It's been a long while coming and the world is a very different place, but there's something remarkably timely about You Are the Quarry
, the album that marks the return of Manchester's most famous miserablist to the pop arena. And be assured, this biting, lyrically ambiguous collection of songs is pop through and through, albeit pop with its heart on hold and its loins full of unrequited lust.
"America" is typical Morrissey vitriol, a big, contentious opener that slams you in the jaw with a critical knuckleduster lyric. It's strange though that somebody now resident in LA should take a swipe at a country "where a president is never black, female or gay". Even odder, for this normally purist rocker, is the suggestion of a breakbeat (think George Michael rather than George Clinton) and almost--gasp--funky guitars. Elsewhere, bass and drums are pushed upfront in that swaggering Moz style, although "I Have Forgiven Jesus" is welcomingly reflective and nostalgic. "The World is Full of Crashing Bores" is another highlight and a caustic comment on the curse of Pop Idol culture, but the best track here, "You Know I Couldn't Last", is what the people really want. Both melancholy and euphoric in equal measure, it's a fine reminder of why hit-and-miss Morrissey is still so revered. Welcome back misery guts; all is forgiven. --Paul Tierney
While the likes of Celine Dion have opted for early retirement, forever serenading icebergs in Vegas hotels, you couldn't accuse Steven Patrick Morrissey of pocketing an easy pension. As the figurehead of 80s super-droops The Smiths, his iconic rise and reverence was too bright a fire to maintain. And so he fell, daring to dissolve his partnership with Johnny Marr and strike out upon a solo career. He's been berated for it ever since.
You Are The Quarry marks his first new album since 1997's Maladjusted, often lumped alongside 1995's Southpaw Grammar as the moment the milk curdled. Not so. Morrissey, like Madonna (both star attractions in a municipal zoo, alternately praised then pelted with loose change), has never veered far from a core manifesto. In his case, I hurt: therefore I am. Only the musicians, arrangements or locations have changed (he famously fled Manchester for Los Angeles).
Petulant, maudlin, terrifically dour, this latest collection could just as well have tumbled from the diary of a Prozac-addled teen, albeit in the suit of a 45 year-old man from Davyhulme.
Dispelling accusations of cultural treachery and nationalism, he fires a two-fingered salute to the US and the UK with "America Is Not The World" and "Irish Blood, English Heart". 'I'm dreaming of a time when / To be English is not to be baneful / To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial' states Morrissey, referring to his notorious cavorting with the Union Jack in 1992.
"I'm Not Sorry", purposely pricks the fruit of sexual ambiguity; 'The woman of my dreams / She never came along / The woman of my dreams / There never was one'.
Thankfully Morrissey's blunt, Northern vowels also remain intact, witness "First Of The Gang To Die". A track that drips romanticised disaffection, the very reason we first clutched his quiff to our hearts.
A gentleman's misanthrope, "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" marries a camp sensibility with a swipe at Pop Idol identi-clones; 'Thicker than pig shit' apparently. He sums up his birthright and back catalogue within "Come Back To Camden" ('Under slate grey Victorian sky / Here you will find / Despair and I'). It's an identity that he recognises is irreversibly commoditised; 'There's a cash register ringing / It weighs so heavy on my back...The critics who / Can't break you / They somehow help to make you' ("You Know I Couldn't Last").
Ultimately, this would represent a return to form had he ever fallen, but an overdue amnesty is more likely the reason for the warmth of response thus far. In a lyrical coincidence reminiscent of Craig David's cocksure prattle, the last word belongs, as always, to Morrissey himself: 'Monday - humiliation, Tuesday - suffocation, Wednesday - condescension, Thursday - is pathetic...' ("I Have Forgiven Jesus"). Welcome home our kid. Now go to your room and stay there! --Bren O'Callaghan
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