THE MOZ REMAINS THE SAME - 'Years of Refusal' by Morrissey
Kelly Wiles - Featured Writer
“Disappointment came to me and booted me and bruised and hurt me,” Morrissey sings, “But that’s how people grow up.”
No, he does not sing these lyrics on 1986’s The Queen is Dead or 1990’s Bona Drag; he sings them on “Something Is Squeezing My Skull,” track one of 2009’s Years of Refusal. The beauty of present-day Morrissey is that his worldview has not changed since he was a teenager back in ’70s Manchester. Over the course of his twenty-plus years in the music business, Morrissey’s song — his clever and gloomy song — has remained the same.
When he was twenty, Morrissey and his literate lyrics were steeped in a world-weary wisdom that belonged to someone older — someone who had been kicked around for a bunch of decades. Back then, he was ahead of his time. Now he is older, a bunch of decades have passed, and looking out from the cover of Years of Refusal, with patches of gray along his temples and someone’s baby clutched in an arm, he finally seems to have reached the age of enlightenment that he’s been singing about all these years…which actually must be a bit of a cruel joke for him. Morrissey’s point, all along, has been that there is no such thing as enlightenment, that the only enlightened part of existence comes in the form of a soul-mate, and once they leave you, you’re screwed and back to the lonely and juvenile confusion of square one.
If you were expecting progress in the existing-in-this-terrible-world department, then don’t hold your breath; Morrissey’s quest for enlightenment on his latest release is just as unclear as it has always been. However, there is one thing that Years of Refusal makes abundantly clear: those searing and feisty vocals have always been at their best when backed by equally searing and feisty instrumentals. From the opening track — the driving drums and guitar attack of “Something is Squeezing my Skull” — it’s obvious that Years of Refusal is going to be an album full of Morrissey surrendering to the kind of musical accompaniment that make his prophetic lyrics pop and shock the way they should.
Aside from the slight mariachi infusion during “When Last I Spoke To Carol,” Years of Refusaldoes not find Morrissey veering much from the straightforward alternative pop/rock that he’s always done. He does not cover new musical ground, and Years of Refusal is a reminder as to why that is a good thing. Morrissey does not need to waste his time making clever attempts at new musical ground. His lyrics and ideas have always been clever enough to do it for him.
Years of Refusal is classic Moz, and thus a song-by-song analysis of the album is pointless. For those who don’t know what classic Moz means, here’s a definition: when that lonesome, ageless tenor wails things like “When I die I want to go to hell,” or “Surely the hand contains a knife,” you’ll feel torn between chuckling to yourself and curling up and crying like you want to die, but either way, you’ll keep listening.
Morrissey is launching the US leg of his world tour at the end of February and is headlining this year’s Coachella.