Not long ago, I marked my worry that Morrissey's new material was rushing back into already worn grooves, and that we could already see the reinvigorated crooner settling back into blase habits. This was based on his performance of "That's How People Grow Up" on Letterman, a strange appearance that, at the time, wasn't really promoting much of anything.
With the release of "Grow Up" as a single imminent, and the Greatest Hits that will carry it and other newbie "All You Need is Me" following shortly after, it's time to reassess. Of course, these tracks have already leaked all over the internet, and I have placed my ear to the railroad tracks to hear these early rumblings.
On first blush, Christopher (who seemingly ceased functioning last September) asked me what I thought, and I said I was nonplussed. Since then, I have had my quality headphone time, and I will say now that I am at least sonically impressed. There is some great noise going on in both tracks. That big chunky bass in "All You Need is Me" in particular will rattle your skull, and both songs carry frontal-assault guitar riffs that suggest that even if Moz were to fall back on a pillow and massage his derriere, his band is going to keep the hammer down. Likewise, semi-protege Kristeen Young's industrial drill warbling at the start of "Grow Up" is like a clarion call, or perhaps a gauntlet being thrown down to the BBC, whom Moz has criticized for not playing previous singles. Some fans have complained, but I say this is the banshee from "November Spawned a Monster" returning for vengeance. "Do you have the guts to give me a spin?"
There is no way around how similar these two tracks sound to one another. They also have share lyrical concerns, focusing on the nostalgia of youth and the selfishness of oncoming death, which seems to be Morrissey's primary concern since the last album. "All You Need is Me" has the added social commentary on the current celebrity obsessed culture, our man amusingly declaring his own importance while smacking us across the face for going along with it when there is so much more going on around us.
In rethinking these songs today, I realized that I must contextualize them as part of a greater tradition in the Smiths/Morrissey legacy. Both in his old band and throughout his solo career, he has always released one-off singles as vinyl save-the-date cards for whatever more realized work was around the corner. Granted, most of those 45s have gone on to become classics, but let's not forget that "Shakespeare's Sister" was much maligned on its release, causing the Smiths to think the record buying public had lost all sense of taste in much the same way Pete Townshend felt they had when they failed to properly celebrate "I Can See For Miles." History may prove me wrong.
Then again, I still fear the Morrissey curse of threes: good album followed by better album followed by mediocre. Viva Hate begat Bona Drag begat Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal begat Vauxhall and I begat Southpaw Grammar, You are the Quarry begat Ringleader of the Tormentors begat...???
Current Soundtrack: the songs in question; Strangeways, Here We Come
Current Mood: meditative
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All text (c) 2008 Jamie S. Rich