Morrissey, “You Are the Quarry” (Attack/Sanctuary)
By Mark Guarino
With The Cure, Van Halen, Madonna, Prince and now Morrissey launching major scale tours in the coming months, it’s an ‘80s summer at the box office, just in time to finally finish that Rubik’s Cube.
Stephen Patrick Morrissey returns after a seven year hiatus with “You Are the Quarry” (Attack/Sanctuary), in stores today. As frontman of the much loved Manchester rock group the Smiths, the Moz was the decade’s angriest young man, if anger could be defined as crooning, not shouting, stepping out in tailored suits, not leatherwear and keeping a well-groomed coif, instead of leaving it spiky and greased.
Paired against Johnny Marr’s aggressive guitar, Morrissey’s musical vision was wrought with social maladjustment and romantic tragedy, where your friends were always more successful, meat eaters got away with murder and the queen was dead in theory, but in reality had good enough genes to take her to a ripe old age. He made getting bummed out sound so beautiful, it became a badge of honor, making him a cult hero into his solo years.
“Quarry,” his eighth album, revisits familiar themes, some with sharper talons than others. He has no patience for — no surprise — American consumerism (“you know where you can shove your hamburger”), religious guilt (“why did you give me so much desire?/when there is nowhere I can go to offload this desire?”) and British control over Ireland (“I’ve been dreaming of a time when the English … spit upon the name Oliver Cromwell/and denounce the royal line that still salute him”).
And add to the list the current crop of teen pop stars “thicker than pig (expletive)/nothing to convey/so scared to show intelligence/it might smear their lovely career” (“The World is Full of Crashing Bores”).
The attitude would be retro posing were it not for the top notch songs. They are among Morrissey’s best, blending wounded sensitivity with taut rock drive. Jerry Finn, a producer for high sheen punk bands like Blink-182, Green Day and AFI, updates Morrissey’s sense of drama with squiggles of synthesizers, strings and flute. Songs rip open with crashing guitar choruses that drive forward restlessly. That approach makes “Irish Blood, English Heart” so effective, a searing combination of political angst and rock discord in just under three minutes.
Other songs, like the tiresomely long diatribe against the music industry (“You Know I Couldn’t Last”) don’t benefit from such precision. Morrissey — who headlines Lollapalooza this summer — still has a voice that commands attention and a frankness that rarely is without charm. Like the Tommy Gun he wields in the album art, he has many targets to fire at, but can only hit those when his aim is in range.