AND HE STOLE ALL HEARTS AWAY
Okay, I got this ready faster than I thought I would. Note that it was mainly written as I listened, just jotting down the thoughts as the album rolled by--though, truthfully, probably the tenth or so time I've listened to it since yesterday.
"America Is Not The World": What's this? An intro that sounds exactly like Primal Scream's cover of "Slip Inside This House" and Moz telling me to shove a hamburger up my ass? Where the hell am I? Actually, though those things are true, this isn't a bad track. A bit lackluster for us to open with, and the politics are muddled and a tad ham fisted--but not awful (not, say, "Sorrow Will Come In The End," still the lowest of the low). "Meat Is Murder" was always a tricky bit of business. The message was pretty straightforward, but abstract enough to make it work; whereas the currently unreleased "Mexico" was a little too clumsy in its open-faced opinions. "America Is Not the World" falls somewhere in the middle, and I imagine if it had the rough delivery of a James Dean Bradfield or the shout of a Joe Strummer, it might work. But as presented, it's a bit limp. Unlike, say...
"Irish Blood, English Heart": ...which, as noted in an earlier post, has a backing track with a lot of drive, and the message gets propelled by the force of it--or, if one doesn't want to care about Labour or Tories, then they have a pop song to shuffle mindlessly to. This is where "America Is Not The World" fails: as a song in general, it's basically mediocre. "Irish Blood" is where You Are The Quarry starts good and proper.
"I Have Forgiven Jesus": There is a good sense of humor at work here that shouldn't be missed. In some ways, it's the sort of woe-is-me Morrissey number that gets him labeled as this dour, wilting flower. But you have to see the wink in a song sung to Jesus about how our narrator has come to terms with the fact that our creator didn't make us better. Nice organ flourishes balance out the tired device of counting off the days of the week, and the final minute where everything climbs to a big racket ("do you hate me? do you hate me?") isn't to be missed.
"I'm Not Sorry": Jethro Tull can burn in hell. There's a goddamn flute on this! And, okay, I'll admit, it's actually all right. I mean, Tarantino proved Zamfir even has a good song, right? Another long narrative and a nice companion piece to "Camden."
"The World Is Full of Crashing Bores": And Morrissey's mouth is full of long titles. This was always a bit eh on the live recordings that floated around, but Moz and producer Jerry Finn seemed to have found the lilting melody, tossing in the random piano, layered arrangements (a hint of strings?), and suddenly I can feel the acolytes sweaty and packed in, swaying in unison, declaring they, too, are boring. Morrissey's final refrain of "take me in your arms and love me" is full of honest romantic longing, and the little outro tacked on the back is quite cool.
"How Can Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel": Even if I can dig the sentiment, this isn't Morrissey's best lyric. It's a lot of "if you think this positive thing, then you must be this negative thing," and in the end, I'd almost tag it as a B-level Kill Uncle track. Not all bad, though. There is a neat call-and-response bit near the end of the third quarter, and it has one of those chugging train guitar riffs that Boorer and Whyte are particularly good at.
"First of the Gang To Die": Morrissey film noir. The obvious single, and where Finn's crystalline production really comes through. I can hear every guitar noodle, the drums rattle the cages, and the backing vocals on the chorus are rock 'n' roll heaven. The tune has always been great, but the chorus now has an excellent chant-along feel, like a leather boy anthem. And when Morrissey sings his "You have never been in love" lines, I get that gorgeous heart swell that I should get when I hear pop music. A good pop song should make you get the chills of puppy love. And you can never hate a Mozzington "a-hey a-hey." Even Buddy Holly is jealous.
"Let Me Kiss You": This was also recorded by Nancy Sinatra, and is intended to be her single, unless I'm mixed up. It's like a section of "Late Nite, Maudlin Street" recast as a come-on ballad. There is a bit of a dance shuffle to the beat, and maybe my favorite piano line on the album. Not the best, but I wouldn't kick it out of bed.
"All The Lazy Dykes": Brett Anderson sold his "bored housewife" concept on eBay, and Moz bought it. He's added a whole "you're really gay" element to it, but I worry about any lesbian song that has imagery like "indigo burns on your arms." It's like Stan from South Park mishearing what CD he should buy to be a gay woman. Okay, I'm being cheeky, because I like this song. There is a nice ambience to it, electro squiggles rolling around behind acoustic guitars. There is longing and self-doubt, an element of alluring danger (the gang from "Asian Rut" now lesbians trying to pull you into their world). If nothing else, it proves he still has a knack for narratives from the outside looking in. But he should have called it "Sappho Spawned A Monster."
"I Like You": This song used to be a silly wimp, but I think it's been working out. Garage band drumming, Casio keyboards, and a new Moz who is going to be forceful about how he feels. Gene's "Fighting Fit" dressed up in a cardigan, but still ready to get it on; Roddy Frame-style mixed metaphors of politics and love. "You're not right in the head, and nor am I, and this is why" also ends up making the "How Could Anyone..." lyrical "you love me, you must be crazy" approach seem all the more clumsy. (And hey, for the record, I like you too, you big lug. Shucks.)
"You Know I Couldn't Last": I'm a little done with Morrissey taking on his critics. He doesn't need to, obviously, and he did it so well on "Speedway," the cap is on. But...damnit, this is really good. The soft singing over the piano makes it feel like he's pulling me aside to confide in me, like the idol in "Paint a Vulgar Picture" has grabbed the fan and showed him the other side, the loneliness and the exploitation. When the chorus kicks in, the loud guitars going mad, and the wails of "Please take me home," I'm compelled to utter, "Okay...you don't mind a futon, do you?" Whereas "America Is Not The World" started us off on a near bum note, "You Know I Couldn't Last" takes us out on a high. The lights are on in the arena--Morrissey reaches out, we reach back. Good night, and thank you.
(Let's consider for a moment how good Morrissey is at ending an album: "Margaret On the Guillotine," "Tomorrow," "Speedway," and "Satan Rejected My Soul" more than make up for "Tony the Pony" and "Southpaw.")
Current Soundtrack: Uh...duh.