By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
Hi. You don't know me, but I'm probably one of your biggest fans in St. Louis. Our relationship has (thankfully) lasted longer than my infatuation with extra-baggy jeans, extra-large T-shirts and my dad's extra-old flannel shirts. I first knew I was more than a casual fan in junior high, when I bought The Best of the Smiths, Vol. 1, the week after graduating eighth grade (showing my age: 1994) after loving everything by you I heard on the radio.
Up until then I was a total grungetta, blasting my Nirvana and Pearl Jam discs at top volume, but I soon turned into the type of geeky fangirl I'm sure you're tired of hearing about. My first e-mail addresses involved a variation on "Hand in Glove." I wrote the lyrics to Your Arsenal's "Tomorrow" on my bitching white-soled Skechers (a precursor to how I listened to the song on a continuous loop for several hours while studying for my freshman biology final) and rotated three Smiths T-shirts through my wardrobe for several years.
I even stood in line with all of the dirty hippies from my high school at a grocery store Ticketmaster outlet they all wanted to score tix to the Stones, maaaan so I could secure a seat at your Maladjusted tour stop in Cleveland. (You played for 55 minutes and stormed offstage when some moron made some crack about a lawsuit and ex-Smiths bandmate Mike Joyce. I don't blame you, but I was crushed.)
Perhaps I sound like a total adolescent cliché, but the sentiments contained in your music and lyrics were such a comfort to me back then especially since I was a moody, angsty kid who would have rather died than, like, conformed (or attended a pep rally). Like you said in "Unloveable," I totally wore black on the outside fishnets and this awesome Stevie Nicks-esque lace dress, specifically 'cause black is how I felt on the inside! I always felt like you really understood what it felt like to be an oddball someone who felt out of place in her boring suburban town, who had different priorities and worries than peers her own age. I had major surgery when I was fourteen and started high school in a wheelchair, as I had to learn how to walk all over again. (How's that for dramatic? I was emo before emo was emo.) The lyrics of your solo hit "November Spawned a Monster" hit far too close to home, as in my typically melodramatic way then I felt like the "poor twisted child" of the song in possession of (as you put it) a "frame of useless limbs."
I should update my Livejournal, yeah, I know. God, this is all so embarrassing to admit, I'm totally becoming one of those journalists who thinks that talking about herself is so much more valid and interesting than actual music. But you know, you're the type of artist that spurs these sorts of personal recollections and deep, emotional kinship. One of your greatest strengths is how you bring people together. If I meet a huge Morrissey/ Smiths fan, I just know that we're going to get along. (Even though I've never dated a huge Smiths fan which I guess is weird, but probably for the best, as he'd spend more time on his hair than I would.) More-than-casual fans somehow are different from ones who only dig your singles whether because they've suffered through countless unrequited crushes, tend to possess melancholic personalities or were teenaged misfits. This rabid fandom hasn't changed, though, even as your fan base has aged and shifted demographically to be predominantly Hispanic in many places.
In a way, you're lucky to have this loyalty. Few artists possess career longevity now, and die-hard fans will continue to come out and support your shows and new songs. I have to admit, though, I wasn't as fond of last year's Ringleader of the Tormentors as I was of your 2004 comeback album, You Are the Quarry. I'm not sure why, either, because musically Tormentors is slick, bright and catchy. The opening song, "I Will See You in Far Off Places," is astounding, with its bombastic, toreador-sweeping riffs and chorus, and singles such as the harmony-filled gem "You Have Killed Me" are as radio-friendly as anything you've ever done. (And "The Youngest Was the Most Loved" has the refrain "There is no such thing as normal!" preach on!) It's a pop album through-and-through; the glassy piano driving "Life is a Pigsty" resembles Scottish crooners the Blue Nile, and the love song (!) "To Me You Are a Work of Art" builds and swells with wicked seagull-like guitar melodies. You've turned from a gangly egghead into a classy, debonair crooner without losing your biting, self-deprecating wit.
And I'm so glad! I mean, sometimes it's hard to see you grow older (and grayer), and there was some seriously unflattering YouTube footage floating around from festival appearances last year. (And for God's sake, your insistence on playing that boring B-side "Don't Make Fun of Daddy's Voice" irked me.) To me these clips are a reminder that you won't always be touring and recording which makes me feel very old, as I'd like to think that my favorite artists will be around forever.