Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Album review: Morrissey- Years of Refusal

So is it finally time for me to do a ridiculously long and rambling review of Years of Refusal? It feels odd because I've been listening to it for a month now, and reviews should be written off the bat, even if they end up being wildly wrong, like my latest Killers one. There's a beauty in that wrongness, in jumping to conclusions, because it's fun to look back and go, what was I thinking? (correction: Day and Age is AMAZING! I demand you watch the Spaceman video)
I will say I only downloaded Refusal because I went to Quarry night where they were playing it, and I wanted to hear it in my own time first. And I was right to. I did enjoy hearing it played loud at Quarry, but that is no time to form your thoughts on an album, you need the lyrics clutched in your sweaty little paw, if possible.
So I decided to wait to write about Mozzy, to let it sink in, to let him catch up. We've had a funny old year, me and Moz. Actually, he's done more for me in the past year than probably any other.
So let's do it:
Something is Squeezing My Skull:Like you, I first heard SISMS many moons ago on Jules Holland. I was very excited by it at the time; I especially like his drugs shopping list at the end, and the 'don't gimme any more' bit. I like it when he pushes his vocals and yelps a bit. It's a solid, rocky start to the album and a well-judged opener.
Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed: I think I first heard this at the Wireless festival, and in the mire of my early hangover (I stopped drinking too early) this song reached out and grabbed me round the throat. It promised better things ahead. It was just me and Moz at that second and i knew he heard me. 'Life is nothing much to lose/ It's just so lonely here without you': well, it's just perfect, isn't it? I like the fact it sprawls all over the place, the tune going in different directions, it has different parts to it, and a bit of a paranoid android feel (although I hate Paranoid Android). In fact, I think stick another two minutes or so onto it and it would be even better. I like songs that overstay their welcome. I like the instrumental break in the middle, I can imagine Moz swinging his mic around in a frenzy. Are we tired of lyrics about 'bailiffs with bad breath' and 'uncivil servants'? Not really, it's a giggle, innit. That's our Mozzy. And death has never seemed so appealing as 'we will be safe and sheltered in our graves'; it makes me want to snuggle down six feet under immediately. I like the 'woooooh's at the end and the marching-band drumbeat, and just everything, really. This is top ten Morrissey material (which is why he'll never release it as a single). One criticism, the keyboard is a bit quiet on the studio version. But considering how dire studio versions of songs can be once you've fallen in love with the live version, I think we should just be grateful there's no flute (or saxaphone!)
Black Cloud: It took me a while to get into Black Cloud; I thought it was a bit throwaway at first, but it's actually very catchy and 'roosts in the mind' before you know it (I'm too good). It's a bit comical, the thought of Moz and his cartoon black cloud on a string (is that just me?), but I defy you not to be singing it to your (un)loved one within weeks. This is one of my faves of the album now.
I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris: Another one that has been knocking around for a while, I was fairly unimpressed by this at first, but it's a bit of a grower and pleasant enough, if lyrically fairly unexciting. I like the video; it's cute. Could I live without it? Yes. but he does like a forgettable single, and he does like to test our patience. I'm surprised he didn't consign Mama to a b-side.
All You Need is Me: Why is All You Need is Me on the album? Should it be? It was on the greatest hits. It's nothingy. It's poppy. It's silly. I'd rather he realeased some new singles. It's just Moz resting on his laurels, I think. Lyrically, it's the same old narcissistic schtick. However, you gotta love 'you don't like me but you love me, either way you're wrong.' It's Moz-by-numbers. But his numbers are worth doing the lottery with.
When Last I spoke to Carol: Ariba! This is Moz in horsey, clip-cloppy, film-soundtrack mode (see: barking dogs). It's probably one of the more original songs on the album, and it's definitely grown on me loads. Shouldn't it be 'when I last spoke to Carol?' It is on my itunes. Haha! (I'm buying the album, I swear!) I hate it when Moz plays silly buggers with his grammar. Will he be donning a sombrero for the video? Now that I'd like to see. I think this song would be fun to drive along to. I like the lyric 'to the rescue, nobody ever comes' even though it's a bit Yoda-esque. He does some good 'woooah'-ing on this album too. His voice has never sounded better.
That's How People Grow Up: How long ago did Mozzy fall out with Kristeen? It must be at least a year. Therefore; this song is OLD! I can't even tell this song and All You Need is Me apart half the time. Zzzz.
One Day Goodbye will be Farewell This song starts with the bizarre line, 'Always be careful when you abuse the one you love' how about, 'just don't', Mozzy? Another clip-cloppy horsey one; rather hilariously I read an interview with Morrissey last week where he said he strives to make all his songs have 'different vocal melodies' and he's only slipped up twice. Eh??? Half his songs sound exactly the same, including at least four songs on this album. This song screams album track in my opinion, and that title is straight out of a Morrissey song-title generator. However, I like the bit where he says 'I have been thinking (what with?) My final brain cell.' Talking to himself now. Oh this song also goes either 'shabba, shabba, shabba' or 'Shabnam, Shabnam, Shabnam' at the end. And no one wants to be reminded of Shabnam, do they?
It's Not Your Birthday Anymore: So this is the money shot. You can tell from the opening lines that it's just going to be magical. Everything works in unison; the tune, his voice, the lyrics (it's lyrically confused, but that's fine when they are this good). OK I can live without the symbals, but you know, I'm kind of used to them now. The first time I listened to this I thought it kicked in too early and we might have a kind of faux-fan favourite like 'Come Back to Camden' on our hands. Luckily, I was wrong. This song is DIVINE. It sounds sacriligious, but the song really makes me think of Coldplay; it has that big stadium feel to it. If Coldplay dared to release this, it would be a monster hit, but I don't think they have the balls for lines like 'the will to see you smile and belong has now gone'. The lyrics are beautiful, funny, exciting, sexy. 'The love I am now giving to you right here right now on the floor' is a bit risque for Mozzles. But it's bloody great. When he does that falsetto bit in the middle, it's like a choir, it's that heavenly. I just felt my heart go the first time I heard it, I just knew. It was a Speedway moment. But there's more; then there's this bit where he goes 'oooooh-uh-oh' at the end, and you couldn't wish for more, his voice sounds fucking amazing, it is just lush beyond words. It's like an orgasm in a song. It's like nothing he's ever done before. God, I hope he does it live. I hope he knows how good it is.
You Were Good in Your Time: This is my least favourite song on the album; it's like a dreary old soundtrack to some black and white film. I can just see Moz crooning it in the mirror, and it barely has a tune. It's only redeeming feature is the joke at the end, which is ruined by the Bright Eyes-style 'atmospherics' afterwards. God, don't I suffer enough of that shit from Conor? Bet you a zillion pounds he makes us suffer through it on tour. (Sorry James)
Sorry Doesn't Help: Didn't think much to this at first, but 'sorry doesn't help' really comes in handy as a catchphrase, you know. It's a bit horsey again. 'Like a QC full of fake humility': I even know the name of that frigging QC now thanks to some Moz fan on Mastermind (she was good). This song has grown on me; once you get over the fact all the average ones sound the same, it's fine.
I'm OK By Myself: Oh, what a title. This song really reminds me of 'You Know I couldn't Last' which ends Quarry and 'At Last I am Born' which ends Ringleaders. It's his typical overblown ending to an album, him just hammering the point home in case you didn't quite catch it yet. Not that that's a bad thing. Something that possibly IS a bad thing is it sounds way too similar to Sorry Doesn't Help and virtually IDENTICAL in the opening bars to Something is Squeezing my Skull. They REALLY like that bass line don't they? Anyhoo. This song did nothing for me at first but has definitely gone up in my estimation. The lyrics 'It's been so, all of my life, why change now? IT HASN'T!' are ridiclous, but it becomes compulsive to shout 'IT HASN'T!' at random things after listening to this a few times. It has a kind of Sorrow Will Come in The End amusement factor to it (lawyer! liar!) I like it when he does silly talky bits. I have no idea WHY he does them, but they are funny.
These lyrics, however, are unforgivable: 'then came an arm around my shoulder, well surely the hand holds a revolver'. Please! Revolver sounds clunky beyond words, and doesn't even rhyme with bloody shoulder. Morrissey, you might as well have stuck 'shoehorn' in there. It hasnt! And also, it doesn't disturb me that you're OK by yourself, I KNOW you like being by yourself! Now stop playing up or you're not getting any sweets.
Interestingly, the song ends in a Bright-Eyesey (yes I have used that twice now, but this is in a positive sense) wall of feedback/ vocoder action. I like it! It's all yodelly/ screamy/ guitary. There should have been lots more of that on the album, it really works. And as such, is a fine ending.
The album does have a kind of raw, live feeling to it, which is really effective, as I think Ringleaders was too over-produced (will he ever do Pigsty without that bloody rain???) I think I like the rocky stuff more than the poppy stuff, but I like the outside the box stuff 'Mama/ Birthday' more than anything. When he really challenges himself, it works beautifully.
I have only read a couple of reviews of Refusal (I like to decide for myself before having other people's opinions foisted upon me) but the 'it sounds like Vauxhall/ Quarry/ Ringleaders' stuff is misleading. It doesn't. At first I was worried it was a bit Ringleaders-ey but really, Ringleaders had one brilliant song on it (two at a push). This album is more well-rounded, more varied (despite my complaints), and I won't mind him hammering it so much on tour.
He's still with us. We will miss him when he's gone. So let's appreciate him NOW. Give him some Moz love.
PS: I look forward to hearing the b-sides & most of all, the giggage.


Anonymous said...

Good review, I agree pretty much.

lightupvirginmary said...

You pretty much agree with all of that? I'm pleased, thanks! :-)

Maurice said...

Great review, dude, whoever you are!
Birthday really is one of his best ever songs (especially the ad-libbed vocal outro).
Maurice (from Morrissey Solo forum)
PS It hasn't!

lightupvirginmary said...

You're a clever one, aren't you?
;-) I sure do love mozzy.