The Smiths in recent years have become a band that I say are a favorite preceded with a shrug, the gesture meaning "well, of course they are, but I don't listen to them all that much anymore." It is one telling shrug, which could encapsulate for me any band favorite who doesn't put out new music and whose songs you have loved dearly, but heard all dozens and dozens of times. For me declaring that I love The Smiths' first album, The Smiths, it is recognizing an era of musical development, discovery really, and embracing nostalgia.I will readily admit the album is NOT their best, not even close. It's a little slower, mellow than subsequent albums, but still contains some great riffs and classic songs. "Still Ill" remains a top-five favorite in my book.
Really, though this album is all about the opening track for me, "Reel Around the Fountain." It was May 1990, and I had just completed my first two semesters at Penn State. Having grown up in Southwestern New York State (NOT Upstate New York), I had very little exposure to any other music other than what was played on the radio, which means all I knew was classic rock and pop music. I friend of mine (Kurt was his name) had suggested that I check out this band (amongst others), so on a whim I bought the six-dollar cassette (yes, cassette) and popped it in my stereo in my room while I started to unpack my college things.I remember very clearly actually stopping what I was doing and turning around to look at the stereo when I first heard Morrissey's voice. Morrissey, if you haven't heard him (and if you are reading this and have not, I don't know where to start other than saying YOU'RE NOT COOL!! ;)) has a very unique, nasal sound, and a gift with words. It was unlike any other I had heard. Every time I hear "Reel Around The Fountain," like this morning on the way to work, I think about that moment, which still feels like the wool being lifted from my eyes or discovering your new favorite food. And it brings a smile to my face.