While 'You Are The Quarry' was a decent enough record I never bought the media hysteria that surrounded it: far from being Morrissey's best ever record there was no way it was in the same league as his solo peak era pair of 'Your Arsenal' and 'Vauxhaul And I', and much as I'd love it to 'Ringleader of the Tormentors' doesn't quite reach these dizzy heights either. While not quite amongst his best however 'Ringleaders' is certainly a very good Morrissey album, and probably slightly better than 'You Are The Quarry', although this may not be readily apparent on first listen. Where 'Quarry' was stacked with very immediate and direct pop songs 'Ringleader' goes for the more obscure path, the result being that this is very much a 'grower' - an album that may leave you cold on first listen but will subsequently reveal itself to be musically rich on later listens.
It's not all perfect: opener 'I Will See You In Far-off Places' is more notable for it's middle-Eastern mood and Morrissey's yodelling than for any real interesting music or lyrics, lead-off single 'You Have Killed me' borders on the bland, 'The Youngest Was The Most Loved' is a mediocre song saved by the masterstroke addition of a children's choir; and 'The Father Who Must be Killed' is hamstrung by it's leaden verses. Note: none of these songs are awful - they are just rather mediocre compared to the albums highlights.
Better are the up-tempo breathless live sounding rock of 'On The Streets I Ran' and 'I Just Want To See The Boy Happy', the almost Beatles-esque pop of 'In The Future When All's Well' and the musically rich 'At Last I Am Born'. Morrissey is at his peak here with the slower ballads: 'To Me You Are A Work Of Art' and 'I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now' are both moving pieces, with the latter featuring one of Morrissey's most audacious vocal performances as he moves from falsetto to bass within the space of one line.
Standing above all as the albums twin highlights for me are the two 'epics': 'Dear God Please Help me' and 'Life Is A Pigsty'. 'Dear God Please Help Me' was already the subject of much pre-release media attention due to such explicit lyrics as "there are explosive kegs between my legs" but it is actually a very sombre and moving ballad with some gorgeous string backing courtesy of Ennio Morricone. 'Life is a Pigsty' however sounds literally like no other Morrissey song I've heard before, but perhaps comes closest to being a sort of modern day epic in the 'That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore'-mode, with the song building from it's menacing yet quiet opening into a hard-hitting finale.
Lyrically this album has been cast by the media as 'Morrissey finds sex, love and happiness', but while some tracks can be seen in this light there are just as many that reveal the old misery guts we all know and love of old ("I'll never be anybody's lover now - it hurts because it's true" etc), and to be honest the feelings of contentment uttered on 'At Last I Am Born' are really no different to those on 'Now my Heart is Full' - except of course the journalists weren't listening then.
'Ringleader of the Tormentors' is slightly inconsistent, and it lacks the knockout punch that a track like 'First of the Gang to Die' would have provided, but this is still a very interesting album that will reward repeat listens. Not his best - but still very good.
on 16 April 2006
The expectations awaiting each new Morrissey album are such that disappointment seems almost inevitable when the records actually come out, although it's testament to the man's talents that even when they're not the masterpiece hoped for they're usually at least as good as most of what's about at the time.
ROTT is perhaps not consistent enough to be a masterpiece, but is good throughout and contains some real gems. The epic drama and dark intensity of 'Life is a Pigsty' has been rightly judged by many as the highlight, but there are plenty of other strong tracks backing it up. My favourite is probably next single 'The youngest was the most loved', which is carried along by a sense of urgency that makes it sound more like the Smiths than anything he's done for ages, particularly the yodelly bit at the end.
For some reason ROTT is not as immediate as most of his solo work and has taken quite a few plays for me to form an opinion of it, so I would say to anyone not enamoured on their first listen to give it more time. For me, 'Vauxhall and I' remains his best solo album, but ROTT is definitely a grower, and gets closer to this peak than most of his more recent material
'Ringleader Of The Tormentors' is a record of quite stunning emotional potency. In a way it is also a departure for Morrissey in the respect that there are parts of it where it feels as if the great man is singing for his own satisfaction as a kind of therapy. Songs like 'Dear God Please Help Me', 'In The Future when All's Well' and opener 'I Will see You In Far Off Places' have an exclusivity to the lyrics almost as if Morrissey feels wary of the fact that they give way too much away about himself. For a man that has built a (thoroughly deserved) reputation as the champion of the lost and the lonely, this is a little strange to adapt to for a while and for once you find yourself trying hard to relate to him. The stench of fear and death are everywhere on this record and you feel the aging Morrissey is becoming ever more aware of his own mortality. Best track for me is the very passionately sung 'I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now' where all of these fears are expressed to greatest effect. 'Ringleader' then is a more personal record than any that has gone before it but this is not to say that it is not another great album! Of the 12 tracks on offer all are memorable in their own right and only the overlong 'Life Is A Pigsty' really fails to sparkle. 'To Me You Are A Work Of Art' surely has to be the nearest thing to a love song that the great man has written, yet 'Ringleader' is also a good old fashioned rock and roll album chock full of zesty guitar playing and drum hitting! Summing up then, this is another reputation enhancing album. It's also just possible that its one where, at last, we are witness to the real Steven Patrick Morrissey publicly revealing himself. EXCELLENT.
on 22 December 2011
just so you have perspective I am in late 30s and relatively new Moz fan. I was aware of the Smiths in the 80s but I think a bit too young to appreciate.
I get filthy looks when I mention I prefer his solo work, but I do, and this album did not disappoint. I am so glad Moz has returned and in such good form. Lots of long tracks and great lyrics.
on 28 May 2006
Let's start with the positives. This album is musically the best that Morrissey has created as a solo artist. His voice sounds smoother and more refined than ever. Indeed, "On The Streets I Ran" (the highlight of the record) rivals anything done by Morrisey or The Smiths in terms of vocal expression. The backing on tracks like "You Have Killed Me" and "I Just Want To See The Boy Happy" is heavier than any of Moz's Smiths work while the album as a whole remains less suffocatingly rockabilly than something like Your Arsenal. There is a lovely balance and variation in the tracks here - from the Turkish hypnosis of opener "I Will See You In Far Off Places" to the rainy ambience of the Ennio Morrocone arranged "Life Is A Pig Sty" and similarily Morrocone influenced "Dear God Please Help Me" driven by church organ and lucious string arrangements.
Yet, if this is the most musically daring and interesting Morrissey effort to date, one key ingredient seems to have suffered tremendously; the lyrics. For some this might not be important but to me this is THE reason par excellence to listen to a Morrissey record. Yet we end up with lines like "there are explosive kegs between my legs". There just seems to be something lacking - where there used to be a key concern for Morrissey in creating his own romantic fantasy of pariah championing Manchester, girls jumping from ferris wheels, and a genuine delicacy in his word-choice we now get obtuse statements like "there is no such thing in life as normal". Where Morrissey was once a shoulder to cry on, an artist in whose work one could always find something empathetic, his lyrics now feel almost like a dictation - there's face value and nothing more. This isn't quite true of all the tracks - "On The Streets I Ran" creates a delightfully ghastly imagery while there are other glimpses of lyrical flair. Yet the majority or the record fails to be nearly as lyrically exciting or appealing as much of Morrissey's cannon has been.
Ringleader of the Tormentors is certainly still an enjoyable listen - tracks like "You Have Killed Me", "The Youngest Was The Most Loved", "In The Future When All's Well", "On The Streets I Ran" (can you tell how much I enjoyed this song yet?!) and indeed a fair few others are extremely catchy, while musically this collection of songs is the most daring Morrissey has been. Yet lyrically there is something significantly lacking. For all its glossy production and big-name contributors Ringleader has lost some of the personal charm of past ventures. It is no doubt incredibley hard for someone who has achieved such tremendous success, and consequently some degree of detachment from reality, to find suitabley compelling subject material, and this is what ultimately means this can't be one of the great Morrissey records.
on 18 October 2013
Never been an absolute fan of Morrissey but was very impressed with " You are the Quarry". To date,this does'nt come close,but seems to warm-up in the second-half of the cd. I will persevere, and give a further report at a later date!
on 15 April 2006
At first I didn't think ROTT had the depth of '...Quarry' but I think it takes a few listens as you then realise this is HAPPY Morriseey. Is this a new concept? By far the best track on the album is 'The Youngest was the Most Loved'. I think Mozza is going back a few years on this one reflecting on his childhood. I love the way so many people analyse a new Morrissey album. All I say is sit back, listen and let it all sink in. Who cares what meaning it's supposed to put forward. At least you know it is supposed to be personal. Other stand out tracks are 'I Will See You In Far Off Places', 'Life in a Pigsty' and 'At Last I Am Born'. Mozza's still has it!
Some artists can do no wrong. Morrissey is not one of them. Johnny Marr might have been, but not Morrissey, and that's why his solo career has been so patchy. To my mind, Morrissey (indeed, The Smiths when he was with them too) has always been more of a singles man than an albums one (with Your Arsenal and Vauxhall & I being slight exceptions, and even the latter, in my opinion, has a few ropey self-indulgent moments). Which is what makes Ringleader of the Tormentors so special: spurred on by Visconti, Morrissey has actually produced a proper album, rather than three or four great songs interspersed with a few mediocre ones, such as on the last album, You Are the Quarry (with Irish Blood English Heart, First of the Gang to Die, Let Me Kiss You and I Like You all being great, but the rest just serviceable). This is a different story.
Like all great albums, this requires a few listens before you appreciate it. It did me. Had to listen through a couple of times, pick a few songs at random to listen to, before I thought "hang on a minute, this album is actually great!" Morrissey's wit-tempered-morbidity is in fine fettle, as good as ever, but what sets this album apart from his others is the music. The arrangements are muscular, they're layered and much, much richer than ever before. THAT's what makes this album so good. The richness of the music, the orchestration, the variety of instrumenatation, all mean this album reveals more the more you listen to it, and so has far greater longevity in the old record collection than some of his albums. Some of Visconti's input is inspired: the kid's choir chanting in the background in both "The Youngest was The Most Loved" and "The Father Who Must Be Killed" are absolutely inspired, and make me break out in a grin, despite the homicidal nature of both songs. It's absolute genius.
Ringleader of the Tormentors is a rich, varied album (musically and lyrically). Opening with the Middle-Eastern tinged "I Will See You in Far Off Places", it moves through the elegant strings and shocking sentiment of "Dear God, Please Help Me" through the rollicking "Youngest Was The Most Loved" and "Father Who Must Be Killed" to the epic 7-minute wonder that is "Life Is A Pigsty" and closes with the wonderfully uplifting "At Last I Am Born", which vies with "Vauxhall & I"'s "Speedway" for the crown of Morrissey's best album closer.
Obviously, that's not to say it's flawless. The second half of the album is not as good as the first, and lacks a standout track. Indeed, a couple don't really distinguish themselves and one should probably have been cut out to stop the last half from dragging ever so slightly. None of the individual songs here are as immediately catching as the first 3 singles from "You Are the Quarry" (but being more musically complex, they probably wouldn't be). Other than that, it's a great album. Morrissey's lyrics are as good as ever (though I can't say I get all the fuss about Morrissey suddenly being interested in sex. Surely Morrissey has been referring to sex - obliquely or otherwise - for years and years? ("Handsome Devil"?)
Anyway, as I say, none of the tracks are as immediate as any from the last album, but overall and as a whole this a better, more rounded, more listenable album. It takes a listen or two, but it is almost certainly the best of his solo career.
on 11 December 2009
This another ingenious effort from my all-time idol S P Morrissey . I felt this is one of his more depressing albums , more than for instance You are The Quarry .The songs are brilliantly writed unsurprisingly, The 3 singles (The youngest was the most loved, In the future when is all is well and The Father who must be killed) are brilliantly catchy . Grows on you after every listen. 8.5/10 .
on 22 February 2009
Having now read all the other comments posted here it would seem that opinion is divided over this album and I think I could have put my finger on it.
First of all the songs are top drawer throughout,and the muscianship is faultless,but why, oh why, when you have a drummer, of the undoubted class that Matt Chamberlain is, why can I not hear him ?
Listen again careful this time,the drums are submerged well down in the mix ,now and again you will pick up the bass drum or the hi hat but overall they are buried.
It is this issue that spoils what should and still should be Morrissey's finest one hour.
This album ,following up from Y.A.T.Q.(which was a great album to reintroduce Morrissey back to his fans of old and pick up a total new generation of new millenium Mozzer worshippers)but which was to all intents and purposes( now theres a phrase you don,t hear much these days)a pop album,ROTT is definitely not.
This was lost chance to establish Morrissey as the one true great album performer that many cannot see him as.To many people he will only be a creator of the perfect pop single.Maybe there is some truth to this as albums such as Kill Uncle do not have the true depth of content to be classed as a true album - more like 2/3 killers and the rest surely filler.To test my memory I played that album again before I posted this review and even after 16 years I cannot really get my head round the whole album.I think it is a combination of producers ,musicians and lack of quality melody and lyrical content.Maybe Bona Drag had a drag !
But back to ROTT,the point I tried to make back there but got sidetracked was that I feel sometimes getting a "name " producer like Tony Visconti can actually be detrimental to the artists cause.
Maybe there was too much reverence on both sides, after all, Visconti has been responsible for some of mozzers own faves in the 70,s(and mine too ).Maybe each party was too restricted to really explore what the relationship could have ultimately brought out.The only real addition to the album Visconti makes is the inclusion of the childrens choir in some songs - but thats not overly innovative is it ?
So the blame lies at Visconti's door for ,perhaps having "old ears ".There does seem to be a lAk of punch to the sound - no treble.Play it next to YATQ and you have to turn up the volume control considerably why ?
The guitars are lost in the mire of keyboards and strings.Lets get this right ,the extra dimensions brought to the table by Visconti should have been a great plus but I think maybe he's too set in his ways now.Thats bound to happen with some "big name producers "look at what happened with XTC over Skylarking (Todd Rundgren) and Nonsuch(Gus Dudgeon).
These guys are maybe past their time and what sounded good in the 70,s may now be very detrimental to todays ears!
Look at the development in studio hardware and software,I own a Roland Juno synth and even that starter model can give me well over 1,000,000 sounds and alot more if apply effects and polyphony(multi keys at the same time ).So perhaps this is the cause of the problem.
My suggestion to anybody bothered would be to ask Morrissey if a remix could be done by someone else.
Why not, remixes,even of entire albums,are now becoming commonplace.Even some bands completely re-recording the blessed things after 20/30 years - now theres maniplulation of the fanbase for you - but here I think Morrissey would be fully justified- the album doesn,t breathe.
Anyone feel the same ?