Release Date: Nov 11, 2008
Record label: Rhino
Genre(s): Indie, Rock
Depending on your count, The Sound of the Smiths is the third or fourth posthumous Smiths compilation -- a number that may be a bit excessive considering the group's rather concise catalog, containing just four studio albums and singles rounded up on three singles compilations (and two of those covered the same essential territory, too). That's a lot of repetition but whether it's taken in either its single-disc or double-disc deluxe editions, The Sound of the Smiths is the best of these posthumous overviews. The single-disc -- which is the first disc of the deluxe set -- is the hits disc, containing every cut from the 18-track 1995 compilation Singles and expanding it with five cuts all dating from the mid-'80s: "Still Ill," "Nowhere Fast," "Barbarism Begins at Home," "The Headmaster Ritual," and "You Just Haven't Earned It Yet Baby.
A myriad of best-of compilations for an even larger myriad of long-dead bands is not exactly a new strain of marketing in the rock world. As such, the arrival of The Sound of the Smiths -- the fourth posthumous release from a band with only four studio albums under its prestigious name -- comes as a little less than a surprise. What is a surprise, however, is just how much The Sound, unlike the massively prismatic array of countless comps squeezing the last bit of juice from their respective groups (say hello, Doors, the Who, Stones), gets it right.
For one of Britain's greatest groups, the Smiths' back catalogue is astonishingly ill-served, with no remastered albums or box set. With limited input from Morrissey (the title) and Johnny Marr (remastering), The Sound of the Smiths' first disc tracks the singles' fantastic voyage from maudlin eloquence to black humour and back again, adding a few extra tracks (Still Ill, There Is a Light That Never Goes Out) to 1995's Singles collection. The deluxe edition's extra disc at least tiptoes into a goldmine, allowing rarities such as a live Handsome Devil and Pretty Girls Make Graves (produced by Troy Tate) on to CD for the first time.