The Return Of The Melodic Rebel



It hasn’t yet been a year since Morrissey’s (or, if you would like his full name, Stephen Patrick Morrissey’s) tome, Autobiography, was published by Penguin as a ‘classic’ imprint – that itself created a flutter in the more uptight echelons of the book world (you know, critics and publishers and the legions of related know-it-alls) – but it’s been five years since he released his last solo album, Years of Refusal. So, when I heard about his tenth solo album, World Peace Is None of Your Business, I couldn’t wait to grab a listen. The album was released on July 15, but days before that, NPR came to the rescue, streaming it in full for a first listen.


Morrissey’s debut in Britain’s post-punk era was as part of the short-lived Manchester band, The Smiths. And although that band lasted from 1982 to 1987, it quickly spawned an ever-growing cult of followers. As the band’s lead singer and lyricist, his songs and views often flirted with controversy and he proudly wore his politics on his chest. His stance on issues such as the British monarchy, immigration, vegetarianism, Thatcher and Bush and Hillary Clinton has always managed to polarise people. Those who love him are devout loyalists; those who don’t, deride him for his self-righteousness and acute intellectual snobbery.

WATCH: Everyday Is Like Sunday

It was after The Smiths broke up (there was controversy there as well: a falling out with guitarist Johnny Marr and an acrimonious legal wrangling with drummer Mike Joyce), that Morrissey, now 55, actually came into his own – with a splendid solo career that is still in full flow. Besides enjoying Morrissey’s music – his vocal style (a baritone that transforms effortlessly into higher pitches, falsetto even) and his lyrics (always provocative, often ironic) – there’s a certain quirky something about listening to music by a man who’s as old as you, almost to the date! My younger Morrissey-loving friends literally worship him for his rebellious views and his ability to shock with finesse. I like those things about him but there’s also a certain P2P connect that I have  that, courtesy an accident of birth, those chaps aren’t likely to get.

WATCH: There Is Light That Never Goes Out

Morrissey’s new album is a set of 12 songs beginning with the title track, World Peace Is None Of Your Business, a strongly political number that derides people who vote because they do so for a system and political processes that don’t work for them or ones that they cannot change. Morrissey name-checks Ukraine and Egypt and Brazil and Bahrain and delivers a satire that is remarkably sweet musically. That’s quintessential Morrissey, though. He almost always manages to be a melodic rebel, not needing to snarl or growl and yet delivering a high-powered punch in the solar plexus. It’s like one of those thin but exceedingly sharp blades that you don’t realise you’ve been cut with till after it’s actually slashed you.

A light that never goes out: Morrissey almost always manages to be a melodic rebel, delivering a high-powered punch in the solar plexus

A light that never goes out: Morrissey almost always manages to be a melodic rebel, delivering a high-powered punch in the solar plexus.

On The Bullfighter Dies, an ode to animal rights, it’s the bull’s survival that is, expectedly, lauded and not the death of its provocateur. And on I’m Not A Man, Morrissey’s oft-revealed misanthropy surfaces again as he clobbers the stereotype of the male as a jock. On World Peace, there are surprise turnouts as on Neal Cassady Drops Dead. Cassady was a prominent 1950s Beat generation figure and long-time lover of poet Allen Ginsberg and on the track Morrissey sings about Ginsberg mourning his death. Another song, Staircase At The University, points at the parental pressures to achieve that leads a young girl to leap to her death, but not without some of his characteristic satire and mockery… aimed at the girl.

A classic case: Morrissey’s Autobiography published as a “classic” imprint had created a flutter in the more uptight echelons of the book world.

A classic case: Morrissey’s Autobiography published as a “classic” imprint had created a flutter in the more uptight echelons of the book world.

I like most of Morrissey’s albums and over the years, I’ve got some that are my favourites: his first solo, Viva Hate (1988), of course; but also Vauxhall and I (1994), which I think is his best and many Morrissey fans may agree. Just listen to The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get on that album and you’ll see what I’m talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FCj_C-Yb3xI is an album of songs with back stories and references, to films, to parodies of British TV shows and so on, but delving into that is better left to die-hard devotees of Mozza (as he is known to his fans; he’s also known as Moz; or, the one I like best, as the Pope of Mope!).

Getting back to World Peace, it’s not an album that I’d recommend to those who aren’t familiar with Morrissey’s music but it could be part of a nice trifecta that you can put together for a weekend: Viva Hate, Vauxhall and I and the new album.

Download Central appears every fortnight
1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (3 votes, average: 4.67 out of 5)
Loading ... Loading ...