Morrissey’s ninth solo album is one of those collections that leaked in fits and starts via live performances and singles and the like that by the time we took it in from “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” through “I’m OK By Myself” it already felt fairly familiar. For instance, a few months ago, we got that aforementioned skull-squeezing opening track along with “Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed” live at La Laiterie in Strasbourg, France. There were also various versions of “That’s How People Grow Up,” All You Need Is Me,” and just before the New Year, “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris.” The bigger trick was figuring out the proper sequence and over analyzing the album art. All that said, we’ve now listened to Moz’s Ringleader Of The Tormentors followup enough times to weigh in on it as a whole.
We’re unsure what Morrissey’s been refusing to do all these years, but the dozen tracks don’t suggest too much change: We still get the man pining and punning, showcasing his soft and razorsharp sides, and hooking us in with his drama. By and large, Years is an upbeat, concise collection. In fact, a number of the first eight songs are under (or just above) three minutes. It’s the last four songs that are the longest. At their best, these lengthier songs create an epic feeling for the finale, but in the case of the dragging “You Were Good In Your Time,” they can also diminish the punch.
For the most, Morrissey’s performances are enjoyable — he over enunciates, chatters, hooks us in, swoons. A perfect example if the excellent opener “Something Is Squeezing,” wherein he lets us know “there is no hope in modern life,” but that “the motion of taxis excites me.” Well, the motion of this song excites us, especially how it explodes with a drum-roll build and background “hey”‘s at the finale. Fuck yes, take a bow.
Not all the songs have such an invigorating kick: “Black Cloud” is decent, but just decent. We could analyze some other lesser bits, but actually, the best songs are the ones we’ve heard: The lovely “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” the energetic, cheeky “All You Need Is Me,” “That’s How People Grow Up,” “Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed” and its weird fart synth. Across the board, the wordplay isn’t always as tight as it once was, but he seems like he isn’t trying as hard to cram so much into the sentences, so this isn’t necessarily a bad thing: It feels like the ease of age. Morrissey 2009 isn’t always as exciting as the Morrissey of old, but despite his focus on mortality and aging the time around, the guy is far from dead. Good thing, he has that baby to raise.
Years Of Refusal is out 2/17 on Attack/Lost Highway. You can see him in person soon, too.