Morrissey – Low In High School
It’s hard work being a Morrissey fan. From the early heady days of his solo career when the first tour was worthy of an MTV special to the genius first few albums (apart from Kill Uncle obviously), right up to 2004’s “comeback” of sorts You Are the Quarry, you were always assured of something close to brilliant with a hint of the ridiculous.
Then came the very average Ringleader of the Tormentors, the really bad Years of Refusal and the debacle of 2014’s World Peace Is None Of Your Business.
With Stephen getting older and even grumpier, isolated as he is high in the Hollywood hills, all he has to do these days is pop up once every three or four years, say something vaguely racist, release an album on yet another label with whom he will soon fall out, cancel most of a world tour and head back home to ruminate from a massive distance on shitty England, corruption and….oh look, Israel.
Since hitting his 40s, Morrissey has gradually become more and more bitter. Call me cynical but the pop star in him saw the potential behind the media-led fake outrage over “National Front Disco” all those years ago and has expertly bottled controversy to order.
It’s not easy for an old man in the years of the Twitter cesspit but he can still make headlines. For Low In High School he suggested that a leadership battle for England’s UKIP party (nothing vague about their racism, main force behind not at all racist Brexit) was biased against a candidate because she is “openly” anti-Islam.
Consider that to be the opening statement for Low In High School. Old Morrissey has often been a bit mean, sometimes seriously bitter and nasty. Take “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores”:
It’s just more lock-jawed pop-stars
Thicker than pig-shit
Nothing to convey
So scared to show intelligence
It might smear their lovely career
Fair point Moz. However:
Lamenting policewomen, policemen
Silly women, taxmen, uniformed whores
They who wish to hurt you
Work within the law
Aw bless, poor Morrissey has to pay taxes and abide by the law.
And so to “I Bury the Living” on which he claims that all soldiers too are thick as pig-shit and driven by “the hatred of all human life.”
You can’t blame me
I’m just an innocent soldier
There would be no war
If not for me
I’m just a sweet little soldier
No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no
You can’t blame me
I’m just an innocent soldier
Give me an order!
I’ll blow up a border
And I’ll blow up your daughter
Oh sweet Jesus.
It gets worse on the closing track “Israel” on which you have to think: Hold on, is he just taking the piss? Possibly. I love the Cranberries, warts and all but not since Dolly O’Cranberry lamented on “Sarajevo” that “Bosnia was so unkind” but not to worry because “things would change if we really wanted them to” has there been such a crass take on such an important issue. At least Dolores meant well. Not Morrissey:
And they who reign abuse upon you
They are jealous of you as well
Love yourself as you should
That’s it. Hamas is jealous of Israel. Jealous! If only someone had had a word with the IRA a few decades earlier, Ireland would be a different country.
With their tanks and their bombs and their bombs and their guns indeed.
Despite all this, as Morrissey does, there are some genuinely brilliant songs on Low In High School. The lead track “Spent the Day In Bed” is not one of them. If you can get over or ignore the lyrics, “I Bury the Living” is classic Morrissey stomping genius.
“All the Young People Must Fall In Love” is quite genuinely one of the best Moz songs in years. It’s playful, sweet and quietly scathing:
They say presidents come, presidents go
But all the young people they must fall in love
All the young people they must fall in love
Presidents come, presidents go
And oh look at the damage they do
On “Who Will Protect Us From the Police,” Moz does his Moz thing – funny, simple, relevant, biting and playing right into his audience’s middle aged hands.
“Low In High School” is not in any way a bad album. In fact it’s very possibly his best since You Are the Quarry. However, the bitterness leaves a nasty taste in the mouth. He’s not some thin, beautiful whipper-snapper anymore. The petty, adolescent bullshit is 30 years old. Grow up old man.
Fans will want to get the album now before he cancels his world tour and falls out with BMG which will then delete it. Give it six weeks.
If like me you love the very concept of Morrissey you will love this album.
It’s just a shame he has to be such a dick about it.
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