Morrissey - You Are The Quarry
The world seen through the eyes of Morrissey has the former Smiths lead singer crowned as the king of significance. Seven years after his last solo album Maladjusted failed to make a dent amidst the flurrying indulgence of the Britpop scene, Morrissey resurrects the Attack label and releases You Are The Quarry.
The Smiths have undergone a massive revisionist revival since Morrissey’s self-imposed exile to Los Angeles, which has seen him, now in his mid-forties, inevitably become his own genre. We fully expect Morrissey to forever insist on being Morrissey - venomously spitting out pointed attacks on whoever happens to fall within his cross-hairs, alongside providing us with deliberately pompous song titles such as The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores and How Can Anybody Possible Know How I Feel?. His reputation of giving off an air of gleeful self-importance precedes him, to the extent that we are no longer surprised when Morrissey appears just as we expect him to on his latest record.
The Smiths were interesting and relevant in the eighties because they were a Trojan horse; sweetness and light on the surface through Johnny Marr’s rhythm guitar combined with Morrissey’s vocal bite waiting to pounce underneath. Years later, Morrissey still hates us whether we love him or hate him, but we are wise to his charms – only intense fans still hang on his every word. This has resulted in Morrissey’s elevation to a more interesting level amongst the casual onlooker, providing he is kept at arm’s length. The chip-on-his-shoulder is still intact, and yet his tolerance, particularly regarding the ongoing speculation of his sexuality, seems to be increasing.
You Are The Quarry is a forever changing beast. On first glance, the tone and subject matter of the album appears to be refreshingly honest and young for a forty-four year old, whilst the musical elements certainly match Morrissey’s age. Yet, your impression of the album will change with each listen. If you think You Are The Quarry is a middle-of-the-road album from someone who has drifted towards contentment, listen to the guitar work on the chorus of single Irish Blood, English Heart to have your mind splintered by both sides of the argument. If anything, Morrissey’s latest album will appeal to fans because he is playing up to the Morrissey persona they have helped to create, whether he is conscious of that or not. He’s political, controversial, direct in his attacks towards his adversaries and most importantly, he wallows in his own depressive streak.
Opening with typical lack of subtle tactfulness, America Is Not The World, sees Morrissey launching a musically soft, but lyrically aggressive tirade against both the nation’s foreign policy and their corporate greed. Whilst he loves his new homeland, he clearly feels the outcast, with lyrics such as “I have got nothing to offer you, just this heart deep and true which you say you don’t need.” Irish Blood, English Heart is interesting because it has Morrissey declaring his patriotism towards England whilst dismissing the need for xenophobia (clearly harking back to the time where his Union-Jack championing caused him to be branded a racist in some quarters).
The initially arrogant-sounding I Have Forgiven Jesus speaks of Morrissey’s disappointment that his faith has been unrewarded, whilst Come Back To Camden is the album’s dreariest, weakest song. The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores has Morrissey crooning at his most insecure level, claiming that “this world is so full of crashing bores and I must be one, cos no one ever turns to me to say ‘take me in your arms take me in your arms and love me.’” Even Pop Idol wannabes are bitten in the neck by his fangs, to the extent that he is suitably fired up on How Could Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel? to vent his full anger over his royalties-court-case loss to former Smiths’ drummer Mike Joyce, and even engage his inferiority complex in the final verse, which sees the Judge referred to as “you in your smelly uniform.”
The First Of The Gang To Die is a catchy, old-school Smiths-style attempt to be patronising towards America’s street and gun culture, whilst All The Lazy Dykes is almost a stirring anthem to encourage closet lesbians to reveal their true colours. Some would suggest Morrissey is being a hypocrite, and yet this would only further encourage him. Oddly enough, you compare All The Lazy Dykes to I’m Not Sorry, easily You Are The Quarry’s strongest song, and you sense that maybe Morrissey is finally coming to terms with his alleged homosexuality. The song starts off as a lament over his weakness in re-entering the music industry again with this album, and his overblown arrogance in finding the world has been fine without him – “On returning, I can’t believe this world is still turning”. However, the lyrical line that has sparked the most debate is almost the most throwaway, with Morrissey tucking away the idea that “the woman of [his] dreams, she never came along. The woman of [his] dreams, well there never was one.” I'm Not Sorry is Morrissey at his most introspective and poignant, and it saves him from resorting to almost petty bitterness. His comment that “[he] is slipping below the water-line” could be his most desperate yet.
You Are The Quarry concludes with You Know I Couldn’t Last, which seems to concern Morrissey’s hiatus from the industry. In essence, the song is a nice summation of many of the previous themes explored on the album, with the Mike Joyce saga referenced with “there’s a cash-register ringing and it weighs so heavy on my back” along with condemnation of the young musical consumers who “wake up yawn and kill you.” It’s as if Morrissey is continually shaken his head at the world, and yet You Are The Quarry suggests he is finally learning to live with it.
What of the album title itself? The cover artwork has Morrissey suitably dressed as East-end gangster in smart suit armed with machine gun, as if he is living up to both the name of his label and his verbal reputation. Quarry, after all, does refer to a hunter animal in many facets of underworld jargon. Despite this, you may notice that there is a comma between his name and the album title, suggesting that it actually reads Morrissey, You Are The Quarry. It’s as if Morrissey is saying “Au contraire, you may think I’m the aggressive hunter, but it is I who is hunted.” If this is Morrissey’s intention, then it says everything and nothing about the man all by itself.