With a career spanning almost 30 years it is a fairly safe assumption that both fans and critics alike are highly unlikely to be swayed from their stance regarding this most distinctive and divisive of artists. Given this clear demarcation between the two camps, Morrissey, it seems, will not be winning over too many of his detractors with his new release 'Years of Refusal'. It is, however, sure to delight those well-established followers, as this is undoubtedly the greatest achievement of his solo career, which is some feat, considering its wonderfully grandiose predecessor 'Ringleader of the Tormentor' (2005). With 'Years of Refusal' though, Morrissey sounds reinvigorated, writing and singing with a newfound sense of urgency. Of course, the usual themes of love and death, dominate, but it is the refreshed manner by which he tackles them this time around, that make 'Years of Refusal' such a success. While 'Ringleader of the Tormentors' opted for grandeur and epic exposition, 'Years of Refusal' favours short, sharp explosions of punk influenced energy. Album opener `Something is Squeezing My Skull' acts as a perfect indicator of what's to come, with `One Day Goodbye Will be Farewell' and single `All You Need is Me' also demonstrating the immediacy of the record.
Morrissey also treads new ground with the sublime `When Last I Spoke to Carole', employing a Mexican, mariachi tone, densely layered with brass and acoustic guitars. Furthermore, Morrissey's vocal capabilities appear to be developing even further, rather that diminishing with age, reaching previously unheard levels in range on the embittered ballad `It's Not Your Birthday Anymore'. `Black Cloud', one of the album's many highlights, is also notable for its beautifully delivered vocal performance.
While it may seem certain that as long as Morrissey is writing and recording new material he won't be deviating too far from those familiar subjects so frequently at the heart of his lyrics, Years of Refusal is surely evidence that not only does he remain one of the most important artists of both the past and the present, but that there is still potential for greater things to come.