The Smiths didn't spend a long time together. Between 1984 and 1987, the band produced four studio albums, two records of one-off singles and BBC sessions, and a live album. Each full-length piece of art that the group released is worth owning, however.
Led by the lyrical genius of Morrissey and the uncommon melodies of guitarist Johnny Marr, the Smiths created music that would influence thousands of bands that followed. Simply put, alternative music today doesn't exist without the Smiths.
Sadly, not only did the band stop making music together in 1987, but legal issues between the bandmates - the late Andy Rourke played bass and drummer Mike Joyce rounded out the foursome - made it so no new Smiths music would ever be created. Maybe there is some hope that Marr and Morrissey somehow do a gig together somewhere, but this seems highly unlikely. At least we have the excellent music the band created in the 1980s to last forever.
Ranking the Smiths four proper studio albums
No. 4 - Meat is Murder (1985)
Putting any Smiths album as the "worst" on any list is almost criminal. The band simply has no bad full-length records. Meat is Murder would be among the best albums for many groups. The only reason this ranks as the Smiths' least-best (if I can use a term like that) album is because some of the songs are a bit overlong. I like the title track a bunch, but it's still about two minutes too long.
Still, album-opener "The Headmaster Ritual" is lyrically perfect while "What She Said" repeats its words like a blues song but has definite rock-guitar backing that sounds almost as if the music is intentionally losing control. The record also has "That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore," among other bits of excellence. Still, this album is the middle-ground between the roughness of the debut album and the better-produced third so Meat is Murder doesn't quite meet the level of either.
No. 3 - The Smiths (1984)
A debut album from any group that begins with a song ("Reel Around the Fountain") whose lyrics include, "I dreamt about you last night/And I fell out of bed twice/You can pin and mount me like a butterfly/But, 'Take me to the haven of your bed'/Was something that you never said/Two lumps, please/You're the bee's knees but so am I" likely means you are about to hear something like you've never heard before. Morrissey's lyrics have always been among the best of anyone who has ever written words.
There was only one single released from the album, "What Difference Does It Make?", but "This Charming Man" had been released previous to the record coming out. Some of the songs are very dour, such as "Suffer Little Children," and Morrissey hadn't quite developed his elite tongue-firmly-in-cheek sense of humor with the lyrics, but just as any Smiths record, every song on the album is must-listen music.