Why I Still Hate The Smiths (And Myself)


I’ve never been one to strictly hate music of any sort. First and foremost, I can very simply not listen to it, and hating something simply because you know it exists is a bit like trying to rearrange the air in front of your face. There is secondhand garbage, such as hearing Rihanna or “Gangnam Style” in a supermarket. But for the most part, if you don’t want to hear Nickelback, you don’t have to.

That is, however, until I ran into my first Smiths fanatic. She was a quirky, mildly attractive girl (shocking!) in my high school. The sort that wears a scarf with a tank-top, cargo pants, and that ridiculous star tattoo. Anyway, like any good adolescent boy, I wanted in her skinny jeans so damn bad. I made a concerted effort to listen to The Smiths since she simply wouldn’t shut up about them, writing their lyrics on her arms during Statistics and making excuses for Morrissey’s inherent racism.

I am not here to express tired hipster hate or mull over the importance of a high school relationship. However, few bands are responsible for the dissonant rage the Smiths can inspire within me. The muzak orchestration, the ho-hum lyrics, and Morrissey’s dry, mechanical singing voice. I enjoy hearing Morrissey talk more than I can stand him singing, and that’s only when he isn’t offended by a ham on rye.

I, like any self-righteous person writing things online, believe I have a fairly wide range of music tastes. I can’t pretend I like Miles Davis or Animal Collective, but I rarely shut down a whole discography or genre on principle alone. In that mode, there are a great number of bands like The Smiths which are quite good: Joy Division had more heart, The Cure had a better vocalist, and Belle and Sebastian can actually write melodies. The Smiths were a perfect storm of awful.

Let’s take a look at one of their more popular songs, “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want”

Good times for a change
See, the luck I’ve had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want

No joke. That’s the whole song minus some slight alterations. Morrissey gets a lot of credit for being a “poet”, but 90% of his work is writing one good line and repeating it until the listener “understands his pain” or whatever a privileged upbringing in the suburbs of Stretford endows upon him. The worst part is that wouldn’t be an awful song in the right vocal hands (see She and Him’s cover for an example), but Morrissey’s inability to not sound like a British vacuum cleaner presses some thorough limitations upon it. Here’s another supposed classic, “Girlfriend In A Coma”:

Girlfriend in a coma, I know
I know – it’s serious
Girlfriend in a coma, I know
I know – it’s really serious

There were times when I could
Have “murdered” her
(But you know, I would hate
Anything to happen to her)

Do you really think
She’ll pull through ?
Do you really think
She’ll pull through ?
Do …

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

And therein lies the heart of his awfulness. Morrissey’s bland vocal and lyrical style are supposedly rooted in his albeit authentic struggles with depression. But you can only be the savior of a two generations of Britons before it begins to weigh on your angst and make you a self-deluded ass. I like music which sounds as if it were fun to make. And this doesn’t limit my tastes to happy-go-lucky love songs; Modest Mouse or even Queen wrote about some heavy topics but also made it a joy to listen to.

Music can and does serve many purposes for everyone. However, I do not need music to remind me of how awful I feel. I need music which tells me “the world is ending, but that’s okay.” All throughout high school and my own struggle with depression, I listened to Nine Inch Nails. Trent Reznor’s work is the epitome of dissonance, often pushing sounds and notes through simply to cause the listener pain. However, I find The Downward Spiral nearly inaudible now. I still struggle with mental illness, but I find myself hearing the ache in Freddie Mercury’s voice or the joyful, relaxed agony of Mary J. Blige. I no longer need depression shot into my head at 93 BPM so I seek out its subtleties, because that’s the way self-hatred ruins you. True sadness is not a frown; it’s a forced smile.

If the Smiths have helped you through a rough time or you simply enjoy listening to them, good for you. Honestly. I think no less of someone who thinks The Queen Is Dead is a statement to the validity of life on this planet, but I won’t be joining you. In the same way I’ve matured past cutting myself, I’ve matured past music which makes me feel bad.

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The Queen is Dead