31 years ago today (February 23), The Smiths’ more socially conscious second album ‘Meat Is Murder’ shot to Number One. Their initial blaze of outsider excitement coagulated around the bullied, the beaten, the terminally lonely and the militantly vegetarian and a classic album was born.
If ‘The Smiths’ and ‘Hatful Of Hollow’ had sparked a scene, ‘Meat Is Murder’ defined a sub-culture, and in its honour, here’s ten albums that wouldn’t be the same without it.
The Stone Roses – The Stone Roses
Madchester might well have still happened without ‘Meat Is Murder’ – it was, after all, largely an E thing – but it would’ve had a far bleepier anthem. John Squire credits Johnny Marr’s guitar whippoorwills and the chugga-wugga-wugga of ‘How Soon Is Now?’ – on the US version of ‘Meat…’ – as an influence on his own swirling fretworlds.
Suede – Dog Man Star
If any other band brilliantly succeeded in following The Smiths’ path of taking a dark, poetic swerve into the grime of society’s ills on their second album – and thereby creating a deeply devoted following that felt the record defined them - it was Suede.
Gene – Olympian
A forgotten classic of the Britpop era, the debut album from London’s Gene was a lush tribute to Morrissey’s morose grandeur and Marr’s serrated pop slashes - the likes of 'Olympian' and 'London, Can You Wait?' closely imitating the bright-edged melancholy of 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore'.
The La’s – The La’s
Nobody took the jagged Marr jangles of ‘I Want The One I Can't Have’ and turned them to more jubilant ends than Lee Mavers, whose seminal debut with The La’s stood alone as a beacon of folky fabulousness. It sounded, frankly, like a man floating over the Mersey by strum power alone.
The Wedding Present – Seamonsters
The C86 scene owed its very existence to ‘Meat Is Murder’ and the rest of the early Smiths canon since it was populated by bands directly mimicking Morrissey and Marr. But only the magnificent Wedding Present, in keeping with Meat…’s darker mood, took its root indie sound into danker, deviant grunge territory on their masterpiece ‘Seamonsters’.
The Libertines – Up The Bracket
Perky lyrical ditties about hunting out honour and love in a bleak, cruel urban landscape? Check. The Libs’ first album was essentially a celebratory take on the likes of 'The Headmaster Ritual', 'Rusholme Ruffians' and 'Nowhere Fast'; scratchy, inspired, rockabilly-flecked and smeared with filth scraped from beneath Britain’s fingernails.
Oasis – Definitely Maybe
While not necessarily a direct sonic influence, Oasis would never have existed without Noel becoming a fan in his teens. "When The Jam split, The Smiths started, and I totally went for them,” he said. See also: Blur, who formed after seeing The Smiths on The South Bank Show.
The Killers – Hot Fuss
Another major disciple of Stephen Patrick’s oeuvre was Brandon Flowers, the only teenager who has ever gazed around at the dancing fountains, Eiffel Towers and gigantic glass pyramids of Las Vegas and yearned for the glamour of Salford. Alongside U2 and New Order, The Smiths made him a devout Anglophile and thereby kick-started the 80s revival themselves.
Belle & Sebastian – If You’re Feeling Sinister
The art of writing sweet, intricate indie pop songs drenched in melancholy, injury, isolation and nostalgia for a time you weren’t even around to remember is something that Stuart Murdoch absorbed from ‘Meat Is Murder’ – “nobody writes them like they used to, so it may as well be me”, he sang, virtually an admission to the debt.
Arcade Fire – Funeral
In the gruesomeness of 'Meat Is Murder' or the depiction domesticity in ‘Barbarism Begins At Home’, you can taste the seeds of Arcade Fire’s debut with their cries of "children, don't grow up!" and "if my parents are crying, then I'll dig a tunnel from my window to yours". Add in the rockabilly swing of ‘Rusholme Ruffians’ and you have AF's morbid carnival.