. For a live album, it is fine enough for a listen, especially if music enthusiasts are looking for alternative versions of some of their favorite songs. 

It is important to note as well what exactly the “Smiths sound” is. Technically, The Smiths are classified as an “alternative rock,” because they could not be classified as anything else. In reality, The Smiths were a fusion of 1960s rock and post-punk music, and heavy emphasis was placed on Johnny Marr’s guitars.

Most importantly, the synthesizers and dance-pop that was prevalent throughout the entire 1980s were entirely rejected by the lead singer, Morrissey, because it was “soulless music”. That could be debatable, but on the other hand, this reasoning is what gave The Smiths a distinct sound that no other music group could replicate.

The Smiths are unique in the sense that they are “one sound” and that sound will never be replicated again. 

Overall, the discography of The Smiths is not something to ignore. For people who listen to a large variety of music, and enjoy listening to music in general, check out the albums of The Smiths.

This band performs music that you have never heard before and will especially never hear from any modern artist. They are special because of their distinct style and this style is cohesive throughout their five-year run.

If you want to groove to great rhythms, or be swept away on a musical adventure, or just want to listen to something different, try The Smiths. You are guaranteed to never be disappointed. 

Logan M. Sharp is a third-year student studying film production. To contact him, please email lxs5590@psu.edu