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Moz tampers with another one!
on 29 April 2013
As most Moz fans know, 1991's "Kill Uncle" usually along with 1997's underwhelming "Maladjusted" are frequently described as the runt of the litter by most reviewers and fans alike. While "Maldjusted" is flawed and seems to be Moz going through the motions, with little creativity, lyrical greatness or the wit in which he is usually associated. After "Maladjusted" Moz took a 7 year break, something had to give and the break rejuvinated him. But "Kill Uncle" has none of these complaints. Moz isn't going through the motions, he was trying something new, a sort of mixture of 'Super-Pop' Morrissey with a splash of Rockabilly (though this would be fully realised later). Morrissey was working with new songwriting partners in ex-Fairground Attraction's axe man and musician Mark E. Nevin and Madness producer and "Kill Uncle's" producer Clive Langer. So quite why this album has been derided through the years is a mystery to me. Yes there are some fey tracks (King Leer, The Harsh Truth...) and yes it's a little on the short side (Original release is 33:06, this version is 37:56). But the album is brimming full of hidden gems and has Moz in overall, buoyent mood and singing very well. It also has a handful of underrated Moz gems (Driving Your Girlfriend Home, Asian Rut, Found Found Found and Sing Your Life, which curiously, even though it was a single, has never featured on any Moz compilation except the US only realease "Best of"). While after the album's release the backing band of "Rockabilly" players, Boz Boorer, Alain Whyte, Gary Day and Spencer Cobrin gave some of the light tracks added weight and a live zest, for the most part this album has been shunned. Crucially also by Moz at live dates rarely plays anything from the album.
Jump forward to now and from the previous paragraph you are asking, why only 3 stars then? The reason is simple, the album was never a 5 star classic to begin with and like all the rest of his re-releases ("Southpaw Grammar", "Maladjusted", "Bona Drag" and "Viva Hate") this album has been tampered with. The track listing has been re-jigged, which we can live with, but extra tracks have been added to the album, and as with the previous releases, not added to the end as bonus tracks (Only "Bona Drag" did this) but they have been placed in the running order of the album. The grating thing about this is, like the other releases ("Southpaw Grammar", "Bona Drag") the songs that have been added don't even come from the same sessions and feature different players. The first extra song, 'Pashernate Love' was recorded months later with the "Your Arsenal" band and was written by Morrissey/Whyte/Day and was the B-side to the 2nd single from "Your Arsenal", 'You're The One For Me, Fatty' (In the US it was the B-side to "Tomorrow"). Quite why it finds it's way onto this album and crash landed right into the middle after a re-jigged 'Asian Rut' is a mystery only Moz can answer? Again, even more puzzling the second extra song (a cover of Herman's Hermits) "East West" pre-dates the album and was recorded in 1989 as the B-side for the "Ouija Board, Ouija Board" single (These sessions were from the aborted "Bona Drag" album before it was made into a celebratory singles/b-sides compilation album). And features on the recording Kevin Armstrong, Matthew Seligman and Andrew Paresi, who was the only one to actually feature on "Kill Uncle". The other extra track, isn't really an extra track at all but a live version recorded for radio of "There Is A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends" which is a faithful facsimilie of how the track was played at live dates, misses the beauty and poignancy of the Mark Nevin piano demo on the original album, which closed the album on a very beautiful note. Other than that the re-mastering work has been fine, though not as good as the standard of the previously released "Viva Hate". Though another sticking point is that the songs now all run into one another which the didn't on the original version. The cover art has been changed, and while i actually like the new cover and enjoy the 1960's Parlophone records look of it. The original "Kill Uncle" album had my favourite of all of Morrissey's solo album covers. And i really loved the look Moz had on that original cover.
As i've said, like the previous re-releases this album has been butchered, out of all recognition of the original albums. I can see why Moz would feel the need to put something new on there to urge Moz fans and owners of the original album to part their cash again. But he could have not added them onto the end of the re-mastered album? And why the extra track choices? Like "Southpaw Grammar" that had tracks from "Your Arsenal" sessions and "Bona Drag" with tracks from the "Viva Hate" sessions and "Your Arsenal" sessions, these tracks don't belong here! Why not put as bonus tracks songs that were recorded during the sessions? Or B-sides of the albums singles? Such as the excellent "The Loop" which was the B-side to "Sing Your Life" is a fans favourite and obviously a Morrissey favourite as he still plays it Live in his setlists? Or even the sublime "Pregnant For The Last Time" single, which while technically was recorded at different sessions, employs the feel and sound template of some of the tracks and the Live concerts of the tour afterwards. Hell, even "Tony The Pony" which was the B-side to "Our Frank", while not a great song, was on the original US release and makes more sense here than "Pashernate Love" or "East West". The most irritating thing about all this is that from what is believed the original versions will be deleted from the catalogue and be replaced by only these ones. Which is a mockery and a total re-writing of history by Morrissey. While this album wasn't perfect, it was a very enjoyable Morrissey album and taken in the context of it's recording and the point where Morrissey was at during his early solo career it is important historically as well as musically. While Morrissey may not be completely happy with some of his original back catalogue and wants to, in his mind, make the albums better. He is tampering with his legacy and the fondness with which fans have for his original work. While most of us long term Morrissey fans will all have the original and can listen to it anytime. For those who are coming to Morrissey afresh, i feel it's a shame that they will think this is the album that was released and recorded (As nowhere in the sleeve notes, does it describe, where the tracks have come from, when they were recorded and by whom, It also removes the lyric sheet from the original). And will most have to hunt around to find a second hand copy of the original, while flawed, still the best. And better than this.
Sing your life Morrissey, don't re-write it like this sham.