Windup Wire

A Reflection on Art, Justice, and Meaning in Our Time

Tag: Morrissey

Line of Best Fit Review of World Peace is None of Your Business

http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/reviews/albums/morrissey-world-peace-is-none-of-your-business-harvest?

The above review by Michael James Hall is the best review I have read yet of Morrissey’s new album, World Peace is None of Your Business.  I don’t agree with a few of his small criticisms,  and in the beginning he makes the same mistake of many journalists by saying that basically this is a return to form.  Although it has been five years since Morrissey put out a new album, and I do believe his new album to be the best of his newer releases, all of his last three studio albums have been essential listening for me.  Anyway, these are small complaints because Hall does largely get why this is simply a fantastic release both musically and lyrically.  This record is not only one of the crowning achievments in Mozzer’s career, but is absolutely one of the best albums put out by anyone in recent years.  I have only heard the album three times, as travel has prevented me from streaming it more, but each time my jaw has been on the floor.  If you are looking for intelligent music that is also subversive,  very melodic, and musically inventive,  look no further.  Once I get home, and get my hands on a physical copy, I intend to explain in full detail why I think so highly of this record.  I am clearly a fan, as anyone else reading this blog can tell, but this record belongs in any intelligent music lovers collection.  It is that good.  On first listen some the melodies seem complex and challenging, but by listen three every one  of them is ingrained in your head, never to leave.  Also, even if Morrissey had been taken off the record, his band is reaching new heights, creating music that is stunning in its own right.  I know that I have been writing a lot Morrissey lately, maybe too much to some reader’s consternation,  but I am simply over the moon about this album.  It’s my party, and I’ll cry if I want to…

You can stream the record here in full in the states:
http://www.npr.org/2014/07/06/326925957/first-listen-morrissey-world-peace-is-none-of-your-business

nme.com is streaming it in England. 

Mountjoy

The joy brings many things

It cannot bring you joy
Sons of mothers huddle here
Men and boys

1850 swung the doors
And human sewage swept inside
Where victims speak in whines
And where the hardened cried

I was sent here by a 3 foot half-wit in a wig
I took his insults on the chin, and never did I flinch

A swagger hides the fear in here
By this rule we breathe
And there is no one on this earth
Who I’d feel sad to leave

You see we all lose
We all lose

What those in power do to you
Reminds us at a glance
How humans hate each others guts
And show it given a chance

We never say aloud the things
That we say in our prayers
Cause no one cares

Many executed here
By the awful lawfully good
But the only thing that makes me cry
Is when I see the sky

Brendan Behan’s laughter rings
For what he had or hadn’t done
For he knew then as I know now
That for each and every one of us
We all lose
Rich or poor, we all lose
Rich or poor, they all lose

Mountjoy by Morrissey.  The new album is up and streaming at npr.org.  it is fantastic.  I will review it in full once I get my hands on a copy next week and can spend more time with it.  It is hard streaming it on tour from my phone.  First listen blew me away as I feel like he is really pushing himself to new places on this one. 

Mountjoy is a prison where, among regular inmates, famous prisoners like Brendan Behan spent time.  I am coincidentally reading Behan’s Borstal Boy at the moment. 

These lyrics are stunning, especially when married to the music.  Although they look backwards they could not be more contemporary given the sad state of justice in the world…

Being a Star is Meaningless

Being a star is meaningless.  I say this because it seems like there are so many stars these days and so few of them have anything resembling real talent.  Stars are created and destroyed by the entertainment industry.  If someone puts up the money to film and promote you, and if you are shameless enough to let the worst side of your nature shine on, you too can possibly be famous. 

That is not to say there are not real stars where talent, looks, and charisma come together.  Even detractors of Elvis would probably admit there was something special about him.  I have seen Morrissey several times and it was almost like seeing a living work of art.  I can’t describe it more than that, but his mere presence was captivating.  And I don’t say that because I am a fan of his music.  I have seen plenty of my heroes in the flesh, but this was something different. 

I am talking about this today because I have been listening to the band Helmet lately.  They are an alternative metal band that was most popular in the 90’s.  I like them for their staccato riffs and their take the paint off the walls noise solos.  Being part of a rhythm section, I appreciate their unique and influential approach to rhythm. 

Every time you read about them there is a comment about the fact that they didn’t find more success because they lacked charisma.  They had short haircuts and dressed like clean cut average joes.  I admit if I were to run across one of them in the streets I wouldn’t recognize them.  Also, if we are being honest, lead singer Page Hamilton had a functionary voice, but not a great one.  However they were a decent band that at the time made their own unique stamp on music.  They clearly were influential in the metal genre. 

But every time I read this comment that they didn’t find more success because of lack of charisma I find it to be more urban legend than reality.  There are so many times when writers are lazy and repeat the same fact over and over because they are cribbing off one another.  I am a firm believer that anyone can be famous if they receive the proper corporate media support.  Our TV channels are littered with the untalented, and quite often uninteresting, famous.   

It is unfortunate how too many of us judge something by how successful it is in the moment.  This band created records that I, and I know others, still listen to.  Meanwhile the superstar highway is clogged with the corpses of those who are now mere trivia questions and whose work no one can remember.  What lasts is the only thing that matters.  All else is just noise. 

Q Magazine World Peace is None of Your Business Review

http://www.morrissey-solo.com/content/1894-World-Peace-review-by-Victoria-Segal-in-Q-Magazine-(4-5-stars-Aug-2014)

As anyone that reads this blog will know, I am incredibly excited for the new Morrissey record, especially after hearing the tracks that have been released.  All the reviews I have read for the album have been 4 our of 5 stars and one was 8 out of 10.  For those of you that are fans like me, here is a link to the Q Magazine review.  For those of you that not, you should be!  It’s almost here.  

 

The Bullfighter Dies Spoken Word

This is a spoken word promo for the new Morrissey single. He has done a spoken word promo for each of the four digital singles that he has released. All of them have dry sense of humor and an old Hollywood feel. I especially like in this one when he is reciting the last chorus with a smile upon his face. He knows what he is doing. Morrissey has long been a champion of animal rights and this song supports that stance through humor.

I’ve been listening to a great deal of 60’s pop lately, of which Morrissey is also a fan. I can’t help but feel that the actual song is in the vein of the 60’s novelty pop song. It’s even just over two minutes in length which was often the single length at that time.

My only criticism of this song is I wish Jesse Tobias’s guitar was slightly louder in the mix as he is playing a beautifully chimey guitar part that is not his typical fair. But another greatly enjoyable pop song by the old Mozzer.

Here is the link to the actual song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oV_U9qBSj_I#action=share

The Guitar Playing of Alain Whyte

One of my favorite guitar players is Alain Whyte.  He was Morrissey’s guitar player from Your Arsenal through Ringleader of the Tormentors.  He still wrote songs with Morrissey after leaving the touring band, although I do not know yet if he wrote any songs on the new album.  Morrissey pokes some fun at him in his Autobiography, but with Morrissey it is hard to tell if he there is any real animosity or just a sort of backhanded compliments that are the result of his Northern humor. 

Alain Whyte never got the credit that he deserved, largely for the unpardonable sin of not being Johnny, even though he wrote at least 81 songs with Morrissey and contributed to some of his best works. 

I loved the guitar team of Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, but I prefer Alain’s melodic expressive playing to Boz’s more rhythmic approach out of the two.  They were perfect foils for each other.  Although the guitar playing of the two was rooted in pop and rock classicism I actually felt that especially during the 90’s they were one of the few two guitar teams that were pushing the instrument in new directions. 

They took glam, rock, pop, and rockabilly riffs, and blended them into a unique recognizable style.  Under Steve Lillywhite the pair created what to me are the two high-water marks of Morrissey’s career when it comes to guitar playing.  The albums Vauxhall and I and Southpaw Grammar both feature exceptional guitar playing though they are both very different.  Vauxhall and I is very beautiful and gentle while Southpaw Grammar explodes with volume and energy. 

One of the things that is interesting about their playing is that even when they were playing loud they were often including beautiful melodies under the noise.  Vice versa, even when they were playing beautiful gentle parts there was an emotional quality that created tension. 

Much how Paul Westerberg often updated the guitar playing of the Rolling Stones by making it more melodic, I feel that Whyte, and Boorer with him took preexisting rock n roll templates and added a new melodicism to them.  They might have only been painting new landscapes in the margins, but they were still creating their own language. 

Now that Whyte is no longer in Morrissey’s band he often co-writes pop songs with American pop stars.  However, if you like his work his work with Morrissey I would recommend checking out the album Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams.  This album features Whyte’s guitar playing, writing, and singing.  Some of the songs you will recognize as songs that became Morrissey songs. 

If you are unfamiliar with his playing I would recommend checking out both of the above mentioned Morrissey records.  Although I think Vauxhall and I is the pinnacle of Morrissey’s solo career, Southpaw Grammar may interest you more if you are buying a record for purely the guitar playing aspect if you happen to be a rock n roll fan. Both records feature glorious guitar playing that in and of itself has unfortunately been overlooked for too long.   

Earth is the Loneliest Planet Single Review

Earth is the Loneliest Planet is Morrissey’s simplest lyric in some time, maybe since Best Friend on the Payroll or Do Your Best and Don’t Worry from Southpaw Grammar.  I am probably missing something but those two jump out.  (I actually like both those songs and especially love Best Friend on the Payroll.  I’ve always found Southpaw to be his most underrated album.  Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte kill it on guitars on that record.  The whole band is great.) The lyrics are basically the title of the song with a couple key phrases to add some light and shade to it.  And for those of you that think he is not living up to his Smith’s heritage all I have to say is Some Girls Are Bigger than Others or Never Had No One Ever.  Morrissey has been writing lyrics this way since he started.  And if the lyrics are simple in terms of the amount of lines that he has written, trust me, as you play the song numerous times different nuances make themselves known. 

The melody is textbook Morrissey; it’s a unique melody that sticks in your craw once you have heard it several times.  What makes this track so outstanding, where it really raises the bar, is the music.  Flamenco guitar, French café sounding accordion, ghostly female backing vocals, and a take the paint off the barn guitar solo are all there together among other things! 

What is really interesting to me now that we have heard three songs from the album is how adventurous and outward looking the production and music is.  Along with the three sets of lyrics, that all seem to look out at the world, the music really has a worldly quality to it without being what you would call world music.  The writing is still very much in the World of Morrissey, but each song has different flourishes that make you think of different cultures.  When Morrissey does what my brother and I call the “victory lap” in his Autobiography, when he talks about all of the success his music has met in all corners of the globe in the last part of his book, it makes me think that he has folded all of these places back into his music.  The fact that has been able to do this while still retaining a very unique musical and lyrical identity is really exciting.  Please let the next month go quickly, I want this record!   

Istanbul Single Review

I have waited a couple of days to review the new Morrissey single Istanbul because it felt like a grower.  My initial assumption is right after not being initially sure of what to make of the song.  The song is not as melodically captivating as the first single, World Peace is None of Your Business, but its melody slowly creeps into your head until you can’t forget it. 

The lyrics are very interesting.  Morrissey is singing in the third person, which he doesn’t do a great deal of, although he has done it before.  The song is about a father searching for his son in the title city.  The son has become a prostitute.  The lyrics are full of regret and empathy.  It appears the father drove the son out for being gay, though I could be reading into that as it is not made expressly clear.  The father has had a change of heart and wants to find the son before it is too late.  In the beginning the father talks about how the mother died when both were younger.  There is also a lyric about the father having a child when he was too young, implying that he feels he did not do as good of a job as he was supposed to.  This song tells a story from beginning to end with the father tragically finding the pine box coffin that the son is in. 

In many Morrissey songs, like When I Last Spoke to Carol, tragedies have a slight degree of comedy.  It is often the divine comedy of life, as it relays the absurdity of the human condition.  However, in this song there is no comedy.  It is a story again told with a great deal of empathy. 

Both lyrically and musically, although I will have to wait until I hear the full album, it seems as if Morrissey is branching out.  Don’t get me wrong, the things that have made Morrissey unique and the reason that those of us who love him have followed him, are still there.  However both the lyrics and the production of these songs seem more outward looking than ever before.  Most of Morrissey’s early work took place in Great Britain.  Whether they were personal reflections or story songs they were very firmly rooted in his homeland.  His last few albums have broadened his lyrical palette in terms of place.  You are the Quarry was very much an LA album despite having lyrics about Camden and the British legal system.  Ringleaders of the Tormentors charms had a lot to do with his then current home of Rome.  On these first two singles he again seems to be looking out at a much larger world and the problems that are taking place within these times. 

While Vauxhall and I will always remain my favorite, this album seems to be branching out musically as well and it is very exciting and interesting. The track Istanbul features field recordings from that city.  There is also a great musical moment when he sings of street gangs and an army of congas rise to the front of the mix.  Although he has used the sound of a storm before, in Life is a Pigsty, in this track, along with the other examples I have used, the sound of the song conjures up visual imagery of the title city. 

It should also be noted that guitars and bass sound particularly tough and sinewy.  Along with all the added textures this is the sound of a well tested road band playing at the height of their powers.  I simply cannot wait for this album to come out. 

Fake Twitter Accounts and Political Propaganda

An interesting thing happened in the last week.  Apparently someone posed as Morrissey and started a Twitter account.  The thing that makes it interesting is many mainstream blogs and websites bought into the hoax.  In this day and age of endless information it seems pretty easy to disseminate false information into the slipstream.  Those that are in charge of the “news” don’t seem to verify as much as they once did.  I know there have been times where I have believed something I read online for a day or two only to find out it was false later.  A day or so after it happened Morrissey posted this on his official fan site true-to-you.net:

I would like to stress that I do not have either a Twitter or a Facebook account. I gather that a Twitter account has been opened in my name – as ‘It’s Morrissey’ – but it is NOT Morrissey. I do not know who has opened this recent Twitter account, but please be aware that it is bogus. That’s, of course, if you should remotely care.

Untwitterably yours,
MORRISSEY

Now if this was only happening in the world of entertainment journalism it would be bad enough, but we are constantly bombarded with bogus “news” and information that is not only bad reporting, but is often created by people that mean to keep us confused.  There is a whole group of corporately funded right wing think tanks that try make people skeptical of climate change.  They peddle their nonsense through friendly media outlets. 

You must be vigilante when you try to figure out what is going on out there.  The best thing to do is to try to find multiple sources that at least try to get it right and to check against each other on at least a semi-regular basis.  It takes some time, but in a democracy, we as citizens have a duty to stay informed.  Our misadventure in Iraq, which cost so many lives, would have never happened if more people had paid attention.  As the philosopher George W. Bush once said, “Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.” 

World Peace is None of Your Business Single Review

I have been a lifelong Morrissey fan.  I’ve listened and read enough about him to notice when things were missing in Mozipedia, the encyclopedia based around his life.  I should confirm my bias that he is probably my favorite musical artist of all time and that only very few of his songs have failed to connect with me. (Noise is the Best Revenge being an example.)  Although I haven’t collected every version of every single and b-side, I don’t have money like that, but I do have all of his studio albums, most of his singles, and most of the b-sides and unreleased tracks that are easily acquired.  So keep that in mind when I write a review of his new single.  I have a history with the man.

I don’t know if I would write the same exact review of his new single had I not just read two very powerful books.  These books are Stephen Kinzer’s The Brothers and Matt Taibbi’s The Divide.  Kinzer’s book about the Dulles brothers and Taibbi’s book about the injustice of our justice system both include horrible examples of state sanctioned violence both at home and abroad, and by state I mean America.  One only needs to read the news to see state sanctioned violence happening in places across the globe.

Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business is a song that’s lyrics are blunt about state violence and the kind of especially middle class existence that allows you turn a blind eye to this violence.  This song is left wing, but it is also anti-government.

Morrissey has always sung songs championing the outsider’s in society.  This is why this most British of pop stars has fans in every corner of the globe.  Many people wonder why, for instance, he has a large Latino fan base in the U.S., but it is because despite any specific details of his songs, he sings of those that are not accepted by the mainstream.

There are basically two types of Morrissey songs that have been his mainstay since his comeback album You Are the Quarry was released in 2004.  There are his blunter political songs which feature simple language, exemplified by American is Not the World from You Are the Quarry, and his more poetic character studies and personal reflections in songs such as The Father that Must Be Killed from You Are the Quarry’s follow up album Ringleader of the Tormentors.  I believe Morrissey is smart enough to know what he is doing.  I’ve read some fans online criticizing his more blunt political approach, saying they don’t live up to his rich poetic heritage, but I believe when he wants to make a specific point he simply gets rid of any language that could get in the way of making that point.  He is being blunt and to the point on purpose.

World Peace is None of Your Business is this kind of political song.  However, even in language that is relatively simply and which will never leave you confused which side he is on; there are shadows and different ways of interpreting lines.  A pop song is like a good piece of propaganda.  It will get you to turn your head and look a certain way, but there isn’t the time and space for a well reasoned argument covering all of the ground of an essay or book.  Morrissey is a master of this form.

Morrissey is also an excellent provocateur, he throws out lines and statements like bombs and the intent is to start a conversation as much as it is to finish one.  He is savvy enough to still cut through to the headlines in this age of constant information.  When he called the Chinese “sub-human” over their treatment of animals, many blasted his choice of words, but many like me also saw for the first time the cruel treatment of dogs and other animals in China.

In this single Morrissey is making cause with the oppressed masses of the world.  He specifically mentions Egypt, Bahrain, Brazil and the Ukraine.  The rich who run our governments and corporations are his antagonists.  He also is belittling the safe middle class life that allows those oppressors to keep their power.

In the middle of the song he sings the provocative line, “Each time you vote you support the process.”  Now I am someone that believes one should always vote.  However, like Chuck D has said, voting should be like taking a bath in that you should always do it, but it’s the least you can do and you shouldn’t feel too proud of yourself for doing so.  I am still someone that believes strongly in voting as it is one of the many tools we have for influencing a democracy.

However, this is where the books that I mentioned earlier and Morrissey’s nationality come into play.  Morrissey was a vehement critic of Thatcher in the 80’s, especially for how she destroyed the working class.  However, it was Tony Blair’s Britain that aided the U.S. in its criminal invasion of Iraq.  Both Labor and Tories, the two major parties in Britain, are tainted.  He is also an anti-royalist and someone that has noted the police abuse in Britain on many occasions.

As for myself, especially after reading Matt Taibbi’s The Divide, I have realized that both American political parties allow a great deal of state sponsored violence to take place.  Bill Clinton’s presidency ushered in many of the problems that we face today.  I still believe the Democrats are better, especially when held up to the insane right wing Republicans of today, but no one is completely innocent.  We need to do more than pay our taxes and vote to be good citizens.  We need to bare witness to the injustice that is being done in our name with our money.

All of this works for the reason that so many of Morrissey’s songs work.  He is simply one of the best and most original melody writers of our time.  Listen to this song several times and it will get stuck into your head.  He excels at all aspects of the pop song, although I will note that this song’s arrangement is more complex than some of his other singles.  One of his best tricks has always been his scathing words married to his beguiling melodies.  I believe Tony Visconti, one of Morrissey’s producers, said that Morrissey’s main aim was to get people to feel something when listening to his songs, even if that feeling was being uncomfortable.  This song is full of emotion and a large part of that comes from his absolutely stellar melody.

The music and production on this song are excellent.  While not as layered as his masterpiece, Vauxhall and I, the production is probably as large of scale as anything he has put out since.  It starts with percussion and what sounds to me like a didgeridoo before a tinkling piano brings us into the true song.  Despite being just over four minutes it is an epic with a frayed guitar solo, remember when pop songs had those, and an outro of jackbooted drums.

One of the most important things is that the words are actually clear in the mix.  This is normal for a Morrissey record, as you buy his records as much to hear the music as to hear what he has to say, but in much of rock and indie rock has become something of an anomaly.  Often vocals are buried in the mix or treated so heavily that they become another part of the music.

Love him or hate him he is one of the only pop stars that consistently not only has something to say, but is willing to say things that will make certain people uncomfortable, and not just by being sensational.  He wants to see a different world than the one that he lives in.  He still views the pop song as a place for ideas and revolution.  Some may laugh at this, but just last year there was a girl photographed bravely in front of riot police at a protest in Britain.  Guess what, she was wearing a Smith’s shirt.

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