March 09, 2004

Various Artists "Romantic and Square is Hip and Aware"

Ah, the Smiths! As I'm sure you know, Mozzer and company have transcended mere cult status and are now considered to be a rite of passage, a holy grail, and a religion all their own. I know that in my case, they helped me out in my time of angst-ridden teenager-hood and became the holy grail for me, my angsty drama club friends and, oddly, the skateboarding punks in the neighborhood. Strange but true! My own indoctrination came from a mixture of Reflex magazine, mentions in Spin and the Just Say Yes sampler series. Upon hearing "Work Is A Four Letter World" I ran out and bought Strangeways, Here We Come--and the love affair began.

But I wasn't alone. A lot of you readers out there know exactly what I mean, because you went through exactly the same thing. Being dejected in the dorm room or in the corner of History class, Morrissey, Marr, Rorke and Joyce were the Sad Four, who sang to you and you alone, because you were smarter and better and all of the things that your classmates and friends just couldn't see--and the Smiths understood that. (In other words, they were the 80s version of emo. Blame Morrissey for emo. Come on, you know you should.) As I look on with sadness that one of my favorite indiepop websites (In Love With These Times, In Spite of These Times) has decided to cease, I realize that the Smiths influenced us all--because if you knew the Smiths, then you automatically know the followers upon sight.
They influenced us all.

"But I've already got all of the Smiths records, do I really need the tribute?"

Do you need to hear Tali White crooning to "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" or leading a fast sing-along version of "Panic?" Do you really need to hear the lovely and talented Pam Berry crooning "Ask"? Do you need to hear the austere stylings Would-Be-Goods's Jessica Griffin on "Back To The Old House?" Do you need Pale Sunday's Fabrico Cantoni adding an innocent, sincere pensiveness to "I Know It's Over," making it better than the original? Do you need Pipas' Lipe Nunez-Fernandez singing "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" over a wonderful
electronic backing? Do you need to hear all of the other classic and sincere renderings of some of the best songs of the 1980s?

Yes. You do.

Matinee hasn't come to slay the Smiths; they're not trying to. They're simply wanting to give a little bit of love back to Morrissey, and I really respect them for that. Plus, I'm sure the hope is there that not only would you Smiths fans use this as a way to learn more about Matinee's fine roster, but also that the few of you who haven't come to know the Smiths (heaven forbid!) would have a motivation to do so. Just read Keith Snowdrop's beautifully and unsurprisingly well-written liner notes. I have nothing more to add to that. This is, hands down, the best and most worthy unnecessary tribute record I've heard in years. Besides, it's not really a tribute, it's a declaration of love and a thank-you back to the ones who made good music and who made music good.

Do you really need Romantic & Square Is Hip and Aware? I don't you? I know that I already knew all of these songs by heart, and I knew all of the words and the nuances and the pouts and all of the things that lonely and crushed teenagers do when they happen upon something that makes them feel better. I bet you do, too. It's okay, and this record isn't gonna change all of that. It will, of course, make you remember why you fell in love with them in the first place--and, for that, this record is worth its weight in gold.

Besides, you already know these songs.

Go on, don't be ashamed--sing along!

It would make Morrissey disgusted--which would make him depressed--which would make him write a depressing song--which might make him break out of his creative lull.

A world with Morrissey making good music again?

That would make me happy.

But I'll never tell the world that.

After all, all men have secrets, and this one's mine....

--Joseph Kyle

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