The Queen Is Dead is the Smiths' mature masterpiece. The playing is faultless: the rhythm section is both supple and relentless, while Johnny Marr's wah-wah guitar is constantly in motion, in total sympathy with the song's mood changes: rhythmic and viciously propulsive one minute, ambient the next. Morrissey's lyrics are pointed, witty and tricksy, with their implied rhymes: "castration" instead of "strings" to take just one example.
Best of all, they give a thorough portrait of how it feels to be an outsider, rooted in a precise physical and psychological place – "hemmed in like a boar between arches". When you hear the line "but the rain that flattens my hair" you can think of no other place than Manchester, and in many ways The Queen Is Dead represents the highpoint of Morrissey's lyric writing – when he was still informed by his city and its past.
This sense of rootedness is important. You intuitively sense that the musicians have experienced, indeed have deeply felt, what they are communicating. They know of what they speak. This sense transmits itself to the listener, who in turn finds a reflection of their own experience, and so the bond is forged. And that sense of connection remains: two and a half decades after I first heard it, The Queen Is Dead still rings proud and strong.