Archive for Morrissey

Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business (Album Review)

Posted in Album Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2014 by Traces of Waste

wpinoyb_single  Morrissey – World Peace Is None Of Your Business.


It’s no secret that I am a massive Morrissey fan. He, above all others, has been the biggest influence on my love of music. I rate him as my favourite ever lyricist, he can conjure up lines from a word soup with few peers on his level (Nick Cave and Colin Meloy are up there). His ability to construct a vocal melody is second to none. It is important to note these things beginning this because it probably sets the stage for quite a bias review. Having said that though, on the whole, I have been a bit disappointed with his previous two albums. Both Ringleader of the Tormentors (2006) and Years of Refusal (2009) had some great highlights such as the epic Life is a Pigsty, the touching Dear God Please Help Me, the explosive Something is Squeezing my Skull, and the thunderous I’m OK By Myself. But ultimately, by his own lofty standards, I thought that these albums fell a bit short and contained their fair share of filler and lackluster tunes, looking specifically at the dire Children in Pieces, On the Streets I Ran, and Sorry Doesn’t Help.


So while Morrissey is my all time out and out favourite, I feel I have been aware that his last few efforts have been sketchy – perhaps the well had run dry. The music in particular has been very standard generic pop-rock and long time collaborators Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias appeared to have run out of creative ideas. This had all lead to me, not exactly having low hopes for the new album, but just that the bar in terms of where Morrissey as an artist is at was lower. I expected a few great songs, but quite a bit of filler and most of all, tired song writing by Boorer and Tobias. I have been hugely looking forward to the album, and I know that I was going to really enjoy it, but I also knew I should not be expecting anything that would rival the heights of the early solo days which produced masterpieces such as Viva Hate (1988), Your Arsenal (1992) and Vauxhall and I (1994).


So when I got the album and loaded all the songs up (including the extra tracks on the deluxe version) and pressed the play button, I sat back with my best headphones on and proceeded to be absolutely blown away. This is the best album Morrissey has produced in at least 20 years. Previously, I thought his comeback album, You Are The Quarry (2004) was his best in years. But this album surpasses that and smashes past Maladjusted (1997) and Southpaw Grammar (1995). It butts heads with the highly lauded Vauxhall, and only the test of time will tell whether it has the legs to challenge that album.


My first impressions were on the production. Morrissey worked with a new producer on this album, Joe Chiccarelli (The Shins, The White Stripes among others), and his work is phenomenal. The production on this album is so rich, layered and textured. There is so much depth to the tracks. Musically, there is just so much going on, but it doesn’t overload the senses. It feels like a great movie you watched but you know you have to re-watch it as there was so much subtle symbolism going on that it would add a whole new level of appreciation upon further viewings. There are multiple samples inserted all over the place and the album would have to break a record for the largest number of different instruments used on a Morrissey album. Boorer and Tobias have really upped their song writing game and produced some absolute gems. For Boorer it is more a return to form, whereas for Tobias, who hasn’t been with Morrissey as long; it feels like growth. They’re both joined by a new songwriting partner, touring keyboardist and multi-in-studio-instrumentalist, Gustavo Manzur. Manzur hits the ground running and really shows off what he can do with song writing and with some sublime playing. With both he and Tobias having hispanic routes and with Morrissey’s long held love affair with Mexico, they combine to give many songs on the album a latin-tinge.


I’ll attempt a track by track breakdown of the album.


Track 1. World Peace is None of your Business.


The title track from the album kicks things off. We begin with an almost tribal sounding rhythmic drum. Ominous, thundering and loud … it sounds like a war drum and prepares you for quite a heavy song. Interestingly the drumming transitions quite suddenly into what turns out to be quite a dream-like, floaty, almost playful tune; most reminiscent of Quarry B-side, My Life is an Endless Succession of people saying Goodbye. The production value is evident straight away, the song sounds so rich and chunky. Lyrically, however, this is one of the poorest tracks on the album as Morrissey sings about the state of the world, or at least the way an anarchist may perceive it. He may have been hanging around Russell Brand for too long. “Police will stun you with their stun guns, or they’ll disable you with tasers”. It’s pretty dire. The song has been criticised for sounding like another celebrity sounding off with big ideas of  changing the world without really having thought through what they are saying; which on the surface is exactly what this song sounds like as Morrissey sings “Each time you vote, you support the process”. It is definitely a protest song. However, I have to believe that the song isn’t trying to offer up any solutions on how to make the world a better place (beyond actually making world peace you business). But instead, its dream-like nature is almost inviting you into a fantasy land where it dares you to dream of what a better world could be like. It isn’t trying to be a revolution, just a “imagine if…”.  You have to believe, knowing Morrissey, that a likely scenario that brought about the title was to do with his involvement with the Nobel Peace Prize last year where he was one of the guest singers at the event. I can just imagine someone telling Morrissey that he had no business being at the event and that “world peace is none of your business”, which Morrissey immediately took as a slight and extracted revenge by turning it into the title of his new album. The song ends with a returning to the drumming but with what sounds like someone singing a phrase over and over in an African language. All in all, it’s a stronger opening than either America is not the World (2004) or I Will See You in Far Off Places (2006), but doesn’t meet the explosive energy of Something is Squeezing my Skull (2009).


Track 2. Neal Cassady Drops Dead.


This is probably as close as Morrissey will get to heavy metal. The guitars are loud, biting and have chainsaw strength, and they hit you straight off the bat for this number. It is plodding, distorted and menacing. In the not too recent past this usually means when a Morrissey song is an all out rocker that it is usually pretty one dimensional; but early on in this song it is evident that this track is a little different. The song transitions into one of the most delightful light acoustic breakdowns which has a flamenco feel to it. That breakdown paves way to Morrissey crooning an Irish folk outro full of “Li dee di, dee di dow”’s. The mixture of styles works beautifully. In a single song, hard rock crashes into flamenco and irish folk; this is something that has been sourly missing from the song writing for some time – diversity. Lyrically, like much of the album I haven’t had a lot of time to process it’s meaning, but the title gives away that it brings to the fore, classic American Beat poet, Neal Cassady. A major counter-culture figure in the 1950s and inspiration for part of Jack Kerouac’s novel, On The Road. Allen Ginsberg, another American Beat poet also gets name checked quite a bit; “Neal Cassady drops dead, and Allen Ginsberg’s tears shampoo his beard”. I have to believe that part of this song is also Russell Brand inspired as Brand recently made a mini-documentary where he traveled the same journey across various American states as Kerouac and delved into the culture and history of American Beat poetry. After the politically charged opening song which also bears the album’s name, you’d be forgiven for thinking that this would be quite a politically themed album full of social commentary. Instead, this track is what starts us off on probably the true main theme of the album – death. The lyrics are quite menacing and gruesome; Morrissey sounds rather threatening as he sings about sick children: “Everyone has babies, babies full of rabies, rabies full of scabies, Scarlet has a fever,  poor little fella has got rubella // Nipper full of fungus, junior full of gangrene, minor’s melanoma, whippersnapper’s scurvy, urchin made of acne, get that thing away from me”. This track really grabs you by the throat from the beginning and forces your attention, personally, I think this would have made a better opener for the album.


Track 3. Istanbul.


A simply gorgeous track which starts with recorded street noise from Istanbul itself (which features throughout the song). Biting guitars with just the mildest middle eastern flavour thrown in. Morrissey sings a tale from the point of view of a failed father who’s son has fled home onto the streets of Istanbul. The song tracks the father’s journey to find his son. In the days of The Smiths, Morrissey was at his best when he was singing about his personal experiences. He was only barely out of living in his mother’s house in hard 1970s Manchester. Life was tough and what he sung about was relate-able to so many people. Now days, Morrissey lives a life of relative luxury and is long removed from those hard early days. While he of course still experiences loneliness and pain like we all do, he can’t realistically write about things that we all, as plebs, can relate to anymore. So a lot of his autobiographical lyrics can miss the mark. Where Morrissey is at his best now days is when he is telling stories; when he has characters and sings from other’s point of view. That is Istanbul’s strength, it tells a tale. The father tracks the son through the streets of Istanbul, worrying he has turned to prostitution or joined a gang. Morrissey’s voice is beautiful once again here as he delicately sings “Moonlight jumping through the trees, sunken eyes avoiding me, from dawn to dusk the hunt is on, the father searches for the son”. As you would come to expect with Morrissey, the song does end in tragedy – “Rolling breathless off the tongue, the vicious street gang slang, I lean into a box of pine, identify the kid as mine”.


Track 4. I Am Not A Man.


The longest track on the album clocking in at just shy of 8 minutes. The first minute and a half, however, is filled with ambient noise, a low hum… I’ve never really been a fan of when Morrissey, or anyone else for that matter does things like this. I listen to music for, you know, the music, so I’ll probably end up editing the song and cutting out that first section of useless noise. The noise eventually transitions into quite a beautiful track. If Neal Cassady Drops Dead was Morrissey’s Enter Sandman, then this track is his Mr Sandman. It feels like Morrissey is evoking the sound of crooners from the Sinatra era as he sings an ode to all negative aspects of what it is to be ‘manly’. The song builds and builds but never quite explodes. Every time it is about to burst into something extravagant, it calms itself again. The lyrics are almost just a list of aspects of manliness that Morrissey feels he does not fit into or are just horrible. Name checked are wife beaters, trigger happy soldiers, meat eaters (of course), prostate cancer and sports jocks. This song will require a few more listens as it doesn’t quite grab you immediately, but something about it tells you it may end up being one of your overall favourites.


Track 5. Earth Is The Loneliest Planet.


Our first out and out Latin influenced song. Years of Refusal had When Last I Spoke to Carol, but to me, this track is superior. It is a style of music you couldn’t even fathom Morrissey would get himself involved with back at the height of The Smiths, or even early solo days when he was heavily influenced by rockabilly. The music here is upbeat with beautiful spanish style acoustic guitar which eventually gives way to an epic wailing electric solo. The keyboards dazzle here as one of the central instruments, which really gives it a Mexican street party feel. Morrissey croons “Earth is the loneliest planet of all, live with a lowness that no one else knows, day after day you say, one day, one day // time after time you say next time, next time”. The song could be about the struggles of transgender folk and their difficulties fitting in and being accepted – “you failed as a woman and you lose as a man, and Earth is the cruelest place you will never understand.” The song itself does what many tracks on the album do – give space for the instruments to breathe. Morrissey steps back from the microphone often on these songs, he must have felt that the band were really on to something special with these tracks and this one is no different. It would even be wonderful as a pure instrumental.


Track 6. Staircase At The University.


For me this is an early contender for best track on the album. Like Istanbul, this track tells another story from a point of view that is obviously not autobiographical. Morrissey sings about a girl at university who is struggling to live up to her father’s lofty expectations and ends up throwing herself down the stairs and killing herself. Yep, sounds like a Morrissey story alright! “If you don’t get three A’s, her sweet Daddy said, you’re no child of mine, and as far as I’m concerned, you’re dead”. What Morrissey has successfully done ever since 1983 has been to combine dark, depressing, and morbid lyrics with increasingly upbeat, bright and joyful music to create a beautiful juxtaposition. The music here is sublime and is reminiscent of a university marching band. The song starts with a loud whistle being blown, there are celebratory marching trumpets and one of the best outros he has ever produced, worthy of a place alongside some of The Smiths greats. He rounds out the song cheerfully clapping and chanting what the Father must be telling his daughter:“Cramming, jamming, pack ’em in ramming, chock-a-block books, power study, polish up, and if it breaks your heart then don’t come running to me”. The trumpets lead the outro and are joined by clarinet and one of the most precious, delicate flamenco guitar solos which would do Rodrigo y Gabriela proud. Gustavo Manzur should take a bow for that one; brilliant song. It surely has to be a contender for one of the most upbeat tunes he has done.


Track 7. The Bullfighter Dies.


The shortest song on the album at barely 2 minutes long; it’s short on time but high on fun. We start out with a matador’s trumpet and burst into an accordion lead number which again has Latin influences. The music is as jangly-a-pop song as Johnny Marr ever wrote for The Smiths. I’d never have guessed Tobias was capable of writing such a sweet little song a few years ago. The lyrics don’t leave a lot to the imagination, various Spanish cities get name checked: “Mad in Madrid, ill in Seville, lonely in Barcelona”. In this song we learn that a bullfighter has died, and people cheer and nobody cries, because we all want the bull to survive! I wish that the accordion wasn’t quite so dominating as the fluttery, jangly guitar in the background is doing some really nice things when you listen closely and it would be nice if that were brought to the fore a little in the mix at the sacrifice of some of the accordion’s volume. But really, this is just a sweet song where Morrissey is getting his jabs in at the sport of bullfighting, and rightly so. People should be better than that in 2014.


Track 8. Kiss Me A Lot.


If Staircase at the University won the the most upbeat music award on the album, then Kiss Me A Lot surely wins the most upbeat lyrics award. In the past Morrissey has sung songs about love, but they are often still flirting with a sense of tongue in cheek and a twist in the tale to bring it back to dour Morrissey-land is never too far away. But this track is possibly one of his only true out-and-out pop songs about love going right. It once again carries a Latin flavour; something one could easily dance the Samba to. It has potential single material stamped all over it and you’ll have it stuck in your head for hours, it is utterly infectious. How can the man who has sung about so much pain and despair for so long switch effortlessly into a sun-soaked love song? “Bastille, Mausoleum, stockyard, churchyard, your Mammy’s backyard, I don’t care when or where, I just care that you’re there, and that you will kiss me a lot, kiss me a lot”. I love that the song title and even the chorus is simply a clumsy “kiss me a lot”. It does almost sound as if Morrissey is poking fun at himself. Someone who is well versed in feelings of love and passion may come up something a bit more, romantic? Morrissey simply dives clumsily straight in to a world he has no right being in and demands that the object of his desire simply kisses him a lot. The stunning wordsmith of the morose is suddenly struggling and sputtering for words when the mood turns bright and he is in unfamiliar territory. Utterly charming.


Track 9. Smiler With Knife.


The run of upbeat songs has come to an end with the appearance of the eerie Smiler with Knife. This is a slow acoustic track, almost soothing like a nursery rhyme with enigmatic lyrics. Morrissey sounds loud and clear, almost as if he is singing softly into your ear at 3am. It is a whisper that could flatten a mountain. The lyrics are chilling as we hear Morrissey will a would-be-murderer on to plunge the knife in as he is ready to go. It feels almost like it could be a sister song to something like Asleep, rather than just wishing to not wake up in the morning, this time someone visits him in bed and he beckons the end: “See in me the side of you that sometimes makes you jump with fright, smiler with knife it’s your big night, sinking bed all warm and clean, only sadness waits for me, smiler with knife you’re just in time, you’re just in time”.  The track itself could easily be by The Smiths, it is so wonderfully put together and carries such a heavy atmosphere in its simplicity.


Track 10. Kick The Bride Down The Aisle.


Church organs start us off as if they are about to play Here comes the bride, but stop short. You can imagine yourself sitting in the pews of an old church where Father Morrissey is about to give a sermon on the evils of marriage. This is a fun, slow paced, dark humoured pop song. The chorus is one of Morrissey’s most catchy vocal melodies in a long time. Even on your first listen you’ll find yourself singing the chorus word for word later in the song when the chorus refrain is played without vocals. Morrissey sings: “She just wants a slave, to break his back in pursuit of a living wage, so that she can laze and graze for the rest of her days”. You have to giggle when he so seriously follows up in the second verse with: “Kick the bride down the aisle, in a mud-slide of gloom, she’ll order you to tidy your room // Kick the bride down the aisle, look at that cow, in the field is knows more than your bride knows now”. Again for large portions of the song Morrissey steps back from the mic and lets the music breathe, and it is simply gorgeous as you have come to expect from the album at this point. The final verse is delivered with a delicate harp playing behind Morrissey’s vocals before a powerful musical outro comes crashing down. A catchy one you’ll be singing for days.


Track 11. Mountjoy.


This is the first track since the album’s opener to delve back into a more political sphere. The subject matter is Mountjoy prison in Dublin, Ireland’s largest prison and some would say home to many political prisoners over the years. It almost feels like this song could be a Dylan track, a simple acoustic, 60s protest song. The music is probably the most uninspiring on the album, which is a shame because the lyrics are some of the best: “A swagger hides the fear in here, by this rule we breathe, and there is no one on this earth who I’d feel sad to leave // We never say aloud the things that we say in our prayers, cause no one cares, many executed here by the awful lawfully good, but the only thing that makes me cry, is when I see the sky”. In some ways I wish the music was a little more interesting, but at the same time when you hear the song it really forces you to focus on Morrissey’s words and it gets the message across clearly.


Track 12. Oboe Concerto.


The closing track on the proper album begins with a sample from the 1950s Dame Comedian: “And he spoke with his voice, while he talked with his mouth”; very Morrissey-esque. This is Morrissey’s nod to fallen friends, more death and the circle of life as he sings: “The older generation has tried, sighed, and died, which pushes me to their place in the queue”. The song has a groovy, slow bass, and in itself isn’t too dissimilar in style to the classic Smiths song The Death of a Disco Dancer. Boz Boorer delivers a pretty little oboe solo as the track comes to an end, with Morrissey musing: “Round, round, the rhythm goes round, the rhythm of life goes round”. 


Track 13. Scandinavia.


The first of the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition of the album is one which is familiar to many fans as it was played live a number of times on tour before the album was recorded. Of all the songs which got regular set list airings in the years between Years of Refusal and now this is the most welcome to see appear on the album. Other songs such as People are the Same Everywhere, The Kid’s a Looker and Action is my Middle Name, were what many fans expected this album to be like and why there were such low spirits surrounding the album’s release as the songs were all quite poor and bland. Scandinavia was the pick of that bunch. It begins with ominous, threatening, dark drumming. Morrissey is spitting venom here at Scandinavia for … some reason: “I curse the heart and soul of Scandinavia; let the people burn, let their children cry and die in blind asylums” but then love is found: “But then you came along, and you held out your hand, and I fell in love with you, and Scandinavia”. It sounds like a hell of a love-hate relationship. The track has some great orchestral work going on in the background to give it an epic feel, the guitars are full of heavy reverb and that drumming looms heavy in the background. Very dark atmosphere here.


Track 14. One Of Our Own.


Begins with female vocals choir-like female vocals, as if the heavens have opened and someone is ascending. The keyboards take over and they drive the song at a mid-tempo pace; it’s synthy, but not overdone. Very smooth, and very easy to find yourself nodding your head along upon first listen. Morrissey sings from the point of view of someone who has had his life saved by “one of his own” who has taken taken a bullet for him: “Standing at the stone of one of our own, He died saving my life, he took the lead aimed for my head, such love shown I’d never known”. It conjures up images of soldiers, possibly standing around a gravestone of one of their fallen squad members who died for them, reflecting in pelting rain. The song plays on the idea of guilt, that he is guilty someone sacrificed their life when clearly he was meant to die. The chorus brings the music to a halt and Morrissey, sounding almost breathless mutters “give me the gun, I love you, a job half done isn’t done”. The song has a real 80s feel to it and it reminds me of a song that I just can not place.


Track 15. Drag The River.


The sounds of gentle waves crashing gently into the river banks coupled with very clean, crisp acoustic plucking gives this beginning of this track such a fresh, clean atmosphere. Something about this track sounds so very early solo era for Morrissey, it wouldn’t be out of place on Viva Hate. The song is another love song, but it sounds as if Morrissey is singing from the point of view of someone who has drowned in a river and he is singing to a girl who comes down to sit by the river banks, he beckons her to dive in and join him. The lyrics are nice: “On the coastal shore I’m sure you’d break down if you saw, and abhorrent torrent crashing as it pours the counter-current holds a secret at the rise of tides and it swells all alone for this heart born too high”. The song itself is slow-to mid-tempo, soft pop with a really bright sound. It is a track you can easily put on and get lost in, closing your eyes it feels as if it really could carry you away down the river, bobbing along lightly as the current takes you.


Track 16. Forgive Someone.


Very snythy opening, a quirky happy sounding little tune. It sounds like something that could easily come from the 80s which may be on purpose as there is lots of talk the song could be Johnny Marr inspired as Morrissey sings: “The black peat of the hills, when I was still ill, see this mess and forgive someone, and then recall if you ca,n how all this even began, forgive someone”. There have been numerous Marr inspired songs in Morrissey’s solo catalog, I’m not entirely convinced this is one, but it certainly is a possibility.


Track 17. Julie In The Weeds.


If the last track was the 80s, this is the 70s. Morrissey has long been a huge fan of Eurovision through the 70s and it shaped his taste in music heavily, so this song sounds like his submission; to be put in a time capsule and sent back to the 1970s where he could fulfill his dream of representing England. There has been such a soothing, pleasant melody to the last 4 tracks including this one. It is a great run of songs to just close your eyes and float away. Morrissey’s voice is so happy as he croons: “Julie lie down in the weeds and see something new, Julie from now on all the pain of youth will not trouble you // There are some people, who live in order to tell others what to do, as long as there remains steel in my veins, they will not trouble you”. You can just imagine Morrissey and Julie laying in the long grass next to each other watching the clouds drift by as he sings this track. Touching and really beautiful. If Kiss Me A Lot was Morrissey being super romantic but awkwardly expressing it, this is the version where he has sorted himself out and knows how to deliver on love without sounding like an awkward, shy 16 year old. Of course, what makes Kiss Me A Lot unique was that is was so entirely straight forward about love. Whereas this track, you could maybe, possibly interpret the fact that Julie is laying in weeds because she is dead; the obsessive desire of Morrissey, and of course nothing else will ever trouble her again because Morrissey has “protected” her from a hard life, by denying her one at all. It feels like the interpretation could go either way. If it is the latter, it would fit with the overall album theme, which by the way, if we are keeping count; the songs about death count is at 9.


Track 18. Art-Hounds.


The best is perhaps saved for very last. Currently, for me, this one is vying with Staircase as my favourite track. Like Scandinavia, this song was played live long before the album was made. However, it was only ever played once and then disappeared from the setlist forever. The only known recording of the live song is in pretty poor quality, but the song was easily the best of the new material played which could have ended up on this album. The early live version was heavy and at a brutal pace. It sounded like it could have fit easily on Years of Refusal. So, naturally, I was expecting this album to end with a loud rocker. The start of the song totally threw me – a jazz/swing intro. The song has been quite radically changed and matured. It went from what was sounding like a standard, but good rock song, into something much more polished. It still bubbles along at a fairly decent pace with a driving rhythm section, though. The big band-swing intro gives way into the more familiar tune. The chorus is one of the most epic of Morrissey’s entire career, he delivers absolutely stunning vocals as he effortlessly initiates a huge, dramatic falsetto: “My life is opera”. The song houses some of his most hilarious lyrics as he takes aim at “Art-Hounds” – people who are utterly talentless when it comes to any form of art, yet feel the need to pass on their jealous judgement at those who produce art. He sings: “Art-Hounds, in a restaurant, they bring along their loving Aunt, but when they can’t find a table for their fat Aunt Mable, they stamp their feet and cry”. But best of all: “Art-Hounds, very funny, very witty, but very lonely, and below the belt is shriveled and small, it functions only as a word // Art-Hounds, very funny, very witty, but very lonely, and below the belt is shriveled and small, it knows a thousand woes”. The song ends with Morrissey in vintage form as he takes up the mantle which has been bestowed upon him since 1983 when he exploded out of Manchester as the man who made the mundane heroic, he sings: “If you cannot stand this fake world, take my hand, if you cannot stand this fake world”. The ultimate gesture from Morrissey to his legions of die hard fans. He takes them out of the real world they live in and transports them elsewhere with his music and he is here swinging in swashbuckling style on a chandelier to do so once again.


The album isn’t perfect, it isn’t The Queen is Dead or Bona Drag, but it is a masterpiece in it’s own right. Unfortunately words don’t really do it justice, even the lyrics that sound a little iffy when written down are suddenly transformed into being more than acceptable when you hear them in the context of the songs. The songs are so packed full of depth, the band and producer have done such an amazing job making the songs sound interesting and complex … there is something going on everywhere. Like a really tight movie script where not a single line of dialog is wasted, it feels like a huge effort was made here to make sure that every second of the album had something to offer … with the exception of possibly the music to Mountjoy and the extended humming noise intro of I Am Not A Man. Yet, even those, were done on purpose as opposed to just a failure to deliver on creativity. What is even more astounding is how fast the album was put together. Morrissey amazingly signed a record contract early this year, recorded the album in 2 weeks in February and had it released by July. I realise that the songs had all been written prior to entering the studio. But with such a short in-studio turn-around time, I was expecting a rush job, but it is anything but. The biggest disappointment to this album is how it has been handled upon release – a tour full of canceled dates because Morrissey got sick (again) and next to no promotion at all. Not all the record label’s fault either. Morrissey could have at least done an interview or two, or just something. There were a few spoken word versions of the song in videos released, and 4 songs were released in consecutive weeks as digital singles. But they just sort of slipped out there, no real push for them. I really hope the album does well for him because it deserves it, and the reviews it has been getting have been really positive. Everyone involved should take a bow!


Oh Manchester, so much to answer for

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2014 by Traces of Waste



I have neglected this blog like a red headed step-child for far too long. My excuse has been striving towards some semblance of a university degree; but now school’s out for the summer and I figured it was as good a time as any to restart things here.

So I thought about what I could write by way of some introductory/ground work posts, and I thought maybe some background on certain important artists which have shaped my musical life; who have been vitally important and who I admire most. So I thought I’d write a little about what these artists mean to me, my favourite songs and albums that they have done, and also any disappointments, or gigs I have attended. Anyone who knows me probably knows how painfully predictable I am and could guess that I would always start with Morrissey.

My love affair with Morrissey’s music dates back pretty much as far as I can remember. So long as I have had memories Morrissey’s music has pretty much always been a part of them. I was introduced to his music from a very young age when my Dad used to play his albums all the time. Dad tells me he first heard Suedehead on the radio (imagine that happening in 2014!) while he was painting our front fence and so he rushed out and buy more Morrissey music. It must have been 1987 or 1988; Morrissey had only just gone solo and Suedehead was his first solo single after The Smiths broke up in 1987. I would have only been about 3 or 4 years old. Some of my most fond memories were of cold winter nights over 1988, 89 or 90, when Dad would sit in the lounge room next to the stereo system and listen to Morrissey and Smiths records, and I would play with my toys in front of the heater. They feel like incredibly safe memories, happy family memories. Warm, loving, fun, and so I guess through association, Morrissey’s voice became that for me as well. Even now, his voice is a caress; especially anything from “The Queen is Dead”, “Strangeways here we come”, “Viva Hate” or “Bona Drag”, as they were the ones that Dad played most. Even now, anything from those albums has the ability to transport me back to those days and make me feel incredibly comforted and safe.

This is sort of ironic in since Morrissey’s music is almost universally considered drab, sad and depressing. I’ve never really felt that way about it; it’s always been so comforting. The sound of his voice has always made me feel that way; however, I also found the lyrics just as comforting once I was old enough to understand and appreciate them. Dad often reminds me that I used to sing “tickley me, tickley me, tickley me” during I started something I couldn’t finish, rather than “typical me, typical me, typical me”. So I am glad that once the subject matter of the songs became clear to me that it didn’t turn me off – “you mean that comforting Mancunian crooning is actually a moaning, sad diva??”. Well, he may be, but at least to me his lyrics always brought amazing joy. He has such wit in his lyrics – “And so I broke into the palace | with a sponge and a rusty spanner, | she said “I know you and you cannot sing” | I said “that’s nothing, you should hear me play piano”. “Nothing’s changed, I still love you, I still love you | only slightly less than I used to” . Although it shouldn’t come as a surprise really when you consider that for years before a Smiths song was written, Morrissey would lock himself away in his bedroom and read as much Oscar Wilde as possible; his humour is knee deep in Wilde. However, it’s undeniable that his lyrics can also be incredibly bleak too; but to me, that is uplifting. It’s comforting when someone can put your most awful feelings into words so much better than you ever could; he took the mundane in life and made it heroic. He said once that The Smiths only happened because he walked home in the rain once too often, and it really feels that way. His lyrics don’t bring me down like others say it does to them; they feel empowering. The problem with writing lyrics that do deal with heavy topics is that it is very easy to get them wrong, very easy to make them cheesy and lame; it is a testament to the genius of Morrissey’s writing that he is able to handle such topics with unmatched poetic grace. It feels wrong to quote a Gallegher, but Noel summed it up perfectly when he said of Morrissey, “Whatever you put down in a lyric to define your love or hate for someone..he’ll do it one better”.

To compliment this, Morrissey had Johnny Marr, and they were The Smiths. They were, to me, the greatest song writing partnership in the history of music. They complimented each other, dare I say it, like a hand in glove. Marr is equally genius with his song writing as Morrissey is with his lyrics; he created the canvas for Morrissey to work on. Marr was never the sort of guitarist that would leave you with your jaw dropped wide open with blistering solos on stage; his strength lay in his ability to actually create a song. His jangly, upbeat, fun and quirky riffs to songs such as This Charming Man, Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others, The Boy With a Thorn in His Side, Ask, Panic, and Bigmouth Strikes Again (I could go on and on really), really seem like they should be the exact opposite of what Morrissey should be using for often such bleak lyrics; however the chemistry is undeniable. Marr adds the little bit of sugar that is needed when Morrissey is in danger of getting a little too bitter. I don’t know of another guitarist that can make me feel as much emotion with such simple arrangements; his guitar tells stories, the music alone without words is heartbreaking, or makes you smile, and when you add lyrical genius on top of that, you get The Smiths.

When The Smiths split up and Morrissey went solo it was a huge test for him – would he be able to survive without Marr’s backing? He absolutely did, but it wasn’t the same. However, unlike many people who either only like The Smiths and hate Morrissey’s solo stuff, or put his solo stuff far behind The Smiths; I think that enough of his solo worked reached Smiths-like heights for me to see them as level pegging. It’s true that his solo work is more hit and miss then The Smiths. In The Smiths basically every single song was wonderful, but The Smiths only lasted 5 years and a handful of albums. Morrissey as a solo artist is ongoing now for 25 years and so inevitably logic dictates there are more room for stinkers in there. Morrissey’s first solo album, Viva Hate, and the compilation album, Bona Drag, both written with Stephen Street, offer some of the best pop songs I’ve ever heard; utterly brilliant stuff. He lost his way a little with Kill Uncle, it was quirky, and perhaps a little too quirky, however the rockabilly stylings of Your Arsenal and the utterly delicate heartbreaking beauty of Vauxhall & I steer him back on the right path. After his 7 year record contract-less exile from the music industry between 1997-2004 he came back with what I think were 3 incredibly strong albums in You Are The Quarry, Ringleader of the Tormentors and Years of Refusal, all showing a new maturity in his voice and also a slightly more rock-based sound overall. His B-Sides dating back to The Smiths days up until the present are the envy of bands all over the world; if bands were able to write their best songs as strongly as the songs he deemed not good enough to be on proper albums or singles; the music industry would be a far better place. Just some of the songs that are unbelievably only B-sides include Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want, Rubber Ring, Asleep, Half a Person, Sweet and Tender Hooligan, My Dearest Love, The Never Played Symphonies and Nobody Loves Us.

I’ve been lucky enough to see Morrissey live 3 times, twice in Melbourne in 2002 and 2012, and once in Dublin in 2006. The first time I saw him in 2002 wasn’t ideal as it was part of an awful festival; but I was too young to get into his side show gig; so I had to go to Livid Festival to see him. The Show was fantastic with a early solo period influence on the set-list including songs like Alsatian Cousin, Little Man What Now?, Suedehead, Late Night Maudlin Street and Hairdresser on Fire. He was without a record contract at that time, but I was lucky enough to see early versions of songs which would make You Are The Quarry 2 years later in First of the Gang to Die, Irish Blood English Heart, I Like You, and The World is Full of Crashing Bores.
In 2006 I was living in Ireland at the time and traveled down from the north to Dublin specifically to see the show. It was absolutely amazing and I got mere feet from the stage and close enough for a handshake during his cover of Magazine’s A Song from Under the Floorboards. That gig had highlights such as Still Ill, Reader Meet Author, Trouble Loves Me, Life is a Pigsty and Girlfriend in a Coma. And in 2012 he was back in Melbourne (could probably do without another 10 year gap before another tour though!) for a fantastic show at Festival Hall including highlights I Know It’s Over, Speedway, Sweet and Tender Hooligan, Still Ill, November Spawned a Monster and How Soon Is Now?

To go along with the love of his music, he is one of very few artists that I find fascinating when he’s off stage also. He is extremely outspoken and never censors himself, which gets him into trouble a lot, and many of his views I flat out don’t agree with. He is about as hardcore a vegetarian as you can imagine, and I just love meat, so, what are you gonna do, really? But I do agree he has a point on game hunting; killing an animal for absolutely no reason other than for the sake of the kill is barbaric and pointless. But I don’t agree with his stance on treating someone who eats meat as a murderer. That is my main conflict of interest when he comes to him, I guess there is always a fly in the ointment. His flakiness of cancellations of shows is pretty poor also. Dad unfortunately was a victim of that while on his way to see him in 1991 for the Kill Uncle tour, but I’m glad Dad got to finally see him last year. But he must rack up more cancelled concerts than some artists have gigs that go ahead successfully. He hates the British Royal Family, I mean he hates them, and never misses an opportunity to stick the boot in; and while I agree with him for the most part, that they are utterly useless in 2013, sometimes it just gets a bit much and you think “OK Mozza, shut up now”.
But his interviews are often works of art in themselves, he’ll blatantly contradict previous claims he has made and lie purely for the sake of boredom on his part; as he says, being asked the same questions over and over again, sometimes you just want to give different answers, even if they aren’t true. He’s always on another level to whoever is interviewing him, always ready with ready-wit. I’ve probably gone through and read just about every print interview he’s done and video interview he’s done in my time of following him, some are absolutely hysterical; especially his rapport with recent friend and long time fan Russell Brand.

Morrissey recently released his long awaited Autobiography in October 2013; this had been in the making for many years and was published as a Penguin Classic on it’s first edition (which is proving to be a wise choice with it’s dominance in the best sellers charts in the UK and Europe). He has such a unique style of writing that you always knew when he eventually put his life onto paper, that it would be an incredible read, and, for the most part it is; but isn’t without criticism. The thing about Morrissey is that he has spent his life in the public eye, yet remained a complete mystery. He rarely gave anything away about himself, and anything he did give away, he would later contradict so as to cause more confusion; as he stated, it’s not really anyone else’s business. His Autobiography was hailed as the moment he would finally “set the record straight” on so many things, his sexuality probably being the top of the list; and in some ways that is answered. But for the most part, it seems like Morrissey has written an Autobiography that doesn’t really tell you anything about his life … which is just so typical Morrissey, a troll to the end. And to further his trolling, it was announced that Morrissey was going to record the Autobiography for an audio book, it was only just later revealed it was to be David Morrissey doing the recording, not Steven Patrick, himself.

The book does allow you to read between the lines and work out a few things; that he is bisexual (although I think he calls it human-sexual, or some bullshit); he talks about relationships with a couple of men and a couple of women and even drops the bomb shell that at one point he was on the verge of starting a family. But his book frustratingly doesn’t really tell you much else, which I can only imagine is completely intentional. He speaks endlessly and tirelessly about The Smiths court case, and he presents a really compelling and strong argument that he (and Johnny Marr) should have won that case against Mike Joyce (The Smiths drummer) in a pretty much open and shut manner. It’s hard to argue with his assessment of the case, and his bitterness and nastiness is at full mast against the judge, Joyce, the prosecution, Marr (for not aiding properly where he could) and many others … which is quite the spectacle in itself, and quite justified; but did it need to be 50 pages long? He is also utterly obsessed with chart positions, the amount of talk of what albums/song charted where and why it was the record company’s fault for it being 14 instead of 12 gets quite tiresome. He talks about how he came from a very poor background, then moans about how his album “only” reached number 2, you’d think if anyone got the number 2 album in the country that they would be overjoyed; OK a little miffed you didn’t get number 1, but still! But then again, that is just Morrissey, and somehow through its tiring ways, it is quite charming. Frustratingly, the last portion of the book is very choppy. He goes from writing at length about certain eras, to reducing the last decade to a series of paragraphs, not always in chronological order. He mentions a kidnapping attempt in Mexico after a concert where he literally had to jump out of a moving car on a dirt road. This incredible story gets about 1 page and you’re left going “I want to hear more about that, not 50 court room pages!

The Autobiography is absolutely wonderfully written, his way with words is on another level and there are moments, where, as you would expect, it’s almost laugh out loud funny. He just gives you little snippets of things that happen, little musings of his meetings with different people, or he’ll suddenly go off on a 6 page review of Lost In Space, and you can’t help but get swept along with it. You find that his style of writing is so enchanting that, just like his songs, he makes the mundane seem heroic and enticing. The first part of the book dealing with his childhood and adolescents is captivating, even though very little actually happens. He talks about his family in a way that you begin to see these people as characters, and when he talks about how his Grandmother (“Nannie”) moves house and puts the cat in a brown paper shopping bag to bring on the bus to the new house, you somehow find yourself chuckling and going “oh that is SO Nannie!” even though you have only known her for a handful of pages. He speaks of being a surprisingly gifted junior athlete, although never good enough to impress his Father who coldly tells him “you didn’t win” when he ran fourth in a race; he follows that up with “Perhaps I didn’t win, but it didn’t help anyone to point it out, and life decomposes in a bucket”.  It’s sad, but he has a way of making you smile at it. He talks of the brutal school system he was brought up in (which spawned many-a song), the beatings that were handed out, and his character assassination of these teachers who are probably long dead by now, he mentions his raft of unsavory jobs he attempted to keep with humourus disdain, of fights with bullies and his doctor who prescribes him antidepressant medication  which the doctor assures him is helpful because he himself takes it; Morrissey returns to the clinic soon after to find the doctor has died, and he’s hardly surprised.
All in all, the book probably was exactly what I was expecting, it gave us glimpses of his life, but in the most Morrisseyesque way possible, a captivating read.

It’s hard to really put into words exactly what his music means to me, it’s deeply person, it’s uplifting, its comforting and soothing, its funny and intelligent. It’s bare bones, it feels as if he’s read your diary and then gone off to make songs that you were on the verge of writing yourself.
He is a true original, a one of a kind, there will never be anyone else like him, and he doesn’t fit into any kind of mold where you can say “Oh Morrissey is like…..” there just isn’t really any comparison. You can argue that Lady Gaga (who presents herself as original) is just an updated version of Madonna, who herself is an updated version of Grace Jones (is she the original?); whereas Morrissey is an original of the species. There are definitely others who have attempted to fit his profile, but really, who was he modelling himself after? The closest you can come to is some kind of amalgamation of Oscar Wilde and James Dean, neither of who were musical artists outside of their showers; so it leaves to stand he is just simply, Morrissey.

Top 20 Smiths tracks and their stand out lyric:

* There is a light that never goes out (“And if a double-decker bus crashes into us, to die by your side, is such a heavenly way to die | and if a ten tonne truck kills the both of us, to die by your side, well the pleasure and privileged is mine”)

* I Know It’s Over (“Oh Mother, I can feel the soil falling over my head, and as I climb into an empty bed, oh well, enough said”)

* Still Ill (“England is mine and it owes me a living, | ask me why and I’ll spit in your eye”)

* Rubber Ring (“Don’t forget the songs that made you cry, and the songs that saved your life | yes you’re older now, and you’re a clever swine, but they were the only ones who ever stood by you”)

* The Boy with a thorn in his side (“The boy with a thorn in his side, behind the hatred there lies a murderous desire for love”)

* The Queen is Dead (“And so I broke into the palace | with a sponge and a rusty spanner, | she said “I know you and you cannot sing” | I said “that’s nothing, you should hear me play piano”)

* This Charming Man (“Why pamper life’s complexities when the leather runs smooth on the passenger seat?”)

* Bigmouth Strikes Again (“And now I know how Joan of Arc felt | as the flames rose to her Roman nose and her Walkman started to melt”)

* Asleep (“There is another world, there is a better world, well there must be”)

* Half a Person (“And if you have 5 seconds to spare, then I’ll tell you the story of my life”)

* Hand in Glove (“Hand in glove, the sun shines out of our behinds, no it’s not like any other love, this one is different because it’s us”)

* Nowhere Fast (“And when I’m lying in my bed, I think about life and I think about death, and neither one particularly appeals to me”)

* How Soon Is Now? (“There’s a club if you’d like to go, you could meet somebody who really likes you | so you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home and you cry and you want to die”)

* Sweet and Tender Hooligan (“Poor woman, strangled in her very own bed as she read, but that’s OK, because she was old and she would have died anyway”)

* Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before (“I smelt the last 10 seconds of life and crashed down on the crossbar, and the pain was enough to make a shy, bald Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder”)

* Cemetery Gates (“So we go inside and we gravely read the stones, all those people, all those lives, where are they now? | With loves, and hates, and passions just like mine, they were born and then they lived and then they died”)

* You just haven’t earned it yet, baby (“If you’re wondering why all the love that you longed for eludes you, and people are rude and cruel to you | I’ll tell you why, you just haven’t earned it yet, baby”)

* Ask (“So if there’s something you’d like to try, ask me I won’t say no, how could I? | Spending warm summer days indoors, writing frightening verse, to a bucked tooth girl in Luxembourg”)

* Paint a Vulgar Picture (“Best of! Most of! Satiate the need, slip them into different sleeve, buy both and feel deceived | climber, new entry, re-entry | world tour, media whore, please the press in Belgium, this was your life, and when it fails to recoup, well maybe, you just haven’t earned it yet, baby”)

* Headmaster Ritual (“Belligerent ghouls run Manchester schools, spineless bastards all … Sir leads the troops, jealous of youth, same old jokes since 1902 | he does the military two-step down the nape of my neck”)

Top 20 Morrissey solo tracks and their stand out lyric:

* Speedway (“You won’t sleep, until the earth that wants me, finally has me … you’ve done it now | you won’t rest until the hearse that becomes me, finally takes me… you’ve done it now | and you won’t smile until my loving mouth, is shut good and proper, forever”)

* The Last of the Famous International Playboys (“I never wanted to kill, I am not naturally evil, such things I do, just to make myself more attractive to you, have I failed?”)

* Seasick, Yet Still Docked (“I am a poor, freezingly cold soul, so far from where I intended to go, scavenging through life’s very constant lulls, so far from where I’m determined to go”)

* November Spawned a Monster (“Sleep on and dream of love, because it’s the closest you will get to love”)

* Everyday is like Sunday (“Trudging slowly over wet sand, back to the bench where you clothes were stolen”)

* Piccadilly Palare (“It may all end tomorrow, or it could go on forever, in which case I’m doomed”)

* Late Night, Maudlin Street (“Love at first sight, sound trite, but it’s true you know  | I could list the details of everything you ever wore, or said, or how you stood on the day as we spent the last night on Maudlin Street”)

* Jack the Ripper (“Oh you look so tired, mouth slack and wide, ill-housed and ill-advised, you face is as mean as your life has been, so, crash into my arms, I want you, you don’t agree, but you don’t refuse, I know you”)

* Now my Heart is Full (“And everyone I love in the house, will recline on an analyst’s couch quite soon, your father cracks a joke and in the usual way empties the room | tell all of my friends, I don’t have too many, just some rain coated lover’s puny brother”)

* Interesting Drug (“On a government scheme designed to kill your dream, oh mum, oh dad, once poor, always poor”)

* Nobody Loves Us (“All in all, imagine this – nobody loves us, dab-hands at trouble with four days of stubble, we are | never loosen the grip on our hand, call us home, kiss our cheeks, nobody loves us, so we tend to please ourselves”)

* Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning (“It was only a test, but she swam too far against the tide, she deserves all she gets | the sky became marked with stars, as an outstretched arm slowly disappears | please don’t worry, there’ll be no fuss, she was, nobody’s nothing”)

* Come back to Camden (“Drinking tea with the taste of the Thames, sullenly on a chair on the pavement, here’s you’ll find my thoughts and I”)

* Lucky Lisp (“When you gift unfurls, when your talent becomes apparent | I will roar from the stalls, I will gurgle from the circle”)

* Something is squeezing my skull (“I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out, thank you, drop dead”)

* My Dearest Love (“Take me to the place I’ve been dreaming of, where the grotesquely lonely, meet the grotesquely lonely, and they whisper, just very softly ‘please be my dearest love'”)

* Maladjusted (“When the gulf between all the things I need, and the things I receive, is an ancient ocean wide, wild, lost, uncrossed”)

* I’m OK by myself (“Then came an arm around my shoulder, well surely the hand holds a revolver | it’s been so all of my life, why change now? ‘It hasn’t’, now this might disturb you but, I find I’m OK by myself”)

* Reader Meet Author (“You don’t know a thing about their lives, books don’t save them, books aren’t Stanley knives | and if a fight broke out here tonight, you’d be the first away, because you’re that type”)

* Trouble Loves Me (“Trouble loves me, trouble needs me, which is two things more than you do, or would attempt to”)

“I think admiring me, shall we say, is quite a task. Because if you say you like Morrissey, you then have to explain why.”
– Morrissey