After a relatively silent five years for one of music’s most outspoken divas, Morrissey has once again graced the musical world with his warbling tones.
For fans of Morrissey, the scene of his new album is one of familiarity. The immensely successful You Are The Quarry (2004) required a gestation period of ten years. The question is, has Moz’s break provided him with suitable breathing space? Or are the new songs of World Peace Is None Of Your Business merely the burnt remnants of the ageing ex-frontman?
It’s certain that “the passing of time”, to quote his earlier work in The Smiths, has not altered Morrissey’s topics of choice. Topical politics, dead icons, vegetarianism and mild racism are all fused together in just over 54 minutes. The album’s title track makes clear Morrissey’s sarcastic attack on government has not been cooled. Rather, it has been heated further.
For me, the title track is somewhat cringe-worthy. Morrissey regurgitates the same-old ‘edgy’ critique on democracy, complete with a repeated cliché – “Each time you vote you support the process.”
Yet the next track, ‘Neal Cassidy Drops Dead’, is the perfect mix of humour and sorrow. The song narrates the reaction of Allen Ginsberg to the death of the beat-poet Neal Cassidy, whose “tears shampoo his beard”. At first listen, I couldn’t help chuckle at the comical rendering of the poet as a growling hairdresser. Yet, the image of tears as a beauty product is a thought-provoking image.
The album as a whole is a mixed bag. ‘Kiss Me A Lot’ isn’t awful, but neither is it particularly memorable. And album-closer ‘Oboe Concerto’ is so annoyingly self-indulgent you just want to skip the track entirely.
However, ‘Staircase At The University’ is a song with which all students can sympathise. A light-hearted tune, it humorously details the trials and the tribulations of a student struggling “to get three A’s”. Here, the Morrissey of old returns triumphal in the same strain of lyrics that ensured his Smiths-era fame, complete with joyous sing-along clapping.
And as for the penultimate track ‘Mountjoy’, the combination of lyrics about 19th century squalor laid over acoustic guitar is surprisingly relaxing. Here, the dulcet tones of Morrissey’s voice are allowed to really shine.
In short, Morrissey’s lyrics and his band’s music continue to be successful, despite the long absence. Listen to it a few times and I’m sure you’ll all be humming and clapping along to such cheering lines as, “If it breaks your legs then don’t come running to me.” I know I am.