For the release of the third Britney Spears album, Rolling Stone magazine
ran a review that pinpointed exactly the underlying issue of Ms. Spears’ music. Nearly all her of songs are about the difficulties of living in some Britney Spears purgatory between innocence and experience. Poor Britney Spears trapped in a Britney Spears-shaped problem. Morrissey has written himself into the same situation over the run of his post-Smiths solo career. The press is mostly fawning over the return of Mr. Morrissey to the music world. His frankness and, for what its worth, coyness are still a refreshing antidote to the contemporary crop of pop star tarts and exposing rappers. See, he writes lyrics still—words
that mean something. One of the most enduring traits of art is that it
should be used to transform universal qualities in an attempt to share
an insight into a particular pain or joy with a third party. Unfortunately,
Morrissey is using his way with words to complain about how hard the life
of Morrissey can be.
One would expect that after seven years of living in southern California, someone might develop a sunnier disposition. Not so on You Are the Quarry, Morrissey’s “comeback” album after several years. Not much has changed--he is quite content to mine the familiar grey English landscapes (“Come Back To Camden”) and to unravel the perils of romance (“I Like You”). But the listener has been there before, with Moz himself and his followers. Most graciously, he forgives Jesus (“I Have Forgiven Jesus”) for something or other—perhaps for not being more like Morrissey. The songs might mean more if he were even using his own life as an example instead of his self-imposed teenage cloud of gloom. To stay relevant, perhaps write an album about being a forty-something in the world that prizes youth and beauty. Certainly the majority of his fans could appreciate the feelings of increased obsolescence as the birthday candles crowd over the top of the birthday cake. Also, at this stage of his life, he is now outliving his own idols James Dean and Virginia Woolf. Mortality looms on the horizon. For someone who has cultivated his own, and several generations of, shallow naval gazing, the mirror has to swing back around at some point. Stated otherwise, as Rachel pointed out to me: “SPM looks very old and haggard and not the beautiful boy I fell in love with during adolescence”.
Please don’t think me a hater of Morrissey. His songs with the Smiths have been the ones that saved my life, more or less, and seen me through the treacherous territory of being a teenager. The solo career, despite a few good songs, for the most part has missed the yin to the Johnny Marr yang. An ego must be kept in check. Johnny is apparently opposed to a reunion still, which is actually a relief. Did the world need a Pixies reunion? It’s not bad, but is it necessary? Everyone always returns in the second act a bit greyer and a bit fatter. 80s decade appreciation has gone from bands merely emulating their influences to bringing them back on stage. I don’t know about you, but I prefer my sleeping dogs to sleep and ghosts to keep their haunting to a minimum.
The best part of You Are The Quarry is the lead single “Irish Blood, English Heart” which effectively disposes of English politics back to Oliver Cromwell. An outward world view would suit Morrissey if he were to continue writing in this manner. No doubt he can since the man has the smarts and an undeniable way with words. Turn the mirror around—there is a world out there to demolish.
© 2004 Matthew Hintz