How does one introduce Morrissey? By no means am I intending to put the seasoned vocalist on a pedestal of godlike caliber its just that, well, pretty much everything that can be said about the man has already been said, or in this case, written. Rather than waste time with some whimsical anecdote, Ill instead jump right into his latest solo offering, Years of Refusal.
Following up 2006s Ringleader of the Tormentors, this twelve-song effort is Morrisseys ninth solo recording since the disbanding of The Smiths. The album leads off with Something is Squeezing My Skull, a lively two-and-a-half minutes of guitar-centered rock frenzy anchored by Morrisseys dynamic vocal performance. Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed follows, but takes to a different approach. Matt Walker offers a marching beat on his kit while Solomon Walker fuels the march with basslines. Jesse Tobias and Boz Boorer add flourishes of guitar melodies and the oddly discordant solo towards the latter half. Its less lively than the leadoff but still pushes the pace.
From here on out Morrissey and company maintain a hot-and-cold approach to their songwriting. Black Cloud is a haunting guitar centered piece boasting the guitar work of legend Jeff Beck. Meanwhile, single Im Throwing My Arms Around Paris is mid-tempo paced ballad that really gets your singing voice going with its simple yet undeniably infectious chorus. You get the cold again on the soulful You were Good in Your Time which is followed by two rock-based tracks.
Lyrically, Morrissey is on par with his past performances, mainly focusing on the topic of relationships - both in the romantic and the non-romantic. All You Need is Me has a nice series of lines that get me every time I hear them (there is also the crazy vocal inflections at the end of the track that I must have repeated twenty times the first listen):
And you ask me what will I be / When I grow up to be a man / Me? Nothing
Further evidence of his lyrical prowess is showcased in Sorry Doesnt Help:
Forced back, it springs right out / Seasoned, you have no doubts / You lied about the lies you told / Which is the full extent of what being you is all about / You say Oh please forgive / You say Oh, live and let live / But sorry doesnt help us.
For all its strengths, Years of Refusal does have its lesser moments. When Last I Spoke to Carol has a Carlos Santana-esque vibe going oh. I was half expecting Rob Thomas to jump in and sing a verse or two. Its Not Your Birthday is a quirky number. And in spite of Morrisseys vocal performance, the lyrics come off a bit campy.
All in all, Years of Refusal wraps up in top form though. Sorry Doesnt Help and Im OK by Myself are not only stellar vocal performances, but musically the backing band demonstrate that they are to be just as commended as their vocal counterpart.
Years of Refusal proves itself to be quite an outstanding album. Fans of Morrisseys previous output will obviously be satisfied with what is offered. I myself consider this to be his best work since his first two solo recordings - though still sub par compared to The Smiths. Meanwhile, new found discoverers of one of the most influential artists ever will find an enticing and thought-provoking listening experience, something that will hopefully allow them to delve deeper into the back catalog of Morrissey.
8.0 / 10
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