NME’s full review of Ringleader Of The Tormentors – included in this article is a track-by-track guide to the new album, a full list of tour dates (listed elsewhere) and a short article on Andy Rourke and Johnny Marr getting together for Manchester Vs. Cancer.
‘RINGLEADER OF THE TORMENTORS’ – THE ULTIMATE GUIDE
Exclusive! Everything you need to know about the new Morrissey album.
Morrissey has completed his new album ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ and NME is first with the full track-by-track guide. As we revealed in last month’s exclusive in-the-studio report, the album will now be released on April 3rd. Recorded in Rome with producer Tony Visconti, it shows a change in direction and features a guest appearance from legendary film soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone.
“I’m inspired by Rome because it’s the exact opposite to Los Angeles, where I’ve spent so much time,” Morrissey said recently. “As stunningly beautiful as Los Angeles is, it is also essentially a police state. Rome has struck me as being a very safe city, and not at all uptight, which is a contrasting relief.”
Here, NME’s guide to the album. A single, ‘You Have Killed Me’, will precede the release on March 27th.
1: I WILL SEE YOU IN FAR-OFF PLACES
Beginning with an unexpected Arabian motif and wailing voices over strong guitars and a dynamic rhythm reminiscent of The Smiths’ ‘Barbarism Begins At Home’, the song immediately introduces one of the album’s key themes – love – as Morrissey directly serenades another individual.
“Nobody knows what human life is, why we come why we go/So why then do I know I will see you in far-off places?” he asks, before echoing some of ‘You Are The Quarry”s sentiments by singing, “If the USA has done you wrong/I believe I will see you somewhere safe/Looking into the camera pulling faces”.
2: DEAR GOD PLEASE HELP ME
Featuring an arrangement by spaghetti Western king Ennio Morricone, this is the track which most explicitly acknowledges the Roman backdrop against which the album was recorded. Talking directly to the Almighty, over a gentle piano backing, Morrissey sings: “I am walking through Rome with my heart on a string/Dear God please help me/I am so very tired of doing the right thing”.
With Moz singing in a new high register, Morricones’ backing sees a church organ slowly lead the song towards its swirling climax. But there is no prayer as Morrissey announces, “There are explosive kegs between my legs” before asking for advice on love, thus introducing ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ second major theme: God.
3: YOU HAVE KILLED ME
Led by strong rock guitars that are reminiscent of Oasis at their poppiest, this is the album’s fitting first single. Boasting a euphoric chorus, Morrissey’s sense of humour comes to the fore. Again, speaking directly to another individual he sings, “You have killed me/Yes I walk around somehow but you have killed me”, adding, “as I live and breathe you have killed me”. Passionate and committed, this track completes the album’s trinity of topics, as it does with death.
4: THE YOUNGEST WAS THE MOST LOVED
Sounding like a solo song from the late-80’s ‘Viva Hate’ era, the band deliver an assured performance while Morrissey tells the tale of a young murderer. “The youngest was the most loved/The youngest was the cherub/A small boy from a small house/But he turned into a killer”, he sings before being joined by a Gorillaz-esque children’s choir for the outro.
5: IN THE FUTURE WHEN ALL’S WELL
Bearing producer Tony Visconti’s fingerprints with a T-Rex-style shuffling beat and chunky guitars, this track sees Morrissey’s band at their best. Boasting a dynamic bassline and a warm pop heart, Morrissey confides to the listener “Every day I play a sad game called ‘In The Future When All’s Well’”, before leaping into a falsetto. A potential future single.
6: THE FATHER WHO MUST BE KILLED
Returning to death for this one, the lyrics find Morrissey at his most creative, as he tells the tale of a put-upon daughter.
“Stepchild you have outlived your time”, he sings against a pounding backing. “You represent embarrassment and failure/And the father who must be killed is the blight upon your blighted life/And his might is his legal right to grind you down”.
7: LIFE IS A PIGSTY
Unlike his previous work, this track finds Morrissey at his most experimental. Over a thrusting bass and beats, the opening section has a light, dancey feel as storm and rain noises mingle into the song. Moz croons, “It’s the same old ends/But with broken fortunes and once again/I turn to you”.
Then, with Spanish guitars breaking in over thunderclaps, the song switches gear. “Every second of my life I only live for you/You can shoot me or drop me off a train/But I still maintain/Life is a pigsty”, Moz sings, exploring the higher end of his register.
Before the listener can get settled, “Life Is A Pigsty’ mutates again as bold, electric guitars join and the singer concludes, “Even now, in the final hour I’m falling in love again”.
8: I’LL NEVER BE ANYBODY’S HERO NOW
Morrissey is again concerned with mortality as he gravely informs us, “My love is under the ground/My one true love is under the ground/And I’ll never be anybody’s hero now”.
Despite death’s spectre looming over this album, Morrissey is never morbid. Instead, the track boasts a humour similar to The Smiths’ ‘Girlfriend In A Coma’, as Morrissey toys with his subject. It ends on a positive note. “As far as I know”, notes the singer, “I haven’t even died”.
9: ON THE STREETS I RAN
Beginning with exotic-sounding guitar scales, this grows until its full urgency is unleashed and Morrissey finding where his home now lies. “The streets are wet back home/And roads you can never know/You never had them but they always had you until the day that you croak/It’s no joke”, sings the former Manchester resident over a chiming hook.
10: TO ME YOU ARE A WORK OF ART
After death and God, we’re back to love, but even though it’s a raw ballad, in true Morrissey fashion there’s no hint of soppiness, just a wicked sense of humour.
“I see the world/It makes me puke”, he sings over gentle acoustic guitars, “and then I look at you/And I know that somewhere there’s someone who can soothe me/To me you are a work of art/And I would give you my heart – that’s if I had one”.
11: I JUST WANT TO SEE THE BOY HAPPY
Finally uniting his trilogy of topics, with his own death, an appeal to God and an almost paternal love for the boy in the title, this ballsy-sounding, Oasis-esque rock song is one of ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ highlights. With rough, jazzy trumpets joining the fray, it builds to a huge crescendo.
“I just want to see the boy happy”, sings Morrissey. “Why is this such a bad thing?”
12: AT LAST I AM BORN
With the big tunes that give this record a more positive and direct edge than its predecessor, Morrissey cannot resist wrong footing the listener at the close.
Opening with strings and thunderous kettle-drums, ‘At Last I Am Born’ initially sounds more at home on the ‘Gladiator’ soundtrack, but the music subtly evolves as flamenco guitars drift in and Morrissey ends in a confident and hopeful voice.
“It took me a long, long time but now I am born”, he sings. “I was once a mess because of guilt of the flesh/But it’s remarkable what you can learn because you are born”.
An unexpected closer to an extraordinary album, it leaves the listener wondering: is the world ready for a cheerful Moz?
THE SMITHS REUNITE! (Well, the guitarist and bassist will for a Manchester Vs. Cancer charity gig).
While the former singer is gearing up for his 2006 return, fellow ex-Smiths Johnny Marr and Andy Rourke also have a busy start to the year.
Rourke, The Smiths’ bassist, has been organising charity concert Manchester Vs. Cancer, taking place at the MEN Arena on January 28th, to raise funds for the local Christie Hospital.
Having recruited fellow Mancunians New Order, Badly Drawn Boy and his own band Freebass, featuring Peter Hook and Mani for the show, Rourke managed to engineer a small-scale Smiths link-up by asking Marr to also join the bill. The pair didn’t speak after Marr left The Smiths in 1987, but have now patched things up.
“I texted him a couple of New Years ago saying we should meet and fortunately he got back straight away,” says Rourke. “The first couple of times it was like meeting an ex-girlfriend I was so nervous, but now it’s good. I’m really glad he’s playing.”
Similarly, Marr is happy mucking in to help out his old bandmate.
“Andy and I have hung out a few times over the last year, which has been really nice,” recalled the guitarist. “He tracked me down and wanted to get together and that was great. That’s the thing, me and Andy are hanging out together because it’s more about our friendship from being little kids. It’s not any ‘80s reformation and I’m very happy about that.”
Marr will be performing with his band The Healers, and while not ruling out a surprise at the show – “We’re going to see if we can improvise on something we might or might not know from days gone by” – he insists recent rumours of a Smiths reunion on January 28th are wide of the mark.
“I haven’t really worked anything out,” explained Marr. “Someone might be coming on with us, we’re a pretty friendly bunch, but it might be as a last-minute thing. I can tell you The Smiths absolutely won’t be performing, put it that way. Have I heard the rumours? I’ve been hearing them for 18 years, pretty much from the moment we split up.”
Instead, Marr is concentrating on The Healers, and, like his old singer, has an album due out this year.
“The next record is working out really well, I’m doing 14-hour days in the studio,” he said. “Hopefully it will be out in June, then we’re going to tour. This time I want to play the UK a lot more because I miss it now. That will be happening this summer and we’ll probably do some festivals too.”