25th April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Today I did something that was pretty alien to me: I took a break. Having dropped the car at the garage for a service, I walked some four miles back into town, and with another mile and half to get me back home, I stopped in at a pub and sat on the first floor with a pint, just looking out of the window watching people drift by on the street below. There were some interesting tunes being aired through the hidden speakers, from early New Order to The Jesus and Mary Chain. At some point, Dum Dum Girls’ cover of ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out’ came on and not for the first time in recent months, began to reflect on The Smiths, since I recently offloaded my entire vinyl collection of their works. It wasn’t just that I need the money – and the £800 I raised was certainly useful – but this was an act of purging. That Morrissey is a monumental cunt had certainly been bugging me for some time, but then I have many records by people who have long been known to be monumental cunts and I haven’t felt the compulsion to jettison their junk. No, his cuntdom was just the tipper after I came to the conclusion that these records no longer spoke to me and hadn’t been played much since I left my teens, and the death of our monarch, which led to the obvious song gaining ubiquity on my social media feeds simply left me weary.

But on hearing this cover, I found myself thinking ‘but this is a great song’. And so, arriving home to find Spiritual Front’s cover of ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ in my inbox felt somewhat serendipitous.

Taken from their upcoming album of Smiths covers, The Queen is Not Dead, it’s a very straight cover that not only pays homage but great attention to detail in terms of the arrangement, mostly only adding swathes of strings near the end. And it, too, is – still – a great song. Although not all of The Smiths’ songs were great – the albums included a a lot of pap, like ‘Frankly, Mr Shankly’ – but it’s hard to fault their singles and the craft. Perhaps, then, it does come back to the issue being Morrissey, his cuntiness and his adenoidal tones which my wife always hated so – meaning that, ultimately, at least for me, it becomes a question of context, and hearing covers of the songs is preferable and less problematic than hearing the originals.

As the bio which accompanies the release details, ‘With The Smiths carved so deeply into the Romans’ collective heart that they had played full shows featuring the English rockers’ classic hymns in recent years, it was only a short step to record a full tribute album when taking a break from touring. Spiritual Front went about their task with the explicit aim to pay a respectful homage yet at the same time to stay away from cloning. Across the album’s fifteen tracks, which many consider sacred, the Italians stayed true to the original recordings, while pulling those songs closer to the sonic world of Spiritual Front for example by adding strings and horn parts.’

This, of course, is the ultimate pull of The Smiths: anyone who has endured those awkward teenage years as an outsider, who’s been sixteen, clumsy, and shy, will feel that connection to these songs. And for a band whose recent output, dubbed ‘nihilistic suicide pop’ has drawn comparisons with Nick Cave, Swans, and Scott Walker, it still makes sense that The Smiths would be there in the background.

But to hear the weathered, tattooed Simone Salvatori enunciating ‘ah-ho, la-la, ladadada’ – well, it does seem somehow incongruous. For all that, he pulls it off well, and while I’m on the fence with the video, it’s a solid cover that suggests the album will be worth hearing.



Spiritual Front by Marco Soellner


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