The Smiths - Meat is Murder (1985), 8/10

Right from the start, "The Headmaster Ritual" sets a powerful and rapturous tone for Meat Is Murder, instantly captivating us with its infectious melodies and Morrissey's distinctive vocals and combative lyricism. Johnny Marr's guitar work shines through with one of his most memorable hooks, while Morrissey delivers a vocal performance that is both charming and unforgettable, just as he was on their debut. The raw, unhinged version of Morrissey is divisive, so you will either love it or hate it, but here he is somewhere in between the extreme quality from their self-titled and the much more matured and delicate The Queen Is Dead. The opener's combination of lyrical storytelling and instrumental drive establishes it as one of the band's standout tracks across their discography, making it, along with a few other strong songs, a key factor in securing the album's place among their best works. One of the reasons I find Meat is Murder to be more effective than some of their more acclaimed records is the album's consistent sound and messaging, which is apparent from the third track onwards and not necessarily the case for all of their albums, and although the more aggressive approach is a matter of taste, I find it works better than their mellow, reserved one explored later on. The album maintains a cohesive sonic identity throughout as well, allowing for a fully immersive listening experience and aiding in its fluidity. Meat Is Murder showcases The Smiths, and especially Marr’s willingness to experiment with unique and interesting sounds such as surf rock and a blending of their unique sound with traditional ballad song structures, even within the confines of their limited production; this is again consistent evidence for its uniqueness in identity and for its quality. This spirit of exploration in tone adds depth and dimension to a somewhat simply structured, yet easily personally identifiable album. It is a noteworthy addition to the band’s progression and evolution after their nearly flawless debut effort. It is practically as effective, in fact, if not for some simple moments of ebbed energy such as the droning titular closing track that drags on a bit too long, even with its silly and entertaining animal samples. One of their very best and one of the strongest single albums of the eighties.