Recorded for John Peel's radio show at the BBC studios on May 18, 1983, these four songs see a very young Smiths fusing their poetic jangle with fierce doses of an energy that's just a baby step away from punk. Morrissey screeches, wails, and haws like a wounded chicken, while Johnny Marr's guitars ring with a desperate Joy Division blaze. Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce hold up their end of the bargain as well, providing a rhythmic attack that is astonishingly crisp and immediate. "What Difference Does It Make?" sounds more raw here than in any other appearance in the band's discography. Morrissey's disaffected, impossibly high-pitched yelps demand attention. The bard operates in a similar fashion on "Miserable Lie," the song starting as a slow crawl before throttling into an explosive climax. "Reel Around the Fountain" is a virtual portrait of depression, and while the vocal echo effect is perhaps too pronounced, the song is gracefully bleak and romantic. "Handsome Devil" is ferocious and menacing, the band unloading all of their abilities and future promise into a maelstrom of sonic artistry. Different versions of each song, save for "Handsome Devil," appeared on the band's debut eponymous album which wasn't released until February 1984. Some of these Peel Session tracks would make their way onto November 1984's Hatful of Hollow. The session was first aired on May 31, 1983, signalling to all within listening distance that a new Fab Four, this time from Manchester, was about to grab for the baton.
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AllMusic Review by Tim DiGravina