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Morrissey – [Album]

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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Who says that, after a career spent mining the sadder end of the emotional spectrum and winning healthy amounts of praise for it, changing creative streams is a bad idea? Sure, such moves might mean alienating that meticulously cultivated fan base, but Morrissey has made it plain since his first appearance in 1984 that anything he attaches his name to is going to be his show and he'll throw every ounce of his weight around however he chooses. That heady self-importance is felt plainly and powerfully on Years Of Refusal from the first time Morrissey powers through the punctuating note in the title lyric of “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” instead of over-baking it with his trademark lilting  vibrato but it also sets a very attractive direction for the album as well; Morrissey has made a career of being outspoken but very hands-off and dismissive of his subjects but that fey and frugal approach is almost completely abandoned here. Rather, from the very opening of “Something Is Squeezing My Skull,” the singer forces himself to get a little dirt under his manicured nails and produce a working class rock record.

He wears the dishevelment well too. Having dismissed his former backing band (only guitarist Boz Boorer remains), Morrissey has hired a crew of world-class-but-dispossessed alt-rockers (including former Filter and Smashing Pumpkins drummer Matt Walker and ex-Chili Pepper Jesse Tobias) to beef up is sound and the combined group seems to feed off of each other's energy – the singer starts spitting syllables occasionally as the band throws loaded punches back at him – thus coaxing the best possible performances from everyone involved. In “Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed,” for example, Walker sets up a succession of militant volleys that set guitarists Tobias and Boz Boorer reeling and ignites the ire of Morrissey – who starts calling everyone from the ubiquitous “money men” to evil legal officials to even his mother out for questioning. Conversely, Solomon Walker's snarling bass the singer still further as he hits an all-new plateau for dismissive phrasing in “All You Need Is Me” (representative lyric: “You hiss and groan and constantly moan but you don't ever go away and that's because all you need is me/ You roll your eyes up to the skies mock horrified – but you're still here”) before handing listeners a manual in “That's How People Grow Up” that basically listens like a “put up or shut up” anthem directed at Morrissey's long-suffering audience of course, but also at the singer himself. For the first time, Morrissey has decided to place himself with a willing mindset (he's done it before, but very begrudgingly and so with only a fraction of this album's impact) and allowed himself to both feel and present something with genuine emotion rather than articulating an abstract idea of an emotional state that has been shellacked with disdain. It could be that, as the singer celebrates his fiftieth birthday this year, he's hit a belated mid-life crisis and discovered that there are more ways to articulate criticism than by simply being fashionably ironic and indifferent. We can only hope that Years Of Refusal marks the first in a series of such expository documents.

Artist

It's Morrissey's World website

Morrissey myspace

Album

Years Of Refusal is out now and available at Amazon.

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