Culture House Daily

Has Morrissey finally recorded a decent album?

24 July 2014

Time was when the former Smiths singer surfaced only once every five years or so to do the Carry On Morrissey routine. But the more you ignore him, the closer he gets. Barely half a year after he colonised the books pages, he’s back.

Is that a collective groan I hear? The release of a new Morrissey record really shouldn’t be a big deal. Since the mid-90s, his albums have worked to a formula that bolted sanctimonious, self-pitying lyrics to sub-Oasis guitar fluff. In his Autobiography, he repeatedly blames conspiratorial suits for keeping him from the top of the charts. This is sweet, but just not true. The problem, alas, was that the songs stunk.

But hang about. I’ve just listened to World Peace is None of Your Business, his new one, for the third time in a row – and I’m about to play it for a fourth. Is it possible that, for the first time in, what, 20 years, Morrissey has recorded a decent album?

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In more than relative terms, yes. For one thing, you can usually judge a Morrissey album by its cover. This one sees our hero in a white T-shirt and jeans, squatting by the cracked plaster of a barrio wall. I feel very pleased with myself for identifying the grainy photograph as a nod to the jackets of Richard Allen’s Skinhead pulp novels. Morrissey titled ‘Suedehead’, his terrific first solo single, after one of themit’s a good omen.

The music is imaginative, textured and tuneful. The opening title track begins with sound effects apparently nicked from Gladiator before collapsing into a leisurely – and very pretty – ballad. The woodwind on the elegant ‘Oboe Concerto’ is the sort of arrangement that tilts an okay song towards greatness. On ‘Istanbul’, there’s even an attempt at funk; it’s hardly Rick James, but it’s pretty exciting. The band provide a sympathetic ballast for Morrissey’s oratorical bellowing, better, perhaps, than any other musical backing he’s had since the Smiths split up.

Morrissey himself is still on cruise control. You can usually depend on at least one good one-liner per album, but if there’s one here it’s well hidden. The lyrics run from the perfunctory to the pathetic. ‘Brazil and Bahrain,’ he sings on the title track, ‘Oh Egypt, Ukraine – so many people in pain.’ That’s some profound shit, man. Or what about this, from ‘Mountjoy’: ‘We never say aloud the things that we say in prayers’cause no-one cares.’ Diddums.

Elsewhere, the subject matter checklist is ticked off unthinkingly. There’s militant vegetarianism, (‘The Bulfighter Dies’) literary allusions (‘Neal Cassidy Drops Dead’) and some mild misogyny (‘Kick the Bride Down the Aisle’). On the strength of its title alone, ‘Earth is the Loneliest Planet’ is surely the most solipsistic pop record of 2014. But this is Morrissey. Self parody is his stock in trade. And World Peace is None of Your Business is only enjoyable if you can stomach it. Indulge the miserable sod, though, and it’s a blast.

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  • Andrew Morton

    No. Even though the first track is spot on.

  • john j

    Whats profound about alluding to world troubles?

  • Mark Callaghan

    Your title should have read – Has Morrissey ever recorded a better album?
    The answer is yes – Vauxhall and I and Your Arsenal are both slightly better than this excellent new LP.The whole article stinks

  • Freedom

    ‘Since the mid-90s…’ I take it you were alive then, sweetheart?

  • Kerr Mudgeon

    Betteridge’s law: “Any headline which ends in a question mark should be answered with the word ‘no’.”

  • saffrin

    I’m still waiting for Morrissey to top himself.
    Pharmaceutical companies must love the guy for his help in increased sales of anti depression tabs.

    • persimmian

      Why? Many of his songs are funny, if you’re bright enough to catch on, that is…

      • saffrin

        I’ve never listened long enough to catch anything. As soon as his voice hits the radio, it gets switched off.
        His depressive drone alone is too much.

  • girondas2

    “Has Morrissey finally recorded a decent album?”


  • DrWatt

    Morrissey (Smiths) albums have never done it for me – I’ve bought their albums in the past and after much anticipation I’ve always felt – well, a bit disappointed when I’ve played them. I’ve tended to have enjoyed particular individual tracks on them but I’ve never enjoyed the whole albums – its the same with David Bowie for me – I held on to his albums for years hoping they would eventually grow on me – but they never did – and again – I tended to enjoy particular tracks from his albums but never a whole album. Thats not to say I don’t recognise the importance of these albums – but I just didn’t enjoy their albums as much as say The Who’s Who’s Next for example.

    Hopeully, this latest album from Morrissey I’ll enjoy the whole shebang this time.

    • Freedom

      I never enjoyed all of The Who, either. Pete Townshend is missing something, and it shows. Queen was a much greater band, both of the soft and the rocking side. Never mind the swinging:

      • JabbaTheCat

        Puleeze…this is how it’s done properly…

        • Freedom

          His ‘Little Wing’ shows Hendrix how to play his own song: it’s miles better — and the decision to make it instrumental was perfect.

          • persimmian

            Hendrix’ version of Little Wing is magic. You’re gravely mistaken.

            • Freedom

              No accounting for taste. It’s clumsy compared with Vaughan’s — now that’s inspired music that really takes flight.

              • persimmian

                SRV strips all the soulfulness out of that song. Only Hendrix does it proper.

                • Freedom

                  ‘Strips the soulfulness’????? Sputter, sputter. Surely you jest!

  • Laguna Beach Fogey

    I’m looking forward to listening to it. ‘Kick the Bride Down the Aisle’ is an anti-marriage anthem, a warning to all of the single young men out there. Has Morrissey been reading the Manosphere?

    • Freedom

      Shove it up your hat.

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