Steven Patrick Morrissey is something of an enigma/twat/dictator/miracle worker to me; he both fascinates and frustrates me in equal measure. Some of his work is like manna from heaven, I swear to this day every time I hear "Speedway" from 'Vauxhall & I' (blog cleverly linked here) I am took back to that first heart wrenching moment when I first heard it. Yet this is the same man who released "King Leer" from 'Kill Uncle' which makes me want to put holes through walls. So after the last few years of cancelled tours, weird support artist, hospitalisation, autobiographies and general rumours of stopping venues selling meat where he sings; it is nice to get back to listening to a new album from the man. The general feeling in the press is that this album is a return to form and one of his best ever; which is what they say with each of his album and it usually turns out to be not as good at the pundits are saying (sorry Morrissey fans, but 'Years Of Refusal' and 'Maladjusted' are nowhere near as good as 'Vauxhall & I' or 'Viva Hate'). It is sort of like when a Slayer album is released, everyone is hoping for 'Reign In Blood' part 2 and they are sad when it is not quite there. But this is before the fact, time to listen to the latest release....
Starting off with the title track of the album, Morrissey comes out with quite possibly one of the most slowly burning tracks that I have ever heard. When I first heard I was ready to break the laptop with distain, it was plodding, dower and dull; however the more I listened to it, the more I digested the lyrics which are some of the most barbed words he has written since Thatcher (may she burn for what she did) was alive and torturing the nation, the more apparent it became that this is one of the darkest and subtle of openings to an album that I have ever heard. A protest song about how governments and shadowy organisations are keeping the world in the dark and how we are all part of the problem, it is easily one of the best songs since "Irish Blood, English Heart". "Neal Cassidy Drops Dead" is next and with a distorted punk rock/krautrock feel, another rant against humanity and the ever increasing population of the world, you can sense that Mr M is not a family man. The vitriol that comes out of his mouth in this song is quite possibly one of the most disturbing that I have hear from Morrissey in a long time. Next is the seven minute plus "I'm Not A Man" starts off with a soundscape that is of background noise and feedback from the guitar for the first two minutes which gives way to a gentle keyboard lament about not being a man if it means you have to be a dick. I have to applaud the lyrics here, he nails it on the head what the modern media say a man should be; it just states what I feel myself in this area and it is nice to have a kindred spirit in the world (even if I disagree with him on other things). The whole song builds towards a delicate and straight lined finish, the bitter way he mentions meat and cancer is just like the king trying to turn the tide; honourable and heroic, destined to fail but such a ending.
"Istanbul" follows on from that long and epic track, the song itself is decent with a swagger that would not be out of place in a mods and rockers film; it is not quite as good as "I'm Not A Man" but it has its own self confidence. The keys mixing in with the guitar sound that cross musician boundaries to steal a unique sound that makes the listener stand to attention. "Earth Is The Loneliest Planet" comes out with an acoustic opening, a mixture of cop drama song and verses about the state of humanity that would end the world in a heartbeat if it could. It is the first song on the album to leave me cold, but it is not a bad song; I am just a little picky and this one doesn't do much for me. "Staircase At The University" is a hell of a lot better, it has a much more basic approach to the world, a tale about a death in an accident in a university (a subject I wrote about many years ago, but that is a different story). It is back to the story telling, this is the Morrissey that I love the listen to; the music and lyrics are in complete contrast to each other. I can imagine this going across like a Vegas number with Morrissey in his shiney golden jacket whilst the dancers are around him. The darkness of the lyrics is brilliant and such a fantastic ode to the pressures of the world on the youth.
"The Bullfighter Dies" is next and much like "Earth Is The Loneliest Planet", the music does not set my world on fire. However, this ode to the death of bull fighters and the cruelty of the sport are interesting. But cheering the death of a person is a bit strange; unless you’re a passionate support of animal tights, which Morrissey has on countless time shown his unlimited support for. Thankfully it is also the shortest song on the album, leading onto "Kiss Me A Lot". Again it is when Morrissey goes for the simple that I find myself falling under the charm of his music. The song isn't too hard, it is not complex and it makes for a fantastic addition to his arsenal; watch him ignore it if I ever go to one of his shows. "Smiler With Knife" is a creepy number, acoustic for the most part and sinister in both sound and lyrics; it is another upside down song that shows that when he applies his mind to it, he can scare the living bee-jesus out of his audience.
"Kick The Bride down the Aisle" has been purposed in some circles as the fifth single to be taken off this album to be released (ironically two of the others are the strangest choices - "Earth Is the Loneliest Planet" and "The Bullfighter Dies"), and it suits his crooner persona that has been developing over the years. It is a song that sounds like a twisted tribute to Scott Walker, with the awkward and mournful lyrics making the bitterest heart melt into a puddle of joy and sorrow. It may not be my favourite song on the album, but it is one of the strongest on offer here. "Mountjoy" is the follow up and it actually makes for a perfect follow on to "Kick The Bride Down The Aisle". It is a strange mirror to the world and the worlds view on joy, it is a fucked up number to say the least and if the album had have ended on this twisted note it would have been a brilliant place to end. However it does end on "Oboe Concerto" which is actually the best track for ending the album. With a strange sax solo going on in the back ground, it sounds like the last bar in the world heading toward armageddon with the flood just crashing through the door. It is a final dark slice that is not as dramatic as "Speedway" but it is a perfect ending to this album.
For once, the press is actually right; this is one of Morrissey's strongest releases, quite possibly the best since 'Vauxhall & I'. It is not better than that record, but that was an album created in the face of his world falling apart. This album is created when his body has been letting him down in places, the world is going to hell in a handbag of shite and everything is starting to shift toward the endgame that is always being threatened. A few of the numbers are not quite up there with his best (hence why it is down a few marks), but it would not be a Morrissey album without a few moments of self indulgence; it would be like a day without a night. But if this is a start of another green patch for the former resident of Manchester, then it is a great place to start.
8 out of ten - Oh, now you have my attention and maybe my money, time and heart
Top Track - World Peace Is None of Your Business
You can purchase the album from Amazon here
There is not an official Morrissey website, but there is this unofficial one which is very good for all your Mozza needs
You can listen to the album on Spotify here
Here is a link to Deezer so you can listen to the album there is you wish
Here is the offical video for World Peace Is None Of Your Business - it is a spoken word oddity that makes me laugh.