AND SO, MORRISSEY’S second comeback begins, five years after his last effort, Years of Refusal. While that was universally considered a somewhat lacklustre effort, it was saved from the savagery afforded Maladjusted, which was followed by a seven-year hiatus for the artist.
Will this comeback album World Peace Is None of Your Business be his You Are The Quarry, the excellent collection that saw him back in the public showroom, in 2004? Before I do dissect World Peace .. it’s noteworthy to highlight the cover, whereby Moz is facing a dog holding a pen, the one he has just used to daub the wall behind him with, an allusion I would assume to our hero attempting to alert a dumb animal to the proverb about the pen as a weapon.
Let’s dip in. The title track is a sad indictment of the world we live in, adopting his favoured third person narrative style. “You must not tamper with arrangements/ Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes/ Never asking what for.”
Yes, Stephen it’s a grim world, and the masses have long been ‘encouraged’ to think little of the world at large, and just get on with it. Well said. But what about this ‘big statement’ chorus? “Each time you vote you support the system,” and then he tries to link the democratic process with hotspots where repression, riots, environmental destruction and uprisings have been the headline banner acts – Ukraine, Brazil, Bahrain and Egypt.
Of course, Morrissey could be continuing the external narrative, but given his previous pronouncements on politicians of all colours, this seems too much like a thought from within.
Apathy allows the criminal classes who control most governments more control, it gives them a free hand to push through bills that should bring people onto the street. Yes, democracy is flawed, enormously so, but the alternatives – military, religious or business-led autocracies leave most people cold.
THE MANCUNIAN tackles machismo on I’m Not A Man (“cold hand/ ice man/ warring cave man”), and the fatalistic pressures imposed on a female student to get three As by her father and her boyfriend (Staircase at the University). But a new man consciousness hasn’t entirely taken over, as Kick The Bride Down the Aisle examines the matriarchal dynasty, its target a woman who wants a slave “so that she can laze and graze for the rest of her days.”
As for The Bullfighter Dies, there’s little need to delve into the lyrics here; Morrissey bellows “hooray, hooray” as the bull turns on its tormentor. The tormentor, meanwhile, in Mountjoy – named after an Irish institution – is the prison guard, “Where victims speak in whines/ And where the hardened cried.”
In an album containing the famous Morrissey peotical lines that drip from every song, this particular track possesses a typical Moz put-down, dispersing the perfect riposte to the man who would judge him: “I was sent here by a three-foot halfwit in a wig”.
And if you feel this is getting all a little worldy-wise and impersonal, Kiss Me A Lot is a healthy reminder that Morrissey, bless him, is actually quite a romantic sort.
For ten paragraphs this reviewer has focused on the words, as if World Peace … was merely a book of poetry, a testament to the dying art of the lyric as weapon, inspiration and comforter. There is music as well, 54 minutes of it in fact. Long gone are the days when a Moz album would be done and dusted in just over half an hour.
The gang’s all here, longtime collaborator Boz Boorer, master of the three-chord riff and co-author of five tracks, Jesse Tobias (guitars, also a co-writer), Solomon Lee Walker (bass), Matthew Ira Walker (drums), and Gustavo Manzur (man of many talents), and yes there are two brothers among them. They are pictured, sans the Mancunian, in the inside of the gatefold sleeve, adorning American college sports gear.
The title track’s fullsome symphonies conflict with the cynicism and anger of the message; Neal Cassady Drops Dead contains some of the most grungy riffs ever heard on a Stephen Patrick Morrissey record; and I’m Not A Man opens with Eno-esque ambient symphonies.
There are snippets of The Smiths, and of Morrissey in his embryonic solo days, but I can safely say this is a typical Morrisssey album, scathing, insightful, illuminating, occasionally humourous, but rarely dull. I’m trying hard to think of other albums released this year, or the past four, that would elicit the same emotions. I fail. Morrissey is an enigma.