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MORRISSEY - Ringleader Of The Tormentors   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 28 March 2006

It’s Just Another Damn Good Morrissey Album, being everything he is in excelsis, both brilliant and infuriating, flashing volumes of magnificence with specks of mediocrity...


His albums aren’t made, they’re transmissions from an alternate universe called MorrisseyLand. A place of pecuilarly displaced Britishness, where things are never simple - yet they are always black and white, where fathers are always silent, yet deafening presences,where boys stand in gangs and regret a love that they could never express amongst their brothers in arms, where the sky is grey, and outdated concepts lurk silently under every breath.


And here, arriving in incredible style, comes his latest work. Just like the old days : an album every other year, frequent tours, the odd live album, a new drummer – all is well, and oddly reminiscent of the days just before “Vauxhall And I” thundered back to show the rest of them how it was done.


Expectations are a heavy weight to carry. Can Moz match the heights of his exceptional past?


So, “Ringleader Of The Tormentors”. Moz’s fifteenth solo album in eighteen years (can you believe that?),  is - once again - an album that could’ve been made by absolutely no one else in the world. As individual as all the great artists, nobody does this the way Morrissey does. This crooning, intellectual mix of Sinatra and Oscar Wilde. But the question is, is it any good?


In blunt terms, it’s eight minutes too long.


On one hand, I would love to say that the occasionally bland musical backing he works with has been dispensed with forever. “Mediocre Album Track” is an affliction that blights about one quarter of his recorded work,  and it’s underwhelming effect sometimes makes me wish Morrissey album’s were shorter (and that “Kill Uncle” was 20 minutes long instead of 33).


On the other, it’s an assured and confident work that stands proudly amongst his discography as Yet Another Good Morrissey Album.


Opening track, “I Will See You In Far Off Places” is collossal. Unlike anything Moz has done before (except possibly the long songs that bookended ‘Southpaw Grammar’), it offers an epic, enormous uncurling riff that can only be described as, well, a politically-barbed version of ‘Kashmir’. “Dear God Please Help Me” is delicate, understated, intimate. The lyrics, seeing Morrissey at his most explicit, offer the kind of sexual frisson that are sometimes, almost, too much. For a former, famously chaste muse, Moz now wants us to know He Has Sex, and the almost rough, open words stand in stark contrast to the music he flirtatiously ignores. These songs sound like they’re recorded by aliens trying to copy Pop Music. And that’s one of the things that makes it an intruiging experience.


But it doesn’t grab you by the throat and command you to listen. One would expect the injection of new blood with third guitarist Jesse Tobias (formerly of – be stunned – the Red Hot Chilli Peppers and the sadly sabotaged Splendid),  that his songs would be those that deviate most from the typical Morrissey palette. Oddly then, it’s Jesse’s contributions that sound, musically at least, most like Typical-Morrissey-Album-Tracks : entertaining but unexceptional, occasionally plodding rockers. Lead single “You Have Killed Me” is Moz-by-numbers. An entertaining, slight song that will inevitably fail to be included on any homemade “BestOfMoz” playlists, it seems baffling that it be hailed as the lead single. 


It’s when longstanding Moz guitarist Alain Whyte opens his songwriting chest that “Ringleader Of The Tormentors” truly elevates beyond being an OK Morrissey album.


It’s clear that this, being an album that ONLY Morrissey could have ever made, is both a very good and a very bad thing. Only Moz could write a song as pedestrianly vague as “You Have Killed Me”, or as otherworldly as “Life Is A Pigsty”.Which despite the Moz-by-numbers nature of some of the lyrics, is easily the best Moz song in years.


So, in a self-imposed exile in Rome (which is just the way he likes it, choosing to be outside of the life lived by ordinary boys), Moz has created another  brick in the wall of his mythology. Another painting to be hung in his attic of immortality. It’s Just Another Damn Good Morrissey Album, being everything he is in excelsis, both brilliant and infuriating, flashing volumes of magnificence with specks of mediocrity. Then again, was Marilyn Monroe beautiful because of the mole, or despite of it?


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