Robert Christgau's reviews of Morrissey/Smiths albums



Along with Lester Bangs, the best American Rock critic:

The Smiths [Sire, 1984]
Morrissey's slightly skewed relationship to time and pitch codes his faint melodies at least as much as Johnny Marr's much-heralded real guitar. What's turned him into an instant cult hero, though, is his slightly unskewed relationship to transitory sex--the boy really seems to take it hard. If you'll pardon my long memory, it's the James Taylor effect all over again--hypersensitivity seen as a spiritual achievement rather than an affliction by young would-be idealists who have had it to here with the cold cruel world. B-

Meat Is Murder
[Sire, 1985]
It makes a certain kind of sense to impose teen-macho aggression on your audience--for better or worse, macho teens are expected to make a thing of their unwonted hostility. These guys impose their post-adolescent sensitivity, thus inspiring the sneaking suspicion that they're less sensitive than they come on--passive-aggressive, the pathology is called, and it begs for a belt in the chops. Only the guitar hook of "How Soon Is Now," stuck on by their meddling U.S. label, spoils the otherwise pristine fecklessness of this prize-winning U.K. LP. Remember what the Residents say: "Hitler was a vegetarian." C+

The Queen Is Dead
[Sire, 1986]
After disliking their other albums instantly, I was confused enough by my instant attraction to table this one, especially since I had no stomach for the comparisons I knew an investigation would entail. And indeed, I still can't stand the others. But here Morrissey wears his wit on his sleeve, dishing the queen like Johnny Rotten never did and kissing off a day-job boss who's no Mr. Sellack. This makes it easier to go along on his moonier escapades, like when he reveals that looks and fame don't guarantee a good social life. Which gives you time to notice the tunes, the guitars, the backup munchkins. B+

Louder Than Bombs
[Sire, 1987]
Supposedly, Johnny Marr's unobtrusive virtuosity and subtle hooks saved Morrissey from drowning in his own self-involved wit, but on this U.S.-only retrospective of twenty-four previously uncollected songs I hear Marr and Morrissey gliding along on the crest of the same conversational cadence. Morrissey's nattering volubility can get annoying, but the cadence itself always has its charms, and just when you think you've had it he gets off a good line. One of my favorites goes "Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera." B+

Strangeways, Here We Come
[Sire, 1987]
Having conquered my wimpophobia to where I reflexively enjoy the supple smarts of their sound, I bore down anticipating even tastier goodies, and now I must face facts. In three of these songs somebody's dead or dying, in three more somebody contemplates murder, and in the rest somebody's in a selfish pet of the sort that led to the aforementioned threats. So the liveliest tracks are where somebody's dead or dying: AIDS song, biz song, song about how selfish and petty you feel when somebody you've raged at actually dies. B

Viva Hate
[Sire, 1988]
From my pinnacle of disinterest I can attest that this solo move is neither here nor there. Vini Reilly doesn't have a unique sound like Johnny Marr, and autonomy does encourage the camp grandiosity of a guy who tries to make "I love you more than life" live: though he may think it's funny for "Late Night, Maudlin Street" to go on for 7:40, in fact it's as boring as you'd expect despite the great line about his revolting nakedness. But the Smiths rarely if ever came up with a hook as must-hear as "Everyday Is Like Sunday"'s and in general the monotony factor has decreased. The artiste is no longer a kid, and he likes it that way. Essential for acolytes, educational for the rest of us, just like always. B

Bona Drag
[Sire/Reprise, 1990]
To Anglophiles, Anglos, and young alternative rockers who've never known another world, Morrissey's solo singles are fraught with paradigm, but to the rest of us they're a chapter in the life of a great twit. Less secure in his delusions of grandeur and worthlessness than when he was top of the pops, he hides behind the bitchy jokes his followers consider beneath him. At least half of these fizzle-prone chart charges will amuse and excite the curiosity-seeker. That any of them could be conceived as pop hits is why there are still Anglophiles. Inspirational Verse: "This is the last song I will ever sing (yay!)/No I've changed my mind again (boo!)." B+

Kill Uncle
[Sire/Reprise, 1991]
What kills the faithful is the anonymously supportive production, never distinctive enough to threaten (or challenge) a fading superstar in the throes of permanent identity crisis. But though they do meander into the insufferably ruminative self-pity that never used to bother Smiths fans, the songs start out plenty striking, guitar signature or no guitar signature. Tart as a grand aunt, louder on the gay subtext now that he's no longer an antipinup, Morrissey isn't just another English eccentric. He exemplifies what's made eccentricity a staple export of that once-proud nation for generations. Good show. B+

Your Arsenal
[Sire/Reprise, 1992]
Most consistent solo set to date from talented singer-songwriter who made his name fronting popular British cult band the Smiths. Highlights include the plaintive "Seasick, Yet Still Docked," the kindly "You're the One for Me, Fatty," the cynical "Glamorous Glue," the cynical "Certain People I Know," the cynical "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," and the satiric (we hope) "National Front Disco." A-

Vauxhall and I
[Sire/Reprise, 1994] (bomb)

Maladjusted [Mercury, 1997] (bomb)

You Are the Quarry [Attack, 2004]
Less miserable than bitter, as he's always better off admitting ("First of the Gang to Die," "I Have Forgiven Jesus") *

Aubrey McFate

Burn down the disco
With those reviews, he can't possibly be one of "the best American rock critics." Anyone who rates the Smiths as anything less than A- is a failure. What a turd. We know this type. A mild talent for descriptive prose and no other talents whatever. In his capsule for Strangeways, he is a self-confessed "wimpophobe." But now we have a better term for that: "toxic masculinity." Essentially he sounds like a more buttoned-up version of Henry Rollins, criticizing Morrissey for, among other things, his sensitivity and compassion for animals. The only thing I knew about Robert Christgau before this is that Lou Reed did not like him. And if Lou Reed doesn't like you, then you're fit for nowhere but the grave.


It's like I, & others have said in the reviews on here for's all subjective.
Some would score an album 9, whereas someone else might score it a 4. No point debating it really; the review scores are just someone's opinion which they are wont, & paid, to publish somewhere for someone to read, if they wish to.
Much like the posts of a certain individual on here - are they ever really worth spending the time reading?
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