3. Strangeways, Here We Come (1987)
The Smiths' final album is an extraordinary achievement (you'd be well advised to read Brad Shoup's sprawling 25th anniversary examination of the album), a record that is loaded with great songs, adventurous creative touches and new experimentations, tantalizingly suggesting where the band might have gone if they could have only held it together. Opener "A Rush And A Push And The Land Is Ours" gallops out of the gate with a creepy piano riff and echoing vocals that are made ever more disquieting by the complete absence of Marr's signature jangle throughout the whole song. "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before" foregrounds the chorus and features one of Moz's most hilarious litanies, "I crashed down on the crossbar/ And the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder." Who writes like that? Only Morrissey. The stunningly perfect "Girlfriend In A Coma" is one of the most disturbing pop confections ever written, and album closer "I Won't Share You" is as lovely as it is incredibly sad. Strangeways also includes the seminal "Paint A Vulgar Picture," which reflects Morrissey's well-founded anxiety concerning the constant corporate "convenient reimagining" of the Smiths' catalog. Fair enough.