[11 December 2009]
In the song “Paint a Vulgar Picture”, Smiths singer Morrissey once sang: “Re-issue! Re-package! Re-package! / Re-evaluate the songs / Double-pack with a photograph / Extra Track (and a tacky badge).” This was his depiction of the garish and ghoulish treatment inflicted by record labels upon artists whose time has passed. Two decades later, and the Mozzer is re-packaging himself on The Sound of the Smiths. Well, he is getting a little help from Rhino Records and his former collaborator extraordinaire, guitar Johnny Marr. In their first act of cooperation since 1987, they selected the track listing. Going their separate ways once again, that droll wordsmith Morrissey provided the title (while brushing his teeth, one presumes), and the golden-eared Marr supervised the compilation’s mastering. The sound on all of the material is superb. Along with a welcome boost in volume, Marr’s mastering sparkles and yields much greater separation between the instruments. The extra and substitute tracks here are all perfectly chosen, as well. The standard version of The Sound of the Smiths takes over as the definitive single-disc sampling of the band. A few true rarities and a generally strong selection of album tracks and b-sides on disc two probably makes the deluxe edition worth the extra seven to ten bucks, too. Either way, one of the very best bands of the 1980s is brought to a new generation of listeners, and is wonderfully refurbished (and, yes, re-packaged) for established fans.