The Smiths

The Complete Picture [Video]

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Although the Smiths' career coincided with the music-video boom of the 1980s, the band resisted using that medium to promote its recordings and relatively few clips were made to accompany Smiths singles. When the band did venture into video it did so only "under extreme pressure," as vocalist Morrissey once remarked. (This was perhaps ironic in that Morrissey's distinctive record sleeves attested to a very deliberate manipulation of visual imagery to package the band's music.) The Complete Picture is symptomatic of that reticence to work with video. The material spans the Smiths' career, but only a handful of these clips could be properly described as music videos. Almost half of the 14 tracks comprise pseudo-performance footage -- five numbers find the band lip-synching before a studio audience on the BBC's Top of the Pops. Fans might be disappointed by the absurdly artificial "performances" of classics like "What Difference Does It Make?" and "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," but they do stand as appropriate and entertaining testaments to Morrissey's campy, kitschy aesthetic. Marginally more interesting are the promos for "Girlfriend in a Coma" and "Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before." Incorporating images from the 1963 English cult film The Leather Boys, the first echoes the Smiths' sleeve art, while the second features Morrissey and a host of lookalikes cycling around run-down areas of Salford and Manchester. However, the highlights of this collection are the contributions of avant-garde filmmaker Derek Jarman, in particular his short film entitled The Queen Is Dead, which comprises stunning visualizations of "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out," "Panic," and the title track. As engaging visual translations of the Smiths' sound and as stylistic exercises that would influence countless pop promo directors, Jarman's videos alone make The Complete Picture worth the price of admission.

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