Morrissey - Ringleader of the Tormentors
The return is complete. From self imposed exile in LA, Morrissey has now moved to the romantic city of Rome, found himself love at last and completes his second album in two years.
All the ingredients are here for a classic Morrissey album; long and eloquent song titles, pretentious sounding album title and his well barbered quiff on the front cover. Things, however, are spun in a slightly different manner. Having recruited Tony Visconti to direct proceedings, this is a more lush sounding album than recent efforts, Ennio Morricone was also on hand to provide strings for Dear God Please Help Me, and it's refreshing to hear Morrissey mix things up a bit. The opener I Will See You In Far Off Places is all Far-Eastern sounds draped over lyrics which reflect his hate and contempt for America.
We then come to the strings that is Dear God Please Help Me with it's quite graphic description of Morrissey finally(?) succumbing to the sin of the flesh; "Then he motions to me / with his hand on my knee" and "Now I'm spreading your legs / with mine in between", there's no mistaking the question of sexuality now. However, the lyrics a little over the top, a little too revealing and lacking his usual bite and turn of phrase so this becomes just plain graphic. One of the best parts about Morrissey and his lyrics were that they were ambiguous; always hinting but never revealing.
Things improve however, with him returning to firmer and more traditional Morrissey ground with the latest single You Have Killed Me, a classic slice of Morrissey, all cutting guitars and his voice direct and powerful. Visconti adding a little extra bite to the sound to add a depth here that was missing during his post Vauxhall And I and pre You Are The Quarry albums. For me the highlight of this album is Life Is A Pigsty a distant relative to The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils from Southpaw Grammar it's all atmosphere and art-rock carried by a basic piano line, there's something stirring about it. This is Morrissey in full flow; "Even now, in the final hour of my life / I'm falling in love again", these are the kind of words you'd associate with him finding love - the turn of phrase that seems to be missing elsewhere here. To Me You Are a Work of Art once again has Visconti layering sounds so that Morrissey's voice dominates, the music hanging off his words and voice, gentle slide guitar, piano and strings flowing over a gentle guitar riff. That's not to say that all his bite has been removed, I Just Want to See the Boy Happy is another classic stomp with clashing guitars and has an almost Smiths-esque air to it. These are the true highlights, though, nothing else quite matches the tempo and directness of these songs here; some of the other tracks tend towards Morrissey-by-numbers and are almost forgettable. I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now feels slightly cumbersome and even his voice sounds strained in places, not even the lyrics can lift this gentle dirge.
In my mind, Morrissey has yet to make an album to top the masterpiece that is Vauxhall And I. He obviously wants to push forward and isn't prepared to stand still, there's still an anger in his heart that he needs to vocalise but he's not quite managed to articulate it here. Which, in the end, is the greatest shame. Who would have thought that Morrissey would have a problem with words?