Happy Birthday Mr. Moz

The very first time I ever heard of Morrissey was on an airplane. I was young, and I sat next to a record label executive. Naturally he was hit with an intense game of 20 questions from me, the tiny music nerd, one of which was about the worst thing he’d ever had to do for the biz. He replied, “Work with Morrissey.”

I also remember the first time I ever actually paid any attention to Morrissey. It was my freshman year of college, and my friend Juan loaded up my computer with every Smiths song ever made. I couldn’t listen to anything else for months.

Despite the fact that you’d have to walk on eggshells just to be near him (Wait is that animal cruelty?), his music has an addictive quality that I know many of you can’t shake either. You know that you have a problem when you are crying about Morrissey over Mother’s Day brunch. Yes that really happened, yes it was me, and yes it was this year.

So let’s raise a glass to the Pope of Mope on his 56th birthday. Whether you are blaming rhino extinction on Beyonce or demanding a vegan food court, we love you.

1) Let’s start out with the reason we are all here, The Smiths. Every Smiths song is my favorite Smiths song, but this one means a lot to me in particular because it was actually the first song that I heard outside of mainstream radio, yes I remember! “Girl Afraid” -caitiebee

2)  You won’t see “Shakespeare’s Sister” on many essential Smiths lists, but it’s one of my all-time favorites and also the first I ever heard (sniff) –rye

3)  Active during the same era, The Wedding Present garnered their fair share of comparisons to The Smiths, but often wrote songs with a greater sense of aggression and urgency. So let’s hear a particularly Smithsian one, “Everyone Thinks He Looks Daft” –rye

4) Sir Elton understands the importance of a sad song. Though Morrissey has said in the past, “Bring me the head of Elton John…which is one instance in which meat would not be murder, if it were served on a plate.” Harsh! Here’s Elton John’s song “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” -caitiebee

5)  The artist known as Jobriath is said to have heavily influenced a young Steven Patrick Morrissey. Indulge in “Take Me I’m Yours“, the opener of his first album –rye

6)  While we’re excited for Morrissey’s FYF set, we realize it’d be a fool’s errand to get our hopes up, given the man’s well documented history of tour cancellations. Here’s one from a group with a Moz influence: “Cancel On Me” by Bombay Bicycle Club –rye

7) And then there’s those bands that I love mainly in part because they sound like The Smiths. Case in point – Merchandise. Love these guys. Here’s “Enemy“.  -caitiebee

8)  Voxtrot’s poetic “The Start Of Something” is so Smiths it hurts…in the best possible way. –rye

9) There are also always plenty of haters. I enjoy the Pet Shop Boys song “Miserablism” – allegedly a satire of the Moz man -caitiebee

10) And we’ll close out the playlist with another ego stroke and a Morrissey solo track, and one that makes me feel happy at that. “Sing Your Life” -caitiebee

If you love something, let them make a pop album.

I remember the first time I ever heard Merchandise.

May 2011. I was lying on the floor of my 6 story walk up in Berlin, Germany with my best friend, listening to the records we had just bought from the purely punk vinyl shop down the street. She pulled out (Strange Songs) in the Dark that featured a photo of a boy, who looked like a friend of mine. She couldn’t believe I had never heard of this band Merchandise. The first song she played was called “I Locked the Door,” and I couldn’t remember the last time I had so quickly fallen in love.

I could never nail down the genre, probably because they like to reinvent. A most important constant is that lead man Carson Cox has the voice of an 80’s superstar. Their early albums mix his booming vocals with static guitar and strange melodies. Everything was incredibly raw – except him.

I would spend the next few years showing this band to my friends, my co-workers, my peers, but quickly learned it was a slim to nothing chance they would drink the Merchandise Kool-Aid quite like I did.

So you can imagine my surprise when I saw them as this weeks “First Listen” from NPR. This is not to discredit the wonderful folks at NPR music. It’s just, the Merchandise I knew was difficult to comprehend and difficult to google. Only after giving the entire forthcoming album After The End a listen, did it all made sense. They’ve made a pop record, and it is damn good. Time has transformed these Tampa, FL boys, but strangely enough, my burning love has never wavered.

Here’s a taste:

Batten down the hatches – this band is about to blow up.