Song: “Barbarism Begins At Home”
Artist: The Smiths
Album: Meat Is Murder (1985)
Long before the term ‘indie’ was tossed around in music gossip, or ‘hipster’—to out the misfit genre’s followers—several quirky 80s artists were already taking the avant-garde business by storm; in particular, the yawn-jowled, perpetually aloof Morrissey and his snooty new-wave clique, collectively known as The Smiths.
“Barbarism Begins At Home” is the funkiest ode to rattling percussion and finger-wagging Brit-babble off the group’s 1985 sophomore studio album, the provocatively-titled Meat is Murder…and possibly of all their work. In six minutes of clattering bass drums and hi-hats, Morrissey’s pitchy reprimands chime in:
“Unruly boys…who will not grow up,
Must be taken in hand…
Unruly girls…who will not settle down,
They must be taken in hand…”
and in hounding, schoolteacher-stylized warning…
“A crack on the head
Is what you get for not asking
And a crack on the head
Is what you get for asking…”
After a couple waves of ululating Morrissey choruses, the track hits supreme-level somewhere between Andy Rourke’s saucy bass guitar break at 5:30 and the song’s fluently syncopated fadeout. A modest Smiths essential lurking in the flamboyant grit of Meat is Murder, “Barbarism Begins At Home” serves as a quirky helping of Morrissey vocals and the band’s forte for tasteful fringe.