Off with their Heads
A great post on Morrissey, class and the modern at Aloof from Inspiration: It is easy to interpret this pull towards community, even as it is disavowed, in terms of social conservatism and/or cultural nostalgia, but if The Smiths had simply been a throwback (...) then they would never have been so important, so compelling. The “sepia-toned” universe of their record sleeves cannot be understood as a simple desire to reconstitute a mythical 60s England, apart from anything else because these sleeves point towards popular culture itself as constitutive of community, a community that is self-willed; that does not exist a priori, or stand separate from its own cultural production.
This is one of the many things which distinguishes the Smiths from the parade of indie wretchedness that they unfortunately produced. In the same way as the persona incarnates the vengeful self-construction of the autodidact, there is a sense in which all this mid-century ephemera was used as a weapon against not so much modernity itself, but the form it took as the 1980s rolled on, the new barbarism that was so often expressed in culture by shiny surfaces, impregnable bodies and bright colours (and a revival of Victoriana and Imperial nostalgia, the latter of which Morrissey would later give in to). By making sex into something complex, and shattering rather than something athletically functional (cf old Reynolds essay 'Against Health and Efficiency') by writing of a working class desperate to escape its situation by education rather than acquisition, and by setting up a strange personal canon that encompasses the clearly rather conflicting icons of Shelagh Delaney and Joe Dallesandro, what was happening was more a a re-imagining of history rather than a surrender to it - rather than progressivism, a stress on the recent past's odd, unrecuperated moments, and in that way Morrissey was a hauntologist before the fact rather than a straightforward nostalgic. Similarly, the same service always needs to be performed for the Smiths themselves, 'saving them from the conformism that is about to overpower them': so look at Derek Jarman's video for 'The Queen is Dead' and imagine any of their indie-schmindie acolytes making something so apocalyptic, so electrifying, and so filled with all the rage of regicide.