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MORRISSEY - "Southpaw Grammar"/"Maladjusted"   Print  E-mail 
Written by Mark Reed  
Tuesday, 28 April 2009

 At the time of release, “Southpaw Grammar” was perhaps, Morrissey's first career mis-step. After twelve years of near constant success, Morrissey cut himself free from EMI Records and took on all comers. Perhaps somewhat arrogantly, and with the perfect “Vauxhall And I” as his last word, Moz and his now stable band (the core of which lasted thirteen years) returned invigorated to Moz's sixth studio record and a poor game plan that scuppered his commercial standing for a decade.

With a one-album deal with RCA, and the revolutionary Britpop at the heart of his constituency, Moz found himself for the first time reeling from the punch of rejection. A combination of factors scupper this records artistic and commercial performace. Morrissey toured the record only briefly, and then only performing to half-full halls supporting David Bowie before pulling out halfway through the tour. The singles failed to dent the higher ends of the charts : not helped by poor choices , dull videos, and half-bothered lazy sleeve designs. The overall impression from the curious bystander was that Morrissey was falling into self-parody, uninterested in charting any new directions, reeling the same old quotes out by rote to interviewers, and none of this was helped by an determindedly ugly, uninterested sleeve and poor reviews.


To me, when it was released, it was very clear that this was the closest Morrissey had come to shelving his ego and letting his musicans dictate the content. The original – and far superior – album running order saw “Southpaw” bookended by the two most experimental and aggressive songs he would ever record : the lolloping, huge “The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils.”

A decade-on sequel to “The Headmaster Ritual”, this song showcases the immense prowess and confidence of his band, a huge, intricate, song that saw the band lock into a tight and controlled framework and explore the sounds within the variations. This alongside the nostalgic, and equally sprawling “Southpaw” and underloved additions to the Moz canon. These two songs – totalling 21m:15s in length were the closest Moz would ever come to prog-rock, built on variation and exploration, and clearly designed to be listened to intently. The sudden, and harsh fall of the gavel that ended the album originally was the perfect closer to the albums thematic journey. On this reissue, this meanwhile is utilised half-way through, and the record itself ends on the largely unmemorable, undramatic “Nobody Loves Us”, which is at best, pretty good B-side fodder.

Aside from these two songs, the rest of the album is an assured, muscular rock album that recalls a dirtier version of the tarnished glam rock that made “Your Arsenal” Morrissey's signature record. Each song itself is strong, lyrically gifted – aside from the lazy “Dagenham Dave” - memorable and worthy. This running order though, does the record no favours. Whilst Morrissey may have seen this reissue as a immensely personal project, ultimately, what he has done has deconstructed and reduced a strong but flawed album into a poorly-assembled compilation lacking any structure.

Sequencing is all.

After all, if you watch a film out of order it doesn't make any sense, most of the time. Same here. “Southpaw” is a good record that unfairly suffered at the time of release thanks to a hostile climate and an apathetic public and a truculent, difficult artist. This reissue does the music no favours by destroying the original order and structure of the record. On the plus side there are three unreleased songs and a B-side : but even this isn't comprehensive (where is the not-astoundingly good “You Must Please Remember”?). Overall, if you can find it, but the original album. And if you absolutely must have more of the same, buy this for the unreleased songs


MORRISSEY - "Maladjusted" (Reissue)



Two years later, and Moz returned with the more typical “Maladjusted”. At the time, Moz was so alienated he decried the usual sleeve designing skills to an inhouse team that gave the record a dull and tediously bland cover that betrayed the contents.

“Maladjusted” as it was then, was a strong, cohesive album, made of powerful songwriting, lyrical adventure, and Moz's wonderful lyrical melody. Moz was fast becoming a relic in the eyes of revisionist history – after all – with that many years behind him, there was no clear indication at that point that Moz wasn't simply going to fade from the public eye like so many former frontmen of generations past into a selective, niche solo career. Around him, Oasis puttered their last relevancy, Blur and Pulp skittered to the left, New Order and Depeche Mode had long since imploded, and The Cure were mining their commercial nadir. The landscape has changed, irrevocably, and all that was left were the dogged survivours of the apocalypse.

Moz was a man adrift. Whilst neither he nor his band lacked purpose or vigour, the muscular rhythms of the title track and the assertively rebellious “Ambitious Outsiders” or “Ammunition” were and are, equal to anything else Morrissey's solo career had birthed.

However, this reissue is a travesty. In an act of historical revisionism, Morrissey has delibrately excised two songs – the unexceptional “Roy's Keen” and the powerful, but somewhat regretful “Papa Jack”. Any exclusion is unforgivable : You cannot get away with airbrushing out of history what you are embarassed about, and neither of these songs are worth being embarassed about. “Papa Jack” is powerful, brilliant, and touching love letter from a fading star to his shrinking but loyal constituency.

Maybe Morrissey wants to pretend he never doubted us or himself, and that he never felt that perhaps his time was up. If he must excise anything, or perhaps leave anything unsaid, the most obvious choice is “Sorrow Will Come In The End”, an atonal, vicious three minute attack on his former drummer that ends with the sounds of guillotines being dropped, and lyrics as juvenile as “legalised theft leaves me bereft / lawyer / liar” and “Don't close your eyes / a man who slits throats has time on his hands / I'm going to get you”. Moz still grinds an enormous axe about the fact that he thinks he can underpay people and mislead, and rues the demise of others considerably less rich than he is from his LA Mansion. Why he felt this song deserves inclusion in the album, when much stronger material is airbrushed out is baffling and frankly, stupid.

 



Of the rest of the album, “Trouble Loves Me”, and “Alma Matters” are the type of song that Morrissey is best known for, half-revealing mysteries, poetic enigmas, songs that singlehandedly destroy the clichι that The Smiths were the only good stuff he ever did and his solo work was uniform drivel. Some of it is drivel ; and “Sorrow Will Come In The End” is the worst song he ever recorded. The B-sides, such as “Lost” are important parts of the story, and in some cases as strong as the album cuts. Their inclusion here is worthy ; but they should be bookends and not shuffle out better songs that for some reason Moz wants to disown. (And if there is one album Morrissey should rework completely, its the inept and limp “Kill Uncle”).

Add bonus tracks, by all means, change the artwork and pervert the running order if you must. But for heavens sake, don't try and rewrite what was. History will prove you wrong. There was a time when the kids reached out, and you pushed them away. And they may stay away.

If you can, find the original release with the cohesive, and much stronger running order. Pick this up for the extra songs and not for the sentiment. You can't pretend the past never happened.

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