The Smiths - The Queen Is Dead (1986), 7/10

Obviously a legendary album for many reasons not excluding messaging and influence, but more than that it has remained an absolute pleasure to listen to for decades. From my own biased perspective, the reason I keep listening to The Queen Is Dead is because of the individually strong songwriting, pacing, and the obviously great combination of Marr and Morrissey, here at their most delicate and graceful. There is not a weak song, though I find “Never Had No One Ever” and "Vicar in a Tutu" a bit exhausting after listening to them so many times. That fact along with the band’s newfound softness and mature, even mellowed sound make me yearn for their earlier work. Hardly a harsh criticism, but it's why I don't feel this record is as flawless as I want it to be, or even how I formerly thought it to be, and why it will never be my favorite Smiths album. On paper silly sounding songs like “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” or "Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others" should be frustrating rather than the held-back ones, but I can't help but enjoy and even love these songs for their eccentricities and simply joyous tone. Morrissey’s abandoning of his ridiculous falsetto and the band’s tightening should be major strengths for such an album, and perhaps they are from a technical perspective, but they dissipate their vulnerability and charisma, two things that The Smiths relied on heavily. If Morrissey’s mournful and longing lyrics are met with a compromising vocalist, how is that an improvement? Not to mention, the band matches his energy well, but when that energy is ebbing too far into a droning hopelessness, it becomes frustrating and truly depressing rather than charmingly so as in their early singles. All of that said, “I Know It’s Over” and “Cemetery Gates” are masterfully written and performed, and even moving. Not my favorite Smiths album, but easily understood as a favorite for most for its strengths in composition and emotional breadth.