LIHS Daily Mail (3/5) "The singer has a pop at everyone - but cheers us up with a kazoo"

Maurice E Maher

Well-Known Member performers.

"As the famously gloomy singer of The Smiths, Morrissey was a pivotal figure in the Eighties. The Manchester band soared above their peers, and their music, as last month’s reissue of The Queen Is Dead showed, has stood the test of time.

Morrissey’s solo career has been more erratic. There have been some great moments, but many of his solo records have been stodgy, lacking the melodic power that his former guitarist Johnny Marr brought to The Smiths.

As the title of his 11th solo album suggests, the godfather of glum, 58, hasn’t lightened up with age, either. Low In High School is pointedly cantankerous, with those in the singer’s sights including power brokers of every political hue, conceited entertainers and music executives seemingly oblivious to his talent. Recorded partly in soundtrack composer Ennio Morricone’s Rome studio, the album is only the singer’s second in eight years.

A fractious relationship with a chain of record labels has prevented him from building up momentum, though there is some continuity here in the return of producer Joe Chiccarelli, who oversaw his last effort in 2014.

Working with multi-instrumentalist Gustavo Manzur and bassist Mando Lopez, Chiccarelli has brought greater variety and adventure, framing Morrissey’s unfailingly precise diction with bossa nova rhythms and tango-style accordion alongside the traditional guitars and cinematic strings.

But Low In High School is dominated by the sound of a singer trenchantly sounding forth. He ventures into the tangled world of Middle East politics on Israel, and rails glibly against war on the spiteful I Bury The Living.

Piano ballad In Your Lap applauds the Arab Spring, and Who Will Protect Us From The Police? refers to an incident in which he allegedly fell foul of an armed traffic officer in Rome.

It’s not all heavy-going. Home Is A Question Mark alludes to his problems with record labels — ‘I’ve wined and I’ve dined with every bogus music mogul’ — and Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage lampoons the narcissism of second-rate performers.

Echoing Elvis Costello’s point that Morrissey ‘writes wonderful song titles, but often forgets to write the song’, there’s a lot here that fails to hit the spot. But there are moments of surprising levity. Spent The Day In Bed is illuminated by sprightly keyboards; When You Open Your Legs, mischievously dismissed as ‘a song about cycling’, is classic Carry On sauciness — a far cry from Morrissey’s novel, List Of The Lost, which won the award for bad sex in fiction in 2015.

Best of all, All The Young People Must Fall In Love is a typically contrary juxtaposition, with the joys of romance seen as an antidote to the outside world’s horrors. The tune is set to handclaps, kazoo and a jaunty oompah rhythm. He’s at his best here when he cheers up."

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