Archive for February, 2009

Winds of Plague’s Unintentional Psychology Lesson

February 8, 2009

…clearly the fact that theirs music fucking sucks only makes things more unpleasant.


Refusal’s Acceptance

February 4, 2009

Being ambivalent about Morrissey’s solo material comes with the territory of being a Smiths obsessive. While the Smiths’ catalog is remarkably consistent and somewhat plentiful for a relatively short-lived band, Morrissey has spent the last 20 years being incredibly hit or miss, dropping some great songs on the general mopey populous while surrounding them with bland, lifeless filler. And it’s not fair to hold Morrissey to such high standards: How many solid Paul McCartney albums can you name? Neil Young has spent the last 30 years making spotty-to-unlistenable records. And though Dylan’s late career Renaissance has been inspiring, it followed almost 2 decades of shoddy material. Most artists and bands are inconsistent, as they’re staffed with people and not futuristic, chrome pop robots. Morrissey, though inconsistent, also has his great, even classic, moments: “Suedehead”, “Every Day is Sunday”, “Tomorrow”, “The More Your Ignore Me, The Closer I Get”, “First of the Gang to Die”, “Irish Blood, English Heart”, “You Have Killed Me”, “The Youngest Was the Most Loved”, and so forth. A Morrissey album can be tough to get through; a Morrissey hits collection (of which there are several, in that good ol’ Steven Patrick can’t pay for that Roman villa on Vauxhall and I money anymore) could suffice.

Of course, this is up until recently, when Years of Refusal collectively kicked whiny Smiths fans (redundant?) in the unlovables. Morrissey’s latter albums (You are the Quarry in ’04 and Ringleader of the Tormentors in ’07) have both been rousing returns to form in many respects, but still felt bloated and partially forgettable. There’s nothing forgettable about Years of Refusal, a succinct and hungry record that is probably the most punk thing Morrissey has done since the Smiths (and the Smiths weren’t really punk). Recorded with Morrissey’s full band live in studio, it feels urgent and energetic, even despite the occasional mid-paced romp or ballad. The grandiosity of Ringleader of the Tormentors often felt overblown and overorchestrated– epic for epic’s sake (see: “Life is a Pig Sty”). But “It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore” rattles the rafters, lush and beautiful by nature instead of by effort, as do many of the record’s other songs. And though Morrissey has never sounded tired or pathetic on his solo work– right on up through Ringleader— he sounds renewed and punchy on Refusal, hitting notes he seemingly abandoned after the Smiths disbanded. Morrissey has usually been best for rainy days (or “under slate gray Victorian sky” as the man himself once miserably opined), but Years of Refusal is righteously pissed, trading his penchant for Wilde-ian camp for his other penchant for the New York Dolls. Its energy and urgency leads to, arguably, the best and most consistent album Morrissey’s done on his own.

Of course, “on his own” is an inaccurate statement: Morrissey’s band– together in their current incarnation for only a few years– are top fucking notch, thunderous and melodic to perfectly compliment Moz’s velvety croon. Though the guitars are enormous and fitting, the MVP goes to former Filter/Smashing Pumpkins sticksman Matt Walker, all over the drumkit in a jaw dropping fashion. Though Morrissey’s solo work is usually consumed for purposes of admiring the lyrics, vocals melodies or just the timeless voice itself, Years of Refusal is the first– if ever– Morrissey CD worth returning to for the songs. (The fierce/tender opener “Something is Squeezing my Skull” gave me the same sort of chills I received upon hearing “London”, “Panic”, or “The Queen is Dead” for the first time.) I’d never really counted Morrissey out, despite seemingly constant touring on the nostalgia circuit and a few Best of packages, but this is the first time he’s come storming into my consciousness in a good, long while. Welcome back, Moz. It’s good to see that you’re still a miserable prick after all these years. And rest assured, I mean that in the best way possible.