Saturday, February 04, 2006

"From The Vault" Friday Song

Artist: The Smiths

Song: "Reel Around The Fountain"

Album: The Smiths

Briefly: If push came to shove, I would proudly proclaim that The Smiths are the second most important, influential, and relevant rock band of the 80's after the Pixies. Their influence on the last two decades of British and American alternative/indie rock music is incalculable and incontestable. Since the demise of The Smiths, their lead singer, Morrissey, has maintained a rather successful solo career that has probably overshadowed what has proven to be The Smiths' greatest and most enduring asset: Johnny Marr's wholy unique guitar style. Johnny's guitar playing is sometimes over-simplified and described as "jangle-rock", but, his playing was never that simple - his complexity as a musician was just subtle and deceptive. The Smiths had a traditional Jaggers/Richards division of labor - Morrissey wrote the lyrics and Johnny wrote the music. Johnny's clean, fluid style was hyper-melodic, but, he served the rhythm first and foremost. He could churn out a galloping vibrato guitar line that was equally rockabilly and Velvet Underground.

Why: "Reel Around the Fountain" is the first song on their first album. The song that introduced the world to The Smiths: a wire-taut rhythm section, an unassuming guitar hero, and a singer with a fey, yet, masculine voice. In my opinion, it is a perfect introduction to the band and their aesthetic, and, it is an epic - clocking in at almost 7 minutes. "Reel Around the Fountain" is a delicate tale of lost innocence whose lyrics tend to be vague and ambiguous (as most of Morrissey's lyrics were). On a sidenote, the Built to Spill song "Virginia Reel Around The Fountain" is a direct homage to The Smiths and this song. Besides Built To Spill, many of my other favorite bands have claimed The Smiths as a prominent influence: Radiohead, The Arcade Fire, Belle & Sebastian, The Magnetic Fields, Pulp, The Verve, etc.

Also, in one of the most exciting surprises in recent memory, Johnny Marr is currently collaborating with Modest Mouse's Isaac Brock on new songs for the forthcoming Modest Mouse album!!!


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