Martin Rossiter reviews the reissue of Viva Hate
Actual source: Melody Maker (Apr. 12)

source: The Ask list, posted by Jose Lenar de Melo Bandeira Filho who retrieved it from the Gene mailing list, reprinted without permission

MORRISSEY "Viva Hate" EMI (20 tracks / 70 minutes)

"Re-issue! Re-package! Re-evaluate the songs.
Double pack with a photograph.
Extra track (and a tacky badge)"

from ‘Paint A Vulgar Picture" - The Smiths

All we’re missing here is the badge, although this is probably not Morrissey’s fault. In fact I would be very surprised if he was even given the opportunity to sanction this release, having parted company with EMI a good few years back.

I am, however, confused by two things: Why on earth EMI have chosen to re-release this album to celebrate their centenary, and who is going to buy it? Is it not normal for an album to be re-released and subsequently held aloft for reappraisal after some recent success? With no offence to the Mancunian miserabilist / miser / master (delete where applicable), he has not just gone gold in the US, had a career rebirth at home or suddenly become every Japanese girl’s favoured pin-up.

In 1988, the original release of ‘Viva Hate’ held the hopes of every Smiths devotee, while also threatening to break Morrissey into new ground. Would the voice that jumped from the speakers and hugged every disillusioned British teenager be turned into worldwide alternative superstar? It seemed possible at the time for Morrissey to become the natural successor to Lou Reed and David Bowie. This first solo album not only gives evidence as to why this is a distinct possibility, but also why Morrissey is now seen as the epitome of a bygone, and rarely respected, musical age.

First out in his defence comes the bold opener ‘Alsatian Cousin’. It appears as a genuine statement of intent, an entrance into a brave new musical era and an indication that Morrissey intends to leave his room, sell his furniture and move into a 20,000 seater arena. Suddenly, second thoughts. The subject matter of track two ‘Little Man, What Now?’, a past-his-sell-by-date Sixties celebrity going unrecognised on "an afternoon nostalgia televison show", is let down by the leaden delivery and the heartless nature of the lyric. Where is the incisiveness? Where is the worthwhile comment on the human condition? This laziness is mirrored on the rambling, Morrissey-by-numbers ‘Late Night Maudlin Street’ and the sadly irony-free ‘Dial a Cliche’.

But then saving the day and keeping those Wembley dreams alive comes the era-defining ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’. The call for implentation of NATO’s full nuclear arsenal on Southend, Weston-Super-Mare, Blackpool and the like is made to sound like a celebration of life and love itself.

The aid of retrospect casts a new light on most of the songs here, none more so than ‘The Ordinary Boys’. Here Morrissey dismissed the "Ordinary boys, happy knowing nothing / Happy being no one but themselves" as "empty fools". Are these not the very same people he celebrates later in his career on ‘Boxers’ and the sinister ‘We’ll Let You Know’? What caused this change of tack is anyone’s guess, but it does seem at odds with an artist who always had such a clearly defined musical and lyrical manifesto.

Elsewhere, ‘Suedehead’ always raises a smile and ‘Break Up The Family’ deserves a mention. As do ‘At Amber’, ‘Girl Least Likely To’ and the simply beautiful ‘Michael’s Bones’, three of the otherwise superfluous extra tracks that have seemingly been selected at random.

‘Viva Hate’ is by no means Morrissey’s best solo offering: ‘Vauxhall And I’ takes that crown comfortably. It does show flashes of genius and yet it infuriates more than it inspires and leaves a feeling of disappointment.

But as someone once said, "It’s so easy to laugh / It’s so easy to hate / It takes guts to be gentle and kind".


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