17 February 2009

Morrissey: “Years of Refusal”

Morrissey is one of the veterans of music that you either love or hate, sometimes even both simultaneously. From his days in the Smiths to treading the industry as a solo artist, one thing that can be said about Morrissey is that he has produced everything with dignity and pride of craft. Morrissey’s ninth solo album (released 17 February 2009 in the USA) is no exception and comes as an amazing surprise. Perhaps his best work since “Vauxhall and I” (1994), this album has the classic feel of Morrissey at his best, while coupled with a newfound sense of urgency.

“Years of Refusal” does not lack Oscar Wilde moments: “You hiss and groan and you constantly moan, but you don’t ever go away; that’s because all you need is me.” (“All You Need Is Me”) Touchingly, moments of vulnerability: “The one I love is standing near, the one I love is everywhere, and I can woe you, I can amuse you, but there is nothing I can do to make you mine.” (“Black Could”) And even the maturity and wisdom that comes with age and experience: “After all these years, I find I’m okay by myself, and I don’t need you or your homespun philosophy…” (“I’m OK by Myself”) Though the lyrical themes are constantly shifting, what is consistent in all the vocals is that Morrissey sells these lyrics for all they're worth.

Musically, the album is not a big departure from what we would expect from Morrissey; however, there is a sense of urgency that I have not heard since his earlier solo or Smiths career. Returning to the producer of "You Are the Quarry" (2004), “Years of Refusal” has been infused with a straight-out rock feel, with no attempts of production gimmicks (not that I think Morrissey would condone them). What the listener receives is a raw Morrissey, with scathing lyrics, not fettered down by trying to be something that it is not. This could very well be Morrissey at his best.

With a cheeky title of “Years of Refusal,” the cover art is a photograph of Morrissey carrying a baby. Could this be Morrissey’s clue that to understand all these years of refusing one most go back to the nascent moments? To understand all of these years of refusal, one must go back to the beginning? Or could this be a symbol of new life, something that this album could infuse into the direction Morrissey will take from this moment on in his career? Or, why not, even both ideas at once? Morrissey is a clever one, “with a big nose who knows,” and he proves it on this witty, shrewdly written album.

Track Listing:
1. Something Is Squeezing My Skull
2. Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed
3. Black Cloud
4. I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris
5. All You Need Is Me
6. When Last I Spoke to Carol
7. That’s How People Grow Up
8. One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell
9. It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore
10. You Were Good in Your Time
11. Sorry Doesn’t Help
12. I’m OK by Myself

iTunres US Bonus Tracks:
13. Because of My Poor Education
14. Shame Is the Name

Special Edition DVD:
1. Wrestle with Russell
2. That’s How People Grow Up – Live
3. All You Need Is Me – Live
4. All You Need Is Me – Video

Check out Morrissey on his homepage. You can also find him at the Universal Music Group channel on YouTube. Here is the link to official provider’s posting of the video for “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris.”