Picks and Pans Review: Meat Is Murder

updated 04/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/22/1985 AT 01:00 AM EST

The Smiths

When the Smiths were launched in England a couple of years ago, they shared no common musical background. In fact they had little musical background at all. But like the group A Flock of Seagulls, the Smiths haven't suffered from their inexperience. Lack of sophistication is part of the four-man group's appeal, which is apparently growing. Meat Is Murder, the Smiths' second album, topped the British charts from the day of its release, and the boys seem to be prancing their way to U.S. stardom in the footsteps of such groups as Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Bronski Beat. Their lead singer and lyricist is Morrissey, 24, who insists he is celibate though his lyrics have distinctly gay overtones. He, along with guitarist Johnny Marr, creates songs that fail to observe conventional patterns in terms of song structure and melody. It's just as well that Morrissey crafts his own material because, with his voice, he wouldn't get far singing the Top 40. Morrissey harries a melody, always a demisemiquaver or so away from true pitch. The result can be pretentious, as on I Want the One I Can't Have, or attractive, as on How Soon Is Now. Even with Morrissey's unique contributions, the bizarre, alienated sound of the Smiths would be less singular if it were backed by synthesizers. But the group benefits from the wild, almost foolhardy guitar stylings of Marr. All the elements dovetail neatly in The Headmaster Ritual, which combines a spiraling riff from Marr behind Morrissey's yodeling and Orwellian lyrics about British public schools. The impact is powerful. Meat Is Murder isn't what you would call consistent, but it is outlandishly fascinating. (Rough Trade/Sire)

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