Gem of the Week: “Barbarism Begins At Home”-The Smiths


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.

Listen below:

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