Classic Album: The Smiths: Meat is Murder

Kerim Kivrak, Assistant A&E Editor

After the success of their eponymous debut album in 1984, The Smiths had no intention of slowing down. With the release of Meat is Murder the following year, the band became more musically and lyrically audacious, and the group’s personality began to take shape.

Although frontman Morrissey’s personality had been prominent in their previous tracks, Meat is Murder marks the first time that The Smiths delved into more political and controversial subject matter.

In addition to the obvious condemnation of meat-eating in the title track, Morrissey assails corporal punishment in English schools (in the comically hyperbolic “The Headmaster Ritual”) and homes (in the more serious “Barbarism Begins At Home”). The politics of Morrissey’s lyrics never detract from the songs’ enjoyability, and the topics he tackles are rarely polarizing enough to alienate listeners.

At this point in the band’s history, the relationship between Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr had not yet started on the path of deterioration that would ultimately tear the band apart.

For this albuim, the two bypassed any sort of third-party producer and produced Meat is Murder themselves. Marr took the opportunity to experiment more on the guitar.

A catchy riff became the backbone of virtually every track on the album, and the band incorporated everything from rockabilly to funk in its style.

For the most part, the album is devoid of Morrissey’s characteristically depressing style. Even the more somber tracks are not especially dreary until the listener reaches the final track, for which the album is named. With the sounds of buzzing saws and the cries of doomed cows, Morrissey manages to capture the uncomfortable annoyance of being scolded by your preachy vegetarian friend. Still, the song is far from being bad and is sure to make you think before the next time you decide to “savor the flavor of murder.”

While it may not be the epitome of The Smiths’ career, Meat is Murder is a monument in the band’s development that is often unjustly forgotten between the debut album that preceded it and the iconic The Queen is Dead that would follow.