Morrissey, You Are The Quarry

Morrissey-You Are The QuarryMorrissey
You Are The Quarry

You Are The Quarry, Morrissey’s first new album since 1997 opens with two vitriolic salvos – the first addressed to his current country of residence; the second to his country of birth. America is Not The World, is a letter to the fattest country in the world sung as a slow love song. His theme – that Americans are fat and tend to think too much of themselves – is not his most insightful and eloquent, but his style and tone reassure us that in mid-life, Moz hasn’t lost his bile.

It turns out that America is just a sparring round with the kid gloves. Its successor, Irish Blood, English Heart, is a bare-knuckled beating. In two short verses, Morrissey delivers a brutal one-two to his homeland. Accusing her of nationalist racism is only his opening. In the second chorus he calls on the English to “denounce this royal line.” Here in the States where we fatties denounced silly English royalty over 200 years ago, such a suggestion means little. But in England, that statement will really piss some people off.

Naturally, it isn’t only political and cultural disgust in the new songs. I Have Forgiven Jesus manages wounded childhood self-exploration with matter-of-fact grown-up accusation. Let Me Kiss You is the vulnerable, lovelorn Moz of old. How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel? could serve as his theme song. Anger, solitude, self-loathing – it’s got it all.

Brilliantly, Morrissey’s closer – You Know I Couldn’t Last – points us in new directions. As though a retort to the Smith’s Paint a Vulgar Picture, Morrissey describes the agony of a pop star. “There’s a cash register ringing and it weighs so heavy on my back,” he sings to a mostly unsympathetic audience. He even seems to have made peace with his arch-enemy: “The critics who can’t break you, they somehow help to make you.” This is Morrissey in the 21st century: older, wiser, and richer.

The greatest aspect of Quarry is that it captures the best of Morrissey and retranslates it. The old fan will be reminded of Vauxhall and I’s muggy sleepiness in All the Lazy Dykes. The First of the Gang To Die possesses the bouncy step of Your Arsenal’s best moments. The new fan will be introduced to the whole of Morrissey’s genius in only 12 tracks — all with a brighter, louder production than he’s ever had.

Coming after the lackluster Maladjusted, record label problems, and triumphant yet sporadic live dates, Morrissey had a lot to prove with Quarry. He comes out swinging and never buckles – the aging champ isn’t yet ready to relinquish his title.

[This review originally appeared in All The Rage.]