Morrissey – Low in High School review
As a shy wallflower parsing the meaning of every gesture around him, Morrissey’s charm was always his mixture of shrewdness and insecurity. Lately, however, his conviction he’s always right has proved his undoing: jingoistic statements, insensitive pronouncements, his autobiography’s excruciating final third.
“For many – especially those growing up with The Smiths’ songs as comfort blankets – the fear that he’ll stick a jackbooted foot into his mouth has become greater each year. It’s as though his sense of his own importance has replaced any vulnerability.” – Wyndham Wallace
His 11th album, which goes in hard with massive opener My Love I’d Do Anything For You, initially does nothing to assuage these concerns. Reflecting the sentiments of the relatively understated, playful single, Spent The Day In Bed – which advised “I recommend you stop watching the news” – it starts with a heavy metal riff, rolling kettle drum, and an instruction: “Teach your kids to recognise and despise all the propaganda/ Filtered down by the dead echelon’s mainstream media”.
Whatever your opinion of such verbose, Trump-ish sentiments, though, this heavy-footed glam stomp is unquestionably thrilling. It’s typical of a record as subtle as the album’s gauche cover, but one that’s nevertheless frequently powerful.
For every graceless clunker – “Everything I know deserts me now/ When you open your legs” (from the Eastern-flavoured When You Open Your Legs) or “The land weeps oil/ What do you think all these armies are for?” (from The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel, which is, seriously, a tango) – there’s a gem, like I Bury The Living’s loaded, multi-layered portrait of war’s hypocrisies.
Even his bitterness is pointed: “I’ve wined and I’ve dined,” he gripes on Home Is A Question Mark, “with every bogus music mogul”, but the song’s immensity demands this brazen delivery, even allowing him to bellow, “Wrap your legs around my face just to greet me”.
He closes with Israel, its lyrical implications inscrutable – “Should you dare enjoy your body/ Here tolls Hades’ welcome bell/ Israel” – but its tinkling piano line, military snares and vivid violin line are evidence of a musically revived Morrissey. Bigmouth’s struck again. Sometimes, he’s still worth our time.