A reader writes:
"The Smiths were deeply retrograde"
in the sleeve art and Morrisey's rigid kitchen sink reference points...but How Soon Is Now retrograde?
musically i don't think they were retrograde at all especially cf JAMC / C86......nearly all of their uk contemporaries.....bunnymen / jd / teadrop & also blancmange / culture club / duran ad nauseam
retro kicked in withe the first cds - 84 / 85 RETRO as we know it today kicked in wholesale withe the velvets's another view release & south bank show 85 i think
in both these streams the smiths were ahead in their own juniverse and wildly cutting edge in their own terms i.e. they wanted to be on and got on TOTP
morrissey daffs nhs glasses no mic bare chest was THE last totp intervention cf bowie starman everything else -- especially the turgid streams of one week only pisshappy appearances of sleeper bluetone britplop et al which the music papers gave as the sine qua non of britpop's success cf ringing up record companies asking 'what's your midweek?" -- is just marketing from the majors
they refused to make videos during the mid 80s MTV anglocentric boom
but got derek jarman to make short polemic films instead
they are very much in my vanguard
I was thinking of their aversion to early-80s synth futurism and postpunk's dancefloor connections in particular. They're absolutely not avant-garde scorched-earthers; but no, 'deeply retrograde' isn't fair. There's a level of disenchantment, a fundamental setting of their faces against the world, that's akin to the maladjustment, the refusal of the reality principle, that k-punk blasts Sonic Youth for not having in his reply to this [may have one more brief response]. They haven't reformed for a start. Not so much a vision of the future as a new, polemic vision of the past. Their raw material is kitchen-sink familiar but Morrissey wants to take the quotidian and apply a turn which (subtly) defamiliarizes it, that sees it afresh: for a start, radically retuning the connotations of the superbland name Smith. 'It's time that the ordinary folk of the world showed their faces.' There's a modernist echo deep in there.