When it comes to indie-rock, there are few bands that are as quintessential to the genre as The Smiths. The UK group formed in the 80’s and only released 4 studio albums with 3 compilation/b-side releases with a final live album as well in their time as a group before their tragic split when lead singer Morrissey and instrumentalist Johnny Marr had an unfortunate falling out along with drummer Mike Joyce and bassist Andy Rourke. Despite their short time as a group, their influence is still being felt today as their mellow backing tracks and somber lyrics are still being replicated to this day. Counting the releases that were made when they were active, this is all of their albums ranked from worst to best.
8. The World Won’t Listen
Starting off the list, we have the compilation The World Won’t Wont Listen, which was a solid list of under-heard tracks like “London” and “Golden Lights”(on the reissue). It is a pretty good sampler from the group and it actually makes a pretty solid LP for any fan. So why is it this low on the list? Well outside of the scrapped single “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby,” it is nothing special and is usually considered one of the forgotten releases of The Smiths. If it wasn’t for the iconic name and theme, it would probably be stuck in obscurity.
Placing Rank this low might seem a bit unfair because it is just a live album with a few rarely-heard/produced covers in “The Draize Train” and “His Latest Flame” but it is fair enough for the experience it brings. While a lot of Smiths albums seem to have an overall flow and listening-friendly aesthetic, this record really paints the picture of an event rather than a complete piece. Outside of the atmosphere that the album brings, however, is just about a run-of-the-mill list of their earliest hits. Still solid, but nothing spectacular in the grand scheme of their releases (especially considering that they have better live performances recorded.)
6. Meat is Murder
The lowest ranked studio album, Meat is Murder is an actually pretty iconic album by some of its scathing lyrics regarding the meat industry. Of course, Morrissey is a strong detractor of the industry and made sure to make the album feel like an angry protest of everything involved with that world of food. “How Soon Is Now” is on some of the versions that have been released, but if we are talking about official track listings then it simply does not count, which significantly lowers the ranking of this album despite some absolutely iconic tracks in “Barbarism Begins At Home” and “Rusholme Ruffians.”
5. Louder Than Bombs
Much like The World Wont Listen, this is majorly a compilation of b-sides and slightly different versions of songs. The true strength of this album comes from the pacing and flow of each track as they go into each other. It is almost like a specific playlist of the most chill and somber Smiths songs that stray away from some of the more aggressively-themed songs like on Meat is Murder. A John Peel version of “Is It Really So Strange” is a great way to start, with “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” and “Panic” serving as great tracks to reminisce on if you have a connect with the teenage-heartthrob type stuff throughout the album. It just feels like a great album to put on during those summer nights.
4. Strangeways, Here We Come
Strangeways is arguably low on this list for what is necessarily the swan song of the entire group, but the truth is that outside of some of its stellar tracks, the album is much more of an experience than rather a load of some of their best songs. Sure, “Girlfriend in a Coma” and “Stop Me If You Think You Heard This One Before” are two of the most iconic songs, but other tracks like “Unhappy Birthday” and “Paint A Vulgar Picture” remain some of the most obscure tracks in the discography of the group.
3. Hatful of Hollow
Hatful of Hollow is by far the most stacked compilation album and rivals their other studio releases. The John Peel and David Jensen recording sessions offer a completely different takes on songs like “What Difference Does It Make” and “This Charming Man” /among a plethora of differently mixed select tracks from the first half of their discography. As a whole, this feels like a playlist of the most upbeat smiths songs and an absolutely excellent collection of some of the songs that paint a different picture for what the band could have sounded like.
2. The Smiths
The debut, self-titled album of the band is still seen as one of the most iconic releases in rock history. They burst onto the scene with some of the most important indie-rock songs in “This Charming Man” and “What Difference Does It Make?” that were re-mixed by John Porter prior to the release of the album. While Hatful of Hollow has these songs in their ‘original’ form, this is the true step for the sound of the group and it is still a great album to play in full after nearly 40 years. It also showcases some of the unique lyrics that pondered relationships like “Still Ill” and “Hand In Glove,” which would go on to be a signature style for the group for years to come.
1. The Queen is Dead
Moody, genre-bending, and atmospheric, The Queen is Dead is simply the supreme Smiths album to listen to. This is the one with “There is A Light That Never Goes Out,” “Bigmouth Strikes Again,” and “The Boy With the Thorn in His Side.” These are just some of the iconic tracks that are now synonymous with their sound. Tracks like “Vicar In A Tutu” and “Frankly, Mr. Shankly” serve as small doses of their experimental side, while everything else is somber and sincere in how they wrap the album together. “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” and “Never Had No One Ever” are both underrated classics in themselves for a lot of die-hard fans and overall, this is the album to show someone if they haven’t heard a full record from the legendary group and serves as a reminder to how great they were.