By Bryony Holdsworth
“Morrissey fans are about to give up on him- Johnny Marr, please stage an intervention”, reads one critical review. The subject: Morrissey’s most recent politically controversial outburst- conspiracy theories and the ‘scandal’ of the UKIP leadership contest. Both are topics to be avidly avoided by any sane individual, let alone a prominent public figure. The eleventh studio album by the former Smiths frontman appears to be an extension of this public alienation, and it doesn’t look like he’ll be back anytime soon.
‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage’ is by far the best track of the album, his distinguished vocals empowered by the clashing of drums and rolling guitar solos. His voice lifts in the chorus: “She is determined to prove how she can fill up the page / Of every lost and lonely day”, tackling the confliction of fame and individual identity. It’s also a rare emblem on the album due to the fact it strays away from any radicalised political agenda.
The album’s signature track ‘Spent the Day in Bed’ opens with a jaunty piano ballad and flourishes into an electronic haven. It would be quite an enjoyable number if it weren’t for the lyrical misplacements: “Stop watching the news / Because the news contrives to frighten you”, which falls flat in the ‘fake news’ climate of the Trump era. ‘All the Young People Must Fall in Love’ solidifies youthful activism, ending with a rallying chant and a playful acoustic accompaniment. Its joviality is refreshing amongst the noisy production of the rest of the album, each track splattered with noise and corrosive feedback.
The LP is clearly trying to be revolutionary, but Morrissey seems caught between a liberal agenda and the need to be a controversial figurehead. The lyricism is painfully superficial, each track flitting back and forth between a number of newsworthy headlines: the monarchy, modern warfare, nuclear war, consumerism, Israel, police brutality, and finally, the Arab Spring. This sporadic list amounts to a life of solitude, to a former activist now tucked away in a Hollywood mansion, clawing at relevancy.