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MORRISSEY - "Low In High School"   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Monday, 20 November 2017

I miss who he used to be.

It’s difficult being a Morrissey fan these days. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to disentangle the creator from the created ; and I’m starting to feel like a fan of Indie version of the rightwing military-ball-playin’/pussy-gropin’/pantomime-capitalist rawk bands in recent years. Taking aside Morrissey’s questionably closed political views and everything that goes with it – including the cognitive dissonance that the man who penned “How Soon Is Now?” could then also say some of the things he has said, and where did that man go? Is THAT Morrissey still in THIS Morrissey? And if not, how do you know, where do they even go? Well I wonder – how could an artist that soared so high fall so dramatically?

Tombs are full of fools who gave their lives on command

“Low In High School”, Morrissey’s twelveth solo studio album (and including live releases, compilations, and The Smiths, his twenty ninth album in all) suffers from the same problem every aging artist has. Where do you fit? Are you relevant? Are you a dinosaur watching the world pass you by, or are you offering an experienced view upon a planet gone mad? Identity has always been at the core of everything Morrissey has done, even now. Who are you?

How does he sing? He sings as well as ever ; albeit his voice has changed and deepened over the years, he still croons with a melodic power unmatched by his then-peers. His lyrics? Oh my God. Lets not be blunt here ; the talent that recorded for the first fifteen years of his creative life has been cruelly and slowly replaced by a far less effective lyrical position. The artistry, the wit, the power and the deft turn of phrase that changed worlds is absent, and there’s no trace now it was ever here. Lyrically, these are the type of songs that Morrissey would have made, at best, b-sides in a previous decade. The insights here are somewhat banal, the rhymes are basic and the words are… my God, do they have to be dull? Every song has at least one line I pause and wonder “What were you thinking???”

Honour-mad cannon fodder
Honour-mad cannon fodder
Honour-mad cannon fodder
Honour-mad cannon fodder

Musically, it’s the same type of music Morrissey has been making for a decade ; since the departure of the deft Alain Whyte, Morrissey’s music has lacked a jaunty flourish, and instead his six piece band is now a powerful but unsubtle machine that paints in broad brushstrokes. His band are accomplished and capable, but there’s a sense that the music is almost always written to command, and bent to be subservient to the voice. Morrissey needs someone who pushes against him, to have a “No” man who forces him to work harder and better and sharper. He needs someone in his team that will tell him that no this will not do. By no means is “Low In High School” a bad record, but its an unexceptional late period Morrissey album – and lyrically some of it is obsessed with war, oil politics, but in an inarticulate, blunt, and uninformed way in a way that is almost embarrassing. The lyrics here are the type I would keep in my folder of bad poems. But it’s Morrissey’s name on the record, and a reflection of his vision, from the ill-advised cover art to the banal lyrics. Making no mistake of it, were the lyrics better, it would be a serviceable rock album made of midpaced somewhat pedestrian tracks, and what I am missing is the sheer Grab-You-By-The-Throat glory of old Morrissey, the sense that these songs absolutely must be written, and cannot and will not wait, the type of death-or-victory that encompassed even songs are relatively new as “You Have Killed Me”.

Ultimately, it’s just another solo Morrissey album, for good and bad, which sees a great voice matched with songs that don’t really deserve the voice, and lyrics that would not win a local poetry slam, let alone be the voice of a generation. But still, I am a fan. Oh well, I’ll never learn.

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