At times we all look forward to hearing something new, something different, the next big thing. We marvel at each reinvention of Radiohead, stand agape at new sounds coming from TV on the Radio, and like to say things like, “I’ll never see this on MTV!” But then again, there are times when we would all like to hear more of the sounds of the music of our past. We love to sit in the dark with Disintegration, to dance to Violator, and to be comforted by The Queen is Dead. We miss that music like a phantom limb, scratching an itch that just isn’t there anymore. These are the CD’s that we run across in our collections and smile, knowing that one listen would bring us back to that happy place.
Well, after seven years of absence, one of the icons of our collective past has returned! The Moz, Mozzer, Morrissey! And when I say that he’s back, I don’t just mean that he has a new album, I mean he’s back!!! The man who gave angst-ridden youth some of their favorite song titles and lyrics is in rare form in his new release, You Are the Quarry. I must make a caveat here before people start screaming for my head. Morrissey is back, not the Smiths. Moz is still without his other half that made for some of the best music of our time, Johnny Marr. But that’s not to say that the lyrics involved in this new album do not hearken back to even that glorious period.
“America is Not the World” immediately transports us back to both his Viva Hate days and also the themes he sang about when with Marr, Joyce, and Rourke. The song is about the now Los Angeles resident’s love / hate relationship with our country, which pretty much makes him one of us (at least according to me). He throws out great lyrics such as where the President is never black, female, or gay and until that day you’ve got nothing to say to me, and America / your belly’s too big and I love you / I just wish you’d stay where you is. It also seems that his great sense of humor and ego have never left either as is evidenced in a line reminiscent of It’s so easy to laugh, it’s so easy to hate, it takes strength to be gentle and kind when he sings See with your eyes, touch with your hands- please know in your soul, hear through your ears- please for haven’t you me with you now?
The first single, “Irish Blood, English Heart”, is a return to his anti-royal family ways we all loved nearly (really? Can it be that long?) twenty years ago. I’ve been dreaming of a time when to be English is not to be baneful to be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial. “I Have Forgiven Jesus” is a fantastically written song in true self-pitying Morrissey fashion about his pleading with God / Jesus for putting desire in his heart, for giving him ‘love in a loveless world’. The song will surely again arouse questions as to his sexuality and whether or not he is lamenting the demonization of gays by the church. Ultimately, like all his ambiguous lyrics, it doesn’t matter.
More brilliant song titles follow, such as “The World is Full of Crashing Bores”, “All the Lazy Dykes”, and “First of the Gang to Die”, the latter of which being one of the best instrumented songs on the album. Let’s face it; Alain Whyte is no Johnny Marr. I’ve been a fan of Johnny Marr, I’ve listened to Johnny Marr’s guitars, and Alain, you are no Johnny Marr. However, it is the best instrumentation that Moz has had since Viva Hate, and that’s saying something.
The last song, “You Know I Couldn’t Last”, is his lament of the record industry, his being dropped from a major label, and his ups and downs in the music business. After hearing the song, one gets the impression that Morrissey, if nothing else has a healthy mistrust of the industry as a whole, and rightly he should with the way he’s been treated. His scorn doesn’t end and begin with the executives; it also touches on the fickle fans and the harsh critics.
Seven years has brought on a lot of changes. From the dot-com booms of Clinton’s presidency to the war-torn economic mess that is Bush’s, Morrissey has been quiet, until now. The crabby uncle of emo has made sure that over that time he hasn’t lost his form. He is still the voice of who Modest Mouse would call “sad sappy suckers” and those of us who counted on Morrissey to be the representative of our innermost sadness, pain, awkwardness, and anger are once again invited to bask in the absurdist poetry of our youth. In his own words, You’re not right in the head and nor am I / and this is why / this is why I like you.