Release Date: Feb 17, 2009
Record label: Lost Highway
Genre(s): Rock, Singer-Songwriter
One might imagine that being a Morrissey fan is one long rollercoaster ride of emotions. I mean, we've had to cope with the shock Smiths split, the fall-outs with the NME, the accusations of racism, the LA wilderness years, the triumphant comeback. But, in truth, being a Morrissey fan is a nice, safe, predictable home to come back to after a hard day of listening to varied, innovative music by artists who have that annoying habit of trying to move forward.
The Mozzer makes a preemptive strike against middle-ageOnly a few months shy of his 50th birthday, Morrissey proved just how little he fears acknowledging his aging icon status by recently appearing in promotional shots completely naked, his manhood covered only by a well-placed 7” single. Whether a self-effacing gesture that insulates him against any suggestions that he takes himself too seriously or simply an attempt to prove that his staunch vegetarianism has paid some dividends for his body, that photo certainly fits the tone of Years of Refusal, an album loaded with the anger, lust and audacity of youth, fleeting or not. Reunited with Jerry Finn (the producer of 2004’s well-manicured You Are the Quarry), the Manchester Mope now pushes in the opposite direction, ratcheting up the distortion, muscling up on his vocals, and emphasizing live-in-the-studio energy over overdubbed perfection.
Fans of the Smiths approach each new Morrissey album with a mixture of anticipation and trepidation. We want to love it, but we've been let down often enough to lower our expectations. The last few albums had good glam rock sounds and cheeky Oscar Wilde-ish lyrics but nothing much to chew on. [rssbreak] This time, however, his band has gelled into an effective stadium-rocking outfit, and his dark humour actually seems connected to some real emotion rather than a strategy designed to create some ironic distance.
There is something perversely satisfying in the fact that the famously recalcitrant and quietly rebellious Morrissey would, at an age when most figureheads of rock and pop begin churning out cross-eyed and midlife-crisis’d dreck, routinely release one excellent and engaging record after another. Continuing the roll he’s been on since 2004’s warm, stately You Are the Quarry, Years of Refusal finds the singer doing what he does best -- biting lyrics (i. e.
”Life is nothing much to lose,” Morrissey croons early on his ninth solo album, instantly reassuring legions of pompadoured obsessives that His Excellency, the Mope, still hasn’t turned his perpetual frown upside down. But shrinking violets should stick to the lyric sheet: Years of Refusal is the former Smiths frontman’s hardest-rocking album since 1992’s Your Arsenal. It’s a surprisingly muscular set of punked-up Britpop, spiked with the singer’s still-dripping scorn: ”You don’t like me, but you love me/Either way you’re wrong.” B+ Download This: Listen to the song ”Something Is Squeezing My Skull” on hypem.com .
Morrissey has always attempted to portray himself as the outsider’s outsider. His career and his iconic status have affirmed that it’s been an overwhelmingly successful endeavor. Especially in his native UK, the music press continues to crane its neck in his direction with regularity, like a jock keeping tabs on the misfit kid in the corner who always aces his science project.
Everyone knows something about Morrissey. People who couldn’t name a single song by The Smiths even if you pointed a gun at their head know who he is. Despite his repeated proclamations that fame doesn’t interest him and he just wants to be left alone, Morrissey knows how to play the game better than probably anybody in music except Madonna. He has always courted controversy and has been a fixture of the music press for nearly three decades.
The last time we encountered Morrissey - on record at least - he was indulging in the most unMorrissey-like of activities: getting his leg over in Rome. Song after song on 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors detailed his supposedly newfound discovery of the pleasures of the flesh: "I entered nothing and nothing entered me, 'til you came." If it wasn't exactly Eazy-E's Nutz On Ya Chin, it was still remarkably ribald stuff from rock's most celebrated celibate. You didn't have to be interested in the state of Morrissey's sex life to feel relieved.
Throughout his career, Steven Morrissey has enjoyed a steady, successful catalog of gloomy music. During his unlikely partnership with Johnny Marr, the two helped make The Smiths (no, they aren’t reuniting) one of the most revered bands of the 80s. Alone, he’s also enjoyed a rich solo career that some consider being just as good, if not better, than his output with his erstwhile English bandmates.
"I'm doing very well," croons Morrissey in surging, anti-anti-depressant opener "Someting Is Squeezing My Skull" before confessing: "The motion of taxis excites me. Will you peel it back and bite me?" The sun crashed down on Cromwell's empire long ago, but Morrissey, his iconic baritone now aged into a magnificent, throaty timbre, continues to rise like the proverbial sun. Years of Refusal, his most consistently meaty solo work since 1994's Vauxhall and I, amps up guitarist Boz Boorer's crunch and crackle to near-felonius degrees.
By this point in the long arc of his career, indie-pop icon Morrissey has played quite a few disparate roles for music fans and media alike. He has been the consummate fan-boy, his mythical mid-’70s obsession with proto-punk/glam acts like the New York Dolls and Sparks acting as a blueprint for how his fans, a few years later, would fixate on his every foppish flourish. He has defined the idea of the pop-star-who-is-not-a-pop-star; his wistful romanticism, pervasive loneliness, and fey flailing take on misery making him an artist who spoke directly into the bedrooms of his listeners like few ever have.