Johnny Marr and Morrissey got most of the ink for The Smiths, and perhaps rightly so. But Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, the rhythm section for the legendary band, were no slouches either, and the musical documentary Inside the Smiths builds its captivating trip down memory lane from almost entirely their recollections.
Spanning two continents and over three years, the movie opens by setting the scene of Manchester during the era of the band’s inception, and amply points out how a lot of The Smiths’ music was in marked contrast to “tunes about clothes and status,” as drummer Joyce puts it. Though only together for five years, The Smiths had a big impact on fellow musicians, and Buzzcocks member Peter Shelley, Suede’s Matt Osman, Kaiser Chiefs frontman Nick Hodgson and more, including New York City critic Casey Wilder, all provide nice contextual analysis of the group’s work. (Peter Hook, meanwhile, talks about a bit of the group’s rivalry with New Order.) Mostly, though, Inside the Smiths is an openly reflective document that charts the life of the band, from formation to flame-out. Bassist Rourke talks candidly about the heroin addiction that cost him a spot in the band, and almost his life as well (“I had more money than I had sense…”), and Joyce fondly recalls how he convinced his parents to get him his first drum kit, pointing out that it would cost less than replacing the couch he’d taken to practicing upon.
Mixing color and black-and-white footage, Inside the Smiths is a great time capsule, but at under an hour in length, it’s a bit slim. It’s hamstrung, too, by music clearance rights, which means when they’re talking about the creation or reception of tracks like “Hand in Glove,” “Meat is Murder” or “I Want the One I Can’t Have,” you don’t get the benefit of hearing their efforts borne out. Sometimes the movie veers off into meandering, heavily accented
recollections of youthful indiscretion (in particular I’m thinking of
Rourke, with his talk of “scallies”) that isn’t directly related to The
Smiths, but for the most part this is a lean, fascinating slice of rock
‘n’ roll non-fiction. It gives viewers a telling snapshot of Morrissey’s passive-aggressive nature, and it builds to a break-up, over fish and chips, that still seems to confuse both men today.
Presented in full screen, Inside the Smiths is graced with seven supplemental extra featurettes, which help counterbalance the short running time. In addition to deleted scenes and three minutes of outtakes (chiefly Rourke flubbing a bunch lines), there’s also an interview with “fifth Smith” Craig Cannon, which is pretty interesting. To purchase the title via Amazon, click here. B+ (Movie) B+ (Disc)