The Wedding Present
The context: The Wedding Present—in the '80s, often referred to as Smiths fans' second-favorite band—started out with a couple of razor-sharp but slightly jangly albums, 1987's George Best and 1989's Bizarro. For 1991's Seamonsters, songwriter and lyricist David Gedge surprised his fans by turning toward much darker territory, lyrically and musically—and by hiring producer Steve Albini before that was de rigueur. (It could be argued that Seamonsters is one of the records that drove dozens of other bands into Albini's arms.)
The greatness: One of those collections that demands to be listened to in its entirety, Seamonsters explores Gedge's one true passion: the opposite sex. As potentially hazardous as that sounds, his songs explore relationships from every angle, though most of the album's glorious moments crawl on the underbelly: "Dalliance" vacillates between angsty guitars and lyrics about longing; "Dare" chugs along, desperate for an illicit affair with a friend who's fighting with her lover; and "Suck" is about as sexy as Gedge dares get, using the titular double-entendre to maximum effect.
And that's just the first three songs. Seamonsters offers 10 perfect miniaturizations of love gone right, wrong, and so-wrong-it's-right, all couched in dense guitars that say as much as the words. It's the first (and only) time Gedge refused to give himself and his fans a breather, and that's probably why it's widely considered his masterpiece. (Be warned, though: The disc has been reissued countless times, with excellent bonus tracks that don't quite fit the mood.)
Defining song: It's difficult to consider one without the others, but "Lovenest" grabs Seamonsters mood perfectly, with searing guitars pitted against lyrics about infidelity and the madness of love. (Then there's the snare madness between verses—just genius.) "I heard another voice this morning on the phone / But just the other day I thought you said you slept alone," he sings, confused and bedeviled as he ever was, and willing to exorcise his lust in search of perfect songs.