A number of traitorous people (traitorous to themselves, not to The Smiths) have a tendency to turn on the music that got them through some of the most painful and hellacious moments of their lives. The music in question is all provided on The Smiths, Meat Is Murder, The Queen Is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come. It doesn’t matter if you lived through the 1980s in order to experience the magic as it was happening or if you later came to discover The Smiths through the unfortunate circumstance of having watched 500 Days of Summer. All that matters is that it was once your salvation in more youthful times and, now, in your “mature” age, you’ve decided to shirk the man who helped you when no one else would.
If Morrissey taught us anything, it’s that to suffer is both beautiful and time-consuming. If you’re enjoying life, you’re probably horribly stupid or cartoonishly sexual. More than any other band member, even the heroin-addled Andy Rourke, who was kicked out of the band for a spell in 1986, Morrissey understood the agony of longing. This sense of intense yearning and loss that comes through in every song is what tends to appeal to the adolescent sensibility.
Surprisingly, it isn’t considered fashionable for adults to be doleful, even though they have the most reasons out of any age group to feel melancholic. Perhaps if Morrissey and Marr had explored the lifestyle of suburban settling, they might have reached across generations.
But, without any real explanation, there’s something of a Neverland effect when it comes to The Smiths. If you leave the demographic of youth, you suddenly stop comprehending why you ever listened to them in the first place. Maybe it’s because, to quote Ally Sheedy in The Breakfast Club, “When you grow up, your heart dies.” But more than that, it’s a total disintegration of the soul. After all, to work in an office and know that you’ll stay in one place for the rest of your life does require a certain void where once the soul was. So as soon as you find yourself incapable of revisiting The Smiths, you can finally confirm that you’ve died inside.