The Sound of the Smiths
The common knock against greatest hits packages– particularly the haphazard, poorly sequenced, or stingy ones– is that the musicians themselves surely had nothing to do with their assembly, that the sets were put together by record label suits. That charge is often confirmed by the musicians themselves, as with the Capitol Record-sanctioned Radiohead package that the band publicly denounced, but it can’t be leveled against The Sound of the Smiths, which was actually assembled, with great love and care, by Morrissey and Johnny Marr. And while the mere fact that the two men are working together again, however tentatively, is cause for happiness, what’s even more exciting is that The Sound of the Smiths is immediately the definitive portrait of one of the most enduring bands of the 1980s.
That honor was previously held by the 1995 set Singles, but this new collection includes all of that record’s eighteen songs, and expands on it with an additional five (or an additional 27, if you spring for the two-disc deluxe edition). And while it’s certainly nice that Marr oversaw the remastering of these songs, that’s just icing on the cake; after all, The Smiths’ music has aged remarkably well, so the real thrill here is the fact that it offers such a wonderfully complete portrait of the band’s full powers. And while it’s a tiny bit redundant to have a new collection that follows so closely to Singles, it makes sense, because while The Smiths made some fine albums, they really thrived as a singles band. This set compiles key tracks– both singles and album cuts– from all of their albums, plus some singles and B-sides that didn’t appear on any of their albums; the second disc of the delux set fleshes out The Smiths’ story with additional album cuts, a few live offerings, and a handful of rarities.
It adds up to a nearly flawless parade of great songs, arranged for maximum impact and compulsive listenability, and, as such, it’s an absolutely essential package for anyone who doesn’t already have all these songs, and even a great selection for those who do.