The Smiths are back with yet another compilation. This comes as no surprise since the band hasn’t worked together in over two decades, and the yearly rumors of a reunion at Coachella are always denied. My favorite being Morrissey’s comment from 2006 where he stated, “I'd rather eat my testicles than reform The Smiths,” and coming from a vegetarian, that’s saying something.
The band’s previous release was 2001’s The Very Best of The Smiths, which got a drubbing from critics as well as Morrissey and Johnny Marr, who had no involvement in its release. No doubt with the upcoming holidays playing a part, Rhino Records offers up The Sound of The Smiths in Single-CD and Double-CD Deluxe versions. Morrissey named the compilation, and Marr was involved in the remastering, so at least they won’t be complaining. And they shouldn’t because the songs sound as good as they ever have.
The Smiths were a welcome break from the new wave synth-pop of the early ‘80s. Marr, with his jangly guitar, as well as bassist Andy Rourke and drummer Mike Joyce, created brilliant, textured sonic-soundscapes perfectly suited for Morrissey’s plaintive crooning, which he used to accentuate his wonderfully miserable tales about the highs and lows that accompany youth and love. However, I may very well “have started something I couldn’t finish.” My reaction to these albums is conflicted because I don’t know whom they are for?
The Sound… serves as a great introduction to The Smiths, but I am from the Bruce McCullough school of thought that “greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls.” Ideally, I would suggest people wait for a remastering of the entire catalog into Deluxe Editions, like what Rhino has previously done with Yes, The Cure, and other bands or a box set that collects everything. Because, to me, The Smiths’ albums were “all killer, no filler.” None of the music here has been previously unreleased, so there’s nothing new other than the remastering, but that alone is not going to be enough to interest Smiths fans.
The single-disc version is mainly comprised of the band’s singles and admittedly would be a very good place to start for those new to the band who I can't dissuade. For those feeling bolder, the two-CD set is similar to the cassette version of The Cure’s best-of Standing on the Beach, that had a B-side filled with B-sides minus the worry about the audiotape breaking, which inevitably happened to everyone I know. It offers a more accurate range of the band's music. All the material on the second disc has been previously released as well, so once again there’s nothing for Smiths fans.
The iTunes editions offer more music. The single CD includes “Hand In Glove (Live At Brixton Ace 29/6/83)” and “What She Said” as a bonus while the double-CD version includes “Rubber Ring” and “The Draize Train.”