Top positive review
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Genius still intact, then
on 6 December 2014
While not Morrissey's greatest album, this is still an invigorating addition to the (substantial, bulging) catalogue. The fact that his music is becoming more Latin in flavour all the time, is unexpected, even surreal, but given the make-up of his band, a somewhat natural development. I don't think any fan could have imagined him singing such mournful lyrics as 'Earth is the Loneliest Planet of All' to an uptempo flamenco-drenched backing track, ten years ago, but such is life. It's certainly peculiar, and yet he kind of pulls it off. Still not one of the better tracks on the album though . . . could have been a big hit if Harvest had given a toss about the recordings. Oh well another record label dispensed with . . . how many can he get through before his unthinkable death? It's exciting on this album to hear him being really vocally ingenious again, like he was back in mideighties prime, particularly on 'I'm Not A Man'. The lyric though is a bit predictable for the Moz, as he's essentially repeating everything he's ever said (overfamiliarity also threatens with Kick The Bride Down The Aisle, which is basically a lyrical reworking of William It Was Really Nothing . . . a misogynistic but comic portrait of woman as ensnarer of the previously footloose and fancy free bachelor within the dreaded institution of marriage; if one took a Freudian position, it reflects Morrissey's fear of the vagina, viewing it as a kind of Venus flytrap from which you never can escape; this fear is sublimated through the symbol of marriage as an imprisonment of the male . . . end of lecture). Neal Cassady spotlights Morrissey's own Northern version of rapping, which is highly entertaining, and inevitably, morbid. This is in fact one of Morrissey's funniest albums, not just when he speaks of Allen Ginsberg's tears shampooing his beard, but in the strangely jovial account of student suicide in Staircase At The University, one of his best pop tunes possibly ever. His impersonation of an implacable northern father is priceless ('as far as I'm concerned you're dead'), and all too accurate. He was known in his youth as an accurate imitator of the northern way of life, and nothing's changed. Kiss Me A Lot is one of those curious lightweight pop throwaways that Morrissey has always been capable of, though his vocal seems a bit garbled here (not the only instance). One notes that his pronunciation at times is not what it was; perhaps due to his global traveller status . . . tends to curl his r's alot, you will note. Smiler With Knife is a dark beautiful ballad, fatalistic in typical Morrissey fashion, and let's be honest, homoerotic, but it's somewhat spoiled by a vocal clanger on the second 'alight' where his voice breaks, something I'm sure he wouldn't have let stand in his heyday, but perhaps he doesn't care all that much about mistakes now. Mountjoy contains his deepest and most world-weary lyric; it's a vintage sample of Morrissey's realistic world view, and his endless sympathy for the ghastly human condition (something people like to overlook). Morrissey has always empathised with those who suffer in life, because he feels he has suffered greatly himself (some might argue that is mostly self-inflicted, but I would argue otherwise). Am I the only person to sense an underlying ambivalence in The Bullfighter Dies? As if part of him can't celebrate the death of a bullfighter? Why else say 'you' rather than 'I'? It puts him at a distance from the gleeful emotions. All serious fans will also own the extra disc of material, which is not exactly stingy like some extra discs you get. There are some really great things here, stuff that on another day could have made the album. The only reprehensible moment comes with the keyboards on Forgive Someone (Mozzer never would have allowed this twenty years ago!). My personal favourites are the final two, Julie in the Weeds and Art - Hounds, the latter being a classic Morrissey anthem of the bookish and disenfranchised. (How great is it when he sings, 'In European hushed museums, will I see yer, will I see yer, will I see yer?' and in strained falsetto, 'My life is a fraud!') I love this song to death. Julie is a thing of real beauty, a poignant Morrissey croon topping in pastoral beauty the lyrically lovely Drag The River. Is it 'Forgive Someone' that contains that wonderful section about showers that don't work and behind the bleachers and the woman who opens herself to him (literally) and says 'Here's something you'll never have'? This is a seminal (in every sense) Morrissey moment . . . wonderful. So much to praise if you take the eighteen tracks as a whole offering . . . only a few minor quibbles, and the fact that these aren't generally Morrissey 's very best lyrics (we're talking about a lyrical genius here . . . alot's expected). But nevermind, nevermind. If you don't love this man, it's because he doesn't want you to love him. He would be glad of this. Those who do love him, understand him, or rather, think they do. And that's all that really matters. You're going to miss him when he's gone.