Twenty-five years ago today, Johnny Marr disappointed over-thinking 9th graders everywhere by loudly, abruptly leaving The Smiths to begin the journeyman second act of his career. Marr has since continued honing his impeccable ax chops with bands like the The The, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse. Singer and co-songwriter Morrissey has released nine albums -- each of them exhausting, fiercely funny and usually brilliant -- with song titles like "Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed."
To mark the anniversary of The Smiths' self-implosion -- which was first made public in a now-infamous Aug. 1, 1987 New Musical Express story headlined "Smiths to Split" -- All Shook Down has compiled a list of the band's 25 best songs of all time. Here they are:
25. "You've Got Everything Now" (The Smiths, 1984)
Smiths albums are full of strawman antagonists -- protest singers, tattooed boys from Birkenhead, even cross-dressing vicars -- but "You've Got Everything Now" turns the loathing inward. "No, I've ever had a job/Because I'm too shy," says Morrissey in a gob-stoppingly honest moment of self-indictment. It's an everyloser anthem that exists slightly out of time.
24. "Frankly Mr. Shankly" (The Queen Is Dead, 1986)
Moz grins wide as he makes known his feelings about the higher-ups at Sire/Rough Trade (the shit-eating sarcasm of "I want to go down in celluloid history" is note-perfect) on "Frankly Mr. Shankly," a sunny diversion from The Queen Is Dead's purple prose and lost-dogged sadness with one of the more exalted riffs Johnny Marr would ever write.
23. "Girl Afraid" (Hatful of Hollow, 1984)
This is one of several Louder Than Bombs tracks that posit a waterproof argument for Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce being the tightest rhythm section of all-time: they stay so deep in the pocket that "Girl Afraid" gets linty. Morrissey's mock-operatic falsetto could shake the nosebleeds.
22. "Half a Person" (Louder Than Bombs, 1987)
This pained, aspirational cut gets at the heart of social phobia. As if to tune out the loutish noise pollution coming from Fleet Street, a 16-year-old, gender-confused Morrissey checks into the YWCA. The Smiths invented twee indie-pop here, for all practical purposes.
21. "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" (Louder Than Bombs, 1987)
Sadder than "Oscillate Wildly" and funnier than "Bigmouth Strikes Again," "Sweet and Tender Hooligan" is pitch-dark comedy, reimaging Thatcher's England as a macabre hell lorded over by adolescent yobs. It's also one of the few thumb-your-nose punk songs they ever did.