Remember Me as You'd Like To
Years of Refusal, the new Morrissey album, doesn't quite attain the peaks of its predecessor, but still offers a relatively-rewarding experience. Like many out there (especially in this nation!) I would listen no matter what. Actually, I'd really want to listen if such a what ever does happen.
Its predecessor, Ringleader of the Tormentors ranks nearly with Viva Hate and Your Arsenal in Morrissey's solo canon: a surprise at the time. "I Will See You in Far Off Places" ends with a scene straight out of an early Atom Egoyan film about Bush's "Global War on Terror," if such a thing could ever exist. "You Have Killed Me," "The Youngest Was the Most Loved," and "In the Future When All's Well," like "The First of the Gang to Die" on You Are the Quarry, projected a jubilant ironic take on the prototypical Morrissey rocker, the first tracks to do so since his solo band first appeared, in 1991-92, with the likes of "Pregnant for the Last Time," "My Love Life," "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful, " and "Certain People I Know."
One understands the notion that Years of Refusal marks a return to form (though the same kind of critic made the same kind of remarks about Ringleader and Quarry). Namely, the by-the-numbers music recalls the period between The Queen Is Dead and Strangeways, Here We Come, when new songs came quick, and there was little time to concoct elaborate frameworks to house Morrissey's vocals. As always Morrissey, as a poet, has few equals in word-forming music (that is to say, music with vocals).
Though, to give discredit where's it due, Morrissey's methods have not changed much since he and Johnny Marr began their five-year collaboration in 1982. His (or others') choice of collaborators has changed, and has made the difference. In other words... if you really want to know why Viva Hate is better than its successors look here now: Vini Reilly. With the accompanying music largely composed by this guitarist whose fate differed from Morrissey's fundamentally [an early member of the Factory Records roster, who unlike Morrissey didn't need others to help him make music, ultimately relegated to the sidelines of common histories of the city's post-Punk scene)], Viva Hate, its words bearing an overwhelming foreboding nostalgia, has accidentally come to attain a position primary to that of the Smiths. It is what you need to hear, along with few key Smiths tracks, to begin to grasp what this singer is droning on about. It was not so much the beginning of a solo career, but a concise recapitulation of the themes of his songs so far, a look back at the social malaise and personal languor that characterized his life, pre-Smiths.
Back to the subject of Ringleader, there's "Dear God Please Help Me": a song with a verse from a heterosexualist position, a verse from the homosexualist position (literally in the case of the former) covering the bases in the best Glam-Rock fashion (and after, of course, a statement of basic sexual fact: those "explosive kegs").
.... And "Life Is a Pigsty," recalling Viva Hate's "Late Night, Maudlin Street" in its length and its stereotypically-Morrissey "miserablism," except that it lacks the humor of "Maudlin." Indeed, "Pigsty" is the maudlin affair compared to most of Morrissey's work. As with those Rockabilly-esque tracks of 1991-92 noted above, composed alongside the likes of "We'll Let You Know" and "The National Front Disco," the jovial moments have passed, death is not a far-off event but instead an ever-present state of mind, and the visions of transcendence, of love, perpetuated by the likes of Morrissey, by Rock music broadly speaking, turn into vile noise pollution. (Yes, that is another way of saying to Morrissey: get rid of the Rockist sludge already!)