Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Random ravings and the Mozfather

Listening to Rufus Wainwright while doing my French homework earlier, it occured that maybe I should write up a review of his wonderful debut album. Now, I have to admit that his sophomore effort, "Poses" transcends everything he's ever done. And I also have to admit that it also probably transcends my vocabulary and writing skills, so I'm leaving it alone for a while. His 1998 self-titled, on the other hand, is something I can handle. And hopefully will, so expect a write-up in the next few days. Perhaps depends how it goes.

I've just started a first draft of the review, and I came across another album review that I wrote back in 2004 for Morrissey's "You Are The Quary". Reading over it is slightly embarressing, I tended to quote a length from the songs without actually saying too much about them and I also employed the skull-wrecking song-by-song approach, while just looks amateur. But I'm giving the album another whirl and therefore I feel I should post the review here.

Morrissey, "You Are The Quarry"

Just who is Steven Patrick Morrissey? The skinny intellectual from Manchester who yelped and writhed his way onto Top Of The Pops? Or the lonely awkward fanboy, who spent his teenage years holed up in his room idolising the New York Dolls and James Dean? Perhaps the self-proclaimed prophet of the fourth gender, a twisted sex symbol who promoted vegetarianism and celebricy? How about a semi-racist ageing gentleman, residing in sunny LA and having misinformed views on immigrants..? The actual fact of the matter is Morrissey is all these things and more. And we get one step closed to revealing the secrets of the man himself with the release of his 2004 album, You Are The Quarry. I was curious about this record, it being my first venture into the foray of
"solo-moz". It also sports a rather dubious front cover, with the man dressed rather dapperly in a pinstriped suit brandishing a Thompson sub-machine gun against a red curtain background. I brought it home apprehensively and slid it into the cd player.

It opens with almost a backbeat, then a twirling guitar chord and then in comes that voice, deep and fragile, instantly assuming the know-it-all tone we all love, the authorian beauty intoning that America...your head's too big, because America...your belly's too big. He continues to request (in his polite, English way) that America shove their hamburgers where the sun don't shine. The track, named America Is Not The World, is a scathing attack at the most powerful country in the world. However, it ends with Morrissey (who now lives in America) repeating I love you. It's not the best song he has ever penned, but it does its job well.

Next up is the instantly recognisable juttering guitar of the single Irish Blood English Heart. The vocal starts out almost as a whisper but rises to a glorious call to arms. Altogether now "I've been dreaming of a time when the English are sick to death of Labour, and Tories and spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell ". One of the rockiest tracks here, the rousing chorus and layered guitar work make it an excellent choice for his first single.

The next song is the controversially titled I Have Forgiven Jesus. The starting keyboard is reminiscent of Beck's version of Everybody's Got To Learn Sometime, but this illusion is shattered when Morrissey comes in what seems like far too early. He pleads slightly at the start, reminding God how he was a good boy. He scorns the Almighty for deserting him and giving him so much love with no one to share the love with. It contains one of the funniest lyrics on the album, the Craig David style Monday: humiliation, Tuesday: Suffocation, Wednesday: Condescension, Thursday.... is pathetic.

Come Back To Camden is the next track, and one of my favourites on the album. It features a piano and one of Morrissey's best vocal performance. He implores a nameless person to come back, he pleads from the bottom of his heart. The lyrics paint a quaint view of England "Where taxi drivers never stop talking, under slate gray Victorian skies" and it is beautifully sad. He is not sarcastic, or scathing, merely talking from the heart. And it suits him. Wonderful.

The next one took a while to grow on me, but I gave it time and now it's amazing. I'm Not Sorry is a slow mournful song, lamenting the fact that the woman of his dreams never came along. In fact, he rethinks the situation. The woman of his dreams.... well there never was one. He seems to accept his age as he sings that he is slipping below the water line, or is it something more sinister than that? Then, the best bit on this album comes in quietly after the voice fades - a flute solo. It sounds awful on paper but it captures the entire feel of the song in one felling swoop, the glorious sound of misery and hope.

Nobody is safe in the following song. The police force, the people involved in the law, pop stars who are thicker than pig shit are all lashed out at because quite simply The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores. This is an excellent vocal take, and in it Morrissey wonders is he now a 'crashing bore" that he once mocked. Humble and self-doubting? I hear you cry. But never fear, at the end he is reassuring himself that he is not one, and the old familiarality returns. Great song.

We are now halfway through the album, and what have we learned so far? That he hasn't changed one bit, but is perhaps showing a more gentle side to him. He is certainly ageing, but is doesn't get in the way of his sharp tongue. The rest is up to the other half of the cd, and it gets off to a bad start.

How Could Anyone Possibly Know How I Feel? is the title of the next track. This is probably the sole song in which the tune is superior to the lyrics. It is rather brutal and obvious, So how can anybody say, They know how I feel, The only one around here who is me, Is me. The police get another loving mention, And as for you in your uniform, your smelly uniform. It is the worst on the album, but is still not bad enough to be skipped over.

Los Angeles! You are too hot! A male voice intones at the start of The First Of The Gang To Die amid rocky guitars. This is set to be the next single and you can see why. The poppy nature, likeable chorus and tale of gang violence are all winners here, and you can almost tell he's having fun. Almost. This is Morrissey we're talking about y'know.

Let Me Kiss You is one of two straightforward love songs (the other being I Like You). It tiptoes around his (now redundant?) vow of celibacy, as he implores the object of his desire to close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire, then let me kiss you. A nice enough song, with an odd layered voice effect on the words Let me Kiss you. This features some very nice guitar parts. We're up to song ten now, the rather confusingly titled All The Lazy Dykes. Now, when I first saw the name I was taken aback. The first time I heard it, I had no idea how this song was going to sway with me. I was pleasantly surprised. It starts with a little electronic noise, then the drum beat. A delightful guitar chips in, and then we have All the lazy dykes...sung in such a solemn way it's almost funny. A slow track, with various uplifting bits. I find it to be terribly sad, like the sound of someone giving up all hope. It is my favourite track here, which seems to be quite unusual. The end of it "At last your life begins" brings more hope into the song, and completes the masterpiece. For me, the album could have ended on this note, but there are still two more songs. First is the aforementioned I Like You. It is a great tune that instantly endears itself to you, and you hope that Morrissey has indeed found someone he likes. He plays with the idea he is "shamed" because he likes this person. The liked one could be a real person, or for all we know they could be completely fictional. Whatever the truth, this is an exceptional song. Last up is You Know I Couldn't Last, a scathing look over his career to date. It is a cousin of The Smith's Paint A Vulgar Picture in telling of his disgust at record companies exploiting the bands and singers. It is a rousing song, experimenting with dynamics, going from tinkly piano to huge guitar styling, that voice and someone banging on the piano keys in a fit of rage. The verses are nice enough, if unremarkable. However, he explodes like a bomb loaded and aiming right between your eyes, Cd's and t-shirts, promos, God knows, Oh you know I couldn't Last . The ending is amazing, simply because it has nothing to do with the rest of the album. The Squalor of the mind he falsettos repeatedly. Nothing, and everything to do with the rest. And so it ends. As heartbreaking, hilarious, provocative and tuneful as we expected, even more so maybe. He's attacked more things you can shake a stick at, and declared his love for many things as well. We may not have figured out who the hell he is, but with something this good who cares? I stared at the cd booklet in my hand, and pressed play once more.

What else, what else? Oh yes, went to Walkinstown library today:

Henry David Thoreau, "Walden"

Maureen Lipman, "Lip Reading"

Augusten Burroughs, "Magical Thinking"

The Big Sleep on dvd

"Hamlet" by some dude.

Nice mix of the comical, the intellectual and the Bogart. I also filled out one of those little white cards, requesting a book of Gogol short stories from another library. Wahey.


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