Early this year, Morrissey released a new album, Years of Refusal. Coming three years after his last major release, the album received much critical acclaim and, I think, should be on everyone’s best of 2009 list.
Last month, not too long after Years of Refusal came out, Morrissey also turned 50. But days after reaching that milestone came the news that he was canceling several concerts that he was supposed to play in the coming weeks because he was ill. While one hopes that Moz (as fans call him) will bounce back, with all that news of Morrissey, I couldn’t help writing about the man and his music.
Morrissey made a mark in the 1980s with his erstwhile British alternative rock band The Smiths, which lasted for all of five years, before going on the build a stellar solo career.
Morrissey’s highly literate, darkly cynical lyrics found big fans in England and, then, in the US, where he is now based. I would rate Years of Refusal as his best album since 1992. It is a punchy, muscular, rock album that has great appeal even if you aren’t a big fan of Morrissey (that means you don’t have to pay attention to the lyrics).
In case you are a big Morrissey fan, then the lyrics won’t disappoint you. He is at his cynical best, occasionally turning his wit to himself and to middle age.
His songs on love and relationships are complicated, much like in his own personal life. And, even after all these years, his introspection doesn’t seem weary.
I would say Years of Refusal is an essential album for Morrissey fans and should belong on the CD rack alongside Your Arsenal (1992) and You are the Quarry (2004). You can safely forget about the stuff he released between 1992 and 2004 when his career path had all but headed into oblivion. With Your Arsenal, came the resurrection and the latest album reinforces that comeback.
It’s not just Morrissey’s music that gives him the huge fan following that he has—in the US as well as in England and elsewhere in the world—it is also everything surrounding the man. His one-liners and quotable quotes, the mystery surrounding his sexuality (is he gay? Is he hetero? Or is he, as he says, celibate?) and his forthright comments about what he likes or dislikes, particularly of other musicians.
Many, many people have followed Morrissey. One of them, Girl In A Coma (I’ve mentioned them before) is American all-woman band that have named themselves after the Smiths’ song, Girlfriend In A Coma.
Another American band, My Chemical Romance, sometimes classified as punk revivalists (check out their dark concept album, The Black Parade), also has deep influences of Morrissey, The Smiths and even The Cure, although I’m not sure what Morrissey would have to say to that considering the fact that he once called The Cure’s Robert Smith a “whingebag”.
Besides these new-ish bands, if you like Morrissey, you could also check out a Swedish singer called Håkan Hellström who is also strongly inspired by Morrissey and The Smiths. Although the songs I heard were all in Swedish, I couldn’t help but notice the influence of Morrissey’s style on Hellström.
Of course, nothing’s as good as the real thing. Years of Refusal has been doing heavy duty on my iPod and looks like it’s going to be there for a while.
Recently, while browsing the NME website, I came across a slide show of 50 quotes of Morrissey—some self-deprecating, some downright rude, some deliciously cynical but all of them hugely entertaining.
Worth a read…
Listen to some ‘Virtual tracks’: