18 February 2009

Still refusing after all these years

Read about how much I love the new Morrissey album (as originally posted on Crawdaddy):

More has probably been written about Morrissey’s public persona than his music. While the two are inextricably enmeshed, there is just something uniquely fascinating about an ambiguously sexual, unabashedly British, gladiola-loving 49-year-old (!) loner. He remains a paradox. His lyrics let us know he’s painfully alone, while his boastful croon let’s us know he’s confident—awesomely, arrogantly confident.

At this point in his career, it’s easy to accuse him of self-parody. Anytime a dude who is almost as old as my dad sings about how “Nobody Wants My Love,” like he does on the lead single “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris,” I become a little incredulous.

But let’s not play the authenticity card here. That would detract from the real issue at hand: relevance. As long as there are 16-year-old kids alone in their bedrooms lamenting their lack of a prom date, Pretty in Pink style... as long as there are shy collegiate girls in cardigans studying their weekends away in library basements... as long as there is someone out there feeling remotely inadequate... this guy will be relevant. Morrissey’s career endures because our personal lives do not.

His recent millennial career resurgence continues with Years of Refusal. His vocal prowess is stronger than it’s ever been, and his backing musicians sound less and less like a Smiths tribute band and are coming into something of their own as well. This translates to an even higher, and more paradoxical, level of confidence. For the most part, the album is composed of tight bursts of catchy rock songs with the lyrical quips we’ve come to rely on for over the past 20 years. And chances are, fans will fall for these battle cries of confident loner-ism all over again.

Years has got him dizzied up in a fiery black cloud. The rampage of “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” and the spaghetti Western pizzazz of “When I Last Spoke to Carol” suggest Morrissey-the-persona is beyond pissed per usual at the trappings of his loner status. For “there is no love in modern life, it’s amazing I’ve made it this far” he dramatically declares. There’s no doubt that tried and true fans will eat this shit up.

But before you know it, three tracks later, what do you know, surprise, surprise (that’s sarcasm folks), Moz is reveling in his self-imposed exile, throwing his arms around Paris with flamboyant aplomb. For only “stone and steel accept [his] love.” Later, on the album closer, he tauntingly sings, “I’m okay by myself / And I don’t need you or your morality to save me.” But whom he’s taunting remains unclear. The joke, however, is probably on all of us. After all, Morrissey has made a career invoking our insecurities, while simultaneously relying on that audience to elevate his existence to living sainthood. With an artist and audience so inextricably linked, no one is okay alone. So he’s not stopping now. He won’t. He can’t. Not when all we need is him.

One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell - Morrissey

No comments: