Barbarism Begins At Home (The Smiths)

After its year-long Bowie period, the Bemolution found a new musical obsession in the form of Mancunian indie sensations The Smiths. Then, after quickly burning through their back-catalogue, we moved on to solo work of the band’s perennially glum Thwomp-faced ex-frontman, Steven Patrick Morrissey.

Before long, though, we went through the same disillusioning rite of passage as a certain percentage of Smiths devotees. The band itself was magnificent, no question. But, we realised, Morrissey himself wasn’t some kind of musical messiah. In fact, he was just a vindictive narcissist who yes, was the finest, wittiest lyricist of his generation, but had also been churning out the same dreary album for two decades’-worth of solo career.

But we digress. Johnny Marr might have dismissed it as a ‘bit corny’ decades after the fact, but ‘Barbarism Begins At Home’ was the funkiest, most danceable The Smiths ever got. Quite an achievement with a song about domestic violence.

Undeniably, being funky and danceable wasn’t really what The Smiths were about. Or, perhaps, diametrically opposed to what The Smiths were about when Morrissey was in a particularly sour mood. But for Marr and bassist Andy Rourke, ‘Barbarism’ harked back to their first forays into music-making. Both had been in a short-lived punk-funk outfit called Freak Party, and to this day Marr graciously and repeatedly acknowledges how much he was influenced by Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers.

Like a lot of the tracks on 1985’s Meat Is Murder, the recorded version is a pale, anaemic affair compared to the visceral renditions the band would conjure up on stage. Exhibit A comes from Newcastle, 1984, and an episode of Channel 4’s weekly musical showcase The Tube. Morrissey’s Yorkshire Terrier yaps remain somewhat of an acquired taste, as does his and Marr’s eventual hornet swarm-shooing dance-off, but Andy Rourke’s heroic bass marathon proves yet again that he’s the most unjustly underrated member of the best British band since The Beatles.

Meanwhile, drummer Mike Joyce fucks up minutely near the end. It’s nothing more than the briefest of rhythmic missteps, but jarringly apparent after five minutes of otherwise faultless groove. Even his elderly mother noticed, apparently.

Also, kudos to anyone who can spot Spiderman within the first twenty seconds of the video.

For some annoying reason, if you want to actually watch the video bit of a WordPress-embedded YouTube video rather just hear the audio, you have to either watch it fullscreen or click to watch it on YouTube itself.