Thursday, February 19, 2009

Morrissey - Years of Refusal

Below is my review of the new Morrissey album, written for the Scottish Socialist Voice.


LET’S be honest, we’re fond of a spot of historical revisionism on the left. Sometimes that’s good, mostly it’s bad.
But here’s a goodie. So prepare yourselves, comrades. Well, those of you who care about these things anyway.
The Smiths were Morrissey’s second difficult adolescence. Their slight-ish body of work was sublime, but in the grand scheme of their singer’s now-long career, it’s juvenilia.
The evidence? It’s there in spades in his post-87 solo work. In the years since the Smiths split, Morrissey has released nine proper albums, each of them covering much more difficult ground – lyrically and sonically - than the Smiths ever dared, or got round to.
We loved it when the Smiths bared their bums to the Queen, still do – but solo, Morrissey has been able to awkwardly skewer such issues as race, disability, identity and alienation in an ever-more layered and complex manner.
His career suffered as a result, but his art got deeper.This review starts with a big caveat for a big reason, because every new Morrissey album comes with a tiresome chorus of Smiths To Reform stories and ‘not as good as the Smiths’ dismissals.
And this one more than others, arriving as it does in the wake of the recentish Sound of The Smiths retrospective, and the resultant reformation rumours.
It won’t happen, people. And why should we want it to? Here we have probably Morrissey’s most accessible and – heaven’s above – upbeat record since Vauxhall and I, the Moz album it’s officially OK for Johnny (Marr) come lately Smiths fans to like.
It starts at a furious pace with the hilarious Something is Squeezing My Skull, and rarely lets up. It’s all clattering drums, big rock guitars, distortion and – on When I Last Spoke To Carol – whistling and mariachi galloping from there on in.
If 2006’s Ringleader Of The Tormentors was a fan’s album (all torch songs about shagging and death), then YOR sees him reaching out.
And don’t worry - that your embrace, should it come, will inevitably be accompanied by a dagger in the back is already anticipated in cataclysmic closer I’m OK By Myself.
Let’s not re-write history too much. The Smiths were a great band, but the Smiths is dead, boys. Morrissey is alive, kicking and spitting.
Inevitably, he’ll be accused of treading water. Wrong. Where others tread, Morrissey walks.

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