Redbrick Music takes a look back at the best albums of 2017.Written by Pablo Doyle, Issy Campbell, Matt Hooper, Barney Whiteside, Niamh Brennan, louisabebb, Luke Bohanan, Sorcha Hornett, Kieran Read, Jack Lawrence, Charlotte Russell, Kat Smith, Greg Woodin, Emily Barker, Kirstie Sutherland, Thom Dent, Katie Leigh-Lancaster, Holly Carter, Luke Charnley, Alex Carmichael, Laura Mosley, Harry Hetherington, Josh Parker, jamesfhill, Jonah Corren, Zoe Screti, Rhi Storer & Suraj Hallan on 12th January 2018
Album Review: Morrissey – Low in High School
Morrissey's 13th album is bogged down by cringeworthy lyricism and attempts at political controversy, David Evans reviews
“It does reach moments of brilliance and its political commentary sets it apart from most; but taken as a whole, the album sounds like a self indulgent attempt to stay relevant
Too often post-2000 Morrissey tracks have felt dated by overproduction and try-hard electronica. Single track ‘I Wish You Lonely’ falls into this category, full of screeching synths and unsoundly chords, it leaves a bad taste following such a strong opener. A long way away from his efforts with The Smiths, the lyrics might not be touching but they are full of a vivacious aggression that’s consistent across the album. Wishing the target one day of the loneliness Moz experiences daily, it isn’t devoid of the self righteousness either. It’s a delicate balance between these two that defines the album, though all too often the latter tips the scales. The end line epitomises this: ‘I wish you lonely / Like the last tracked humpback whale / Chased by gunships from Bergen / But never giving in, never giving in’. Is it with a stroke of genius that Moz relates his wish of loneliness to animal rights, or is this gunship scene a tad overdramatic? I’ll leave you to guess my choice.
“Musically the album suffers particularly here too; piano power ballads, mariachi cha cha cha’s, and forced Arabic influences make it particularly hard listening
The politics do become relentless, particularly on the 2nd half. ‘I Bury the Living’ places blame at conscripts in war, whilst ‘The Girl from Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel’ and ‘Israel’ consecutively bash and praise the Jewish state. In fact all 6 tracks on the second half are overtly political: for some reason Morrissey has felt compelled to express his ivory tower perspective on everything from Venezuela to Trump. Musically the album suffers particularly here too; piano power ballads, mariachi cha cha cha’s, and forced Arabic influences make it particularly hard listening - ‘When You Open Your Legs’ being the high point for the levels of cringe. It’s honestly enough to make you crave a shower. A deft wordsmith, Morrissey’s lyrical creativity doesn’t absolve his painful self righteousness when covering the topics he chooses. Combined with recent controversies in the news, the album paints a picture of a man who comes off a little bit like an alt-right teenager; angry at the world and determined to get attention.
This self image of Icon is the source for Morrissey’s Marmite appeal. Did his autobiography deserve to be an instant Penguin Classic? Is calling the Chinese a ‘subspecies’ for the consumption of dog meat acceptable? Do recent comments defending Spacey and Weinstein as just hopeless romantics have any grounds? If your answer is no to any of these then it’ll be hard to enjoy this album without detaching the man from the music. He’s become the embarrassing uncle of alternative music: learn to laugh at him for it though because if you take him too seriously you’ll surely hate him. Either way he won’t mind, the feeling’s mutual ‘if you wonder what’s in my head / it’s just a hatred for all human life’ he decrees in ‘I Bury the Living’.
Morrissey will play Birmingham's Genting Arena on 27th February 2018. Tickets are available here.