4 January 2009

Well I've calmed down from my initial dancing around the room at finding this and I'm ready to review. The Mozfather has returned with his highly anticipated (by me at least) 9th solo album. The sleeve is extremely puzzling but we'll move past that. There's been a Moz revival of late thanks to two outstanding albums in the shape of "You Are The Quarry" and "Ringleader Of The Tormentors", the former a confident, biting modern rock classic and the latter a moody, Rome-influenced ode to the wonders of love in Morrissey's inimitable style. And on "YOR" the two styles are combined for Morrissey's most interesting album since.... well "Ringleaders" to be honest

"Something Is Squeezing My Skull" is a pounding rockabilly opener that changes mood, lyrically, as much as Tottenham change their manager. And a middle eighth that lists a hell of a lot of prescription drugs. There may be a connection there.... We then move onto the wonderfully titled "Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed". Military-style drums power the track, although it's mostly typical Moz fare, apart from a brass section which may have escaped from whatever studio Foals are recording in at the minute. Track number three; "Black Cloud". Possibly one of the most apt titles of his career, it features Jeff Beck on guitar and is perfect for the oncoming world tour and any festival slots this year (fingers crossed).

Lead single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" could definitely fit right in on either of Morrissey's 21st century albums or possibly even a Smiths album, being part glam guitar stomper and part yearning, whimsical orchestral pop. On to another single now, with "All You Need Is Me" (he's a modest one, isn't he?) was previously released to coincide with last year's "Greatest Hits" compilation, along with other album track "That's How People Grow Up". Both songs are route one for Morrissey, but they're both perfect examples of his sharp tongue and way with words, as well as slotting in perfectly on the album. Separating the two former singles is the strangely-titled "When I Last Spoke To Carol" which is sees Il Mozalini transforming into Scott Walker for three and a half minutes, with Spanish guitars, even more brass and a wealth of melodrama thrown into the track. Somehow it comes off like a mix between "Bigmouth Strikes Again" and "November Spawned A Monster", but it works, by gum (did I really just type by gum?...)

"One Day Goodbye Could Be Farewell" is up next with it's galloping drums and an explosion of guitar from Boz Boorer, as well as possibly the best line since the songs on "The Queen Is Dead"; "And before you know, goodbye will be farewell/And you will never see the one you love again/And the smiling children tell you that you smell". You can always rely on Morrissey for a giggle. After the rollicking throwback first two-thirds, the album gets slightly more experimental for a bit (for Morrissey anyway). "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore" (you've got to love these titles) begins as a calm chilled-out ballad in the vein of "Dear God, Please Help Me" but the chorus is killer, and the music is possibly the best of Morrissey's solo career. "You Were Good In Your Time" is ever more Scott Walker-esque than before. A sombre, laid-back lament that would be perfect for, in the words of Johnny Borrell, walking home from school in the rain wondering why you don't have a girlfriend. The orchestration seems lifted straight from a 1950's romance film, but it suddenly stops and what replaces it is two minutes of creepy industrial noise, eerie horror-film strings and strange newsreel clips. It's dragged out a bit too much though.

The final two songs of "YOR" return once again to the distorted-guitars-and-sharp-tongue combo which has served so well, after the diversion to Experimental Town. "Sorry Doesn't Help" is possibly the weakest track here but it's still good enough to keep your attention until the end. Album closer "I'm OK By Myself" sounds like the quintessential anthem to describe Morrissey fans, which is a pretty good way to describe it. A perfect distillation of The Smiths and Morrissey's solo work, Boorer's guitar comes pretty close to Johnny Marr's chiming sound whilst the chorus of "I'm OK by myself!/and I don't need you/and I never have, I never have/Noooooo!" deserves to be shouted from rooftops, terraces, pubs, festivals and bedsits across the globe.

"Years Of Refusal" shows the Pope Of Mope in fine form, with an album which expands on his recent work and definitely improves on it. You can even imagine some radio airplay for the singles lifted from the album, especially if Moz grabs a few key festival spots in the summer, and if this happens then the crowd will be eating out of his hand.
ESSENTIAL TRACKS: "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris", "All You Need Is Me", "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell", "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore", "I'm OK By Myself"


No comments: