Morrissey A-Z: "Smiler with Knife"

Light Housework

useless shedder

Today's song is this Morrissey/Tobias composition from the World Peace Is None of Your Business album.

What do we think?

I generally don't fancy the idea of being knifed to death, but there have been rare moments I felt ready to face a smiler with knife. Fleeting moments, that end in my usual meek hope to get home intact.

Gregor Samsa

I straighten up, and my position is one of hope.
In my opinion, easily the best song off of the very flawed WPINOYB (the album proper). Some of the lyrics are devastating and I love how subtle and understated the music is. This one really gets under my skin - in a good way! Always has. Also, that little melody thing played by the guitar is just 10/10.


Well-Known Member

(Blake being a pseudonym of Cecil Day-Lewis, writing crime books featuring the detective Nigel Strangeways...)


rip roaring,free scoring,never boring, celtic.
fantastic,voice is superb,the instrumental from 4.01 is one of the best bits of music in his whole world peace,probably my favourite album.
10 fantastic voices/10 fantastic sounds.vivamozzonawednesdaymorning.

Dirk Blaggard

Active Member
fantastic,voice is superb,the instrumental from 4.01 is one of the best bits of music in his whole world peace,probably my favourite album.
10 fantastic voices/10 fantastic sounds.vivamozzonawednesdaymorning.
Superb. Lyrics on this song, The lyrics in general were good on this lp ,

This Charming Bowie

Welcome to this knockabout world
I flip flop with this one - sometimes I like it and sometimes I think it’s just OK. Listening to it again, it has gone up in my estimation. The lyrics are close-mic’d and all the more chilling for it: like some subversion of late night Sinatra, but depicting dark, foreboding alleyways and characters instead. It seems to be a meditation on being forced to do something: to die, to be in love, submit to others regardless of your view. The spare instrumentation and personification of this forcefulness as a knife darkens the subject matter more, and also opens interpretation towards a forced sexual encounter - even more grim territory.
The music matches this grimness with “Heroes and Villains”-style jump cuts (except here it’s more like “Villains and Villains”) and forlorn guitar building as the song climaxes. There is never a true release of tension - even the solo is pretty held back - perhaps indicating the ever present menace of this “smiler.” If there is something that doesn’t seem to fit, it’s the shoved in Middle Eastern instrumentation, that, while working quite well through the rest of the album (and provides a through line for the LP as a whole), seems particularly shoehorned in, without much reason why.
After writing all this, I’m seriously reevaluating a song I had previously never really got into. It’s difficult to say I enjoyed it, given the lyrics, but it’s still a powerful statement nonetheless.


Well-Known Member
It's an interesting song for sure, & makes me wonder the frame of mind which Moz might have been in to write such a piece.
Brilliant lyrics, beautifully delivered, wonderful music, & it all sounds so dark & sinister.

I found this by way of an explanation of the song:

This mostly acoustic tune finds Morrissey singing of a deeply wounded, tortured guy begging some former lover to "press the blade against my skin." Producer Joe Chiccarelli recalled to "We used an acoustic piano that's been distorted, and there's also some backwards piano fills that have been treated through a guitar amp. So, some of the sounds that sound like guitar on that song is actually piano."
The title phrase originates from Chaucer's The Knights Tale:

"The smiler with the knife under the cloak
The stable burning with the black smoke
The treason and murder in the bed."

Ben Budd

Well-Known Member
I weirdly quite like it. Not bad for a Tobias.


Practising troublemaker
Love it! For me Smiler Is Knife is one of World Peace is None of Your Business’ highlights. That voice is on top form, the melody is intoxicating and lyrics both intriguing & enjoyable. By placing Smiler With Knife after the remarkably average Kiss Me A Lot, this song also gets a further boost….
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Well-Known Member
Morrissey offering us some crime fiction here. Love it how the music augments the sense of horror, and then there is the spartan accoustic outtro after the stone cold act of murder has been executed. It is a great example of lyrics, vocals and music working together to create a short movie.
In the same league as One of our own.


That’s really interesting not about the piano. I can easily hear it as a lounge piano song

Woolly Monty

His best song of the last 15 years? Felt this was a sequel of a kind to 'I know it's over' - the same empty bed desolation, the same "the knife wants to slit me" sentiment - though here he's eagerly encouraging the end rather than finding some desperate consolation in love...

Ketamine Sun

Liked this fan made video, think Fassbinder would approve!


Interesting lyrics, forgiving death, questioning, yet welcoming the unknown ....

See in me the side of you
That sometimes makes you jump with fright
Smiler with knife, it's your big night
Sinking bed, all warm and clean
Only sadness waits for me
Smiler with knife you're just in time
You're just in time
Press the blade against my skin
Never to make love again
Smiler with knife it's alright
Surrender will I am before you
I am sick to death of life
Smiler with knife, alight
If such things weren't meant to be
Then they would never come to me
Smiler, oh, don't worry so
Slamming one shots, gentle pain
Someone calling out my name
Sex and love are not the same
Are not the same
Time has frittered long and slow
All I am and was will go
But where to and why now?
When my last breath falls away
Smiler, trust me when I say:
"You'll be okay"
"You'll be okay"
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Well-Known Member
I’ve grown to accept more in recent times
2014&2015 I was disgruntled to be hearing this live after the first few times.
Im going to put World Peace on now and remember the good times (and bad ones) 🙉


Bluff, Ardour & Assoc.
One of the better Tobias efforts and an example of how good Chiccarelli's production can be when he doesn't overclutter the mix with gew-gaws. I hear a bit of "The Man Who Sold The World" in the eBowed guitar line and guiro/woodblock accents.
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