LIHS review on (German)



"Low In High School" review by Sascha Kilian (4.5 / 6) - (German)

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The last few months have not been easy for even the most die-hard Morrissey fans. Formerly nominated by the NME as "the greatest artist of all time," the singer provoked questionable sympathy with Brexit and former UKIP chairman Nigel Farage. For some of the faithful followers of the artist it was clearly too much. The press reacted irritated and with malice.

His verbal radical statements, however, by no means fit together. For example, he draws a clear position against the policies of Donald Trump. Morrissey and his five band members even wear T-shirts with the label "Return Of The Black Panthers" at current concerts. A clear reference to the "Black Panther Party", who were founded in the 1960s, and an open America.

His rigorous opinion on the subject of animal rights or the rejection of the Royals can be shared or not. However, if it goes in the direction of nationalist-glorified "Kokolores" it is simply unbearable. On the other hand: Wasn't it always the same with him? His status as an exceptional artist is solid. The worldwide recognition that he craves, however, he is still denied.

Morrissey throws, as always, a variety of rather unclear statements around. Often there is no explanation. Why? Misunderstandings affirm the Diva's lack of understanding and self-imposed exile. If anything, Morrissey explains himself and how he sees the world through his music. That's why we lower the blood red curtain and take a look at his long awaited new album "Low In High School".

In the middle of "Low In High School" the anti-soldier's suite "I Bury The Living" is a barely two-minute moment that should bring tears of emotion to all the old the Smiths fans. Jesse Tobias plays an acoustic guitar character reminiscent of Johnny Marr and the bittersweet the Smiths farewell "I Won't Share You". Morrissey sings with a lightness and sarcasm, as he did 30 years ago, about the astonishment of the parents about the progress of the world, despite the passing away of their son John, who lost his life on the field of war. Only someone like Morrissey can garnish this drama with an irresistible "Lalalala" and let the hearts of the followers beat faster for a moment.

Until this time, you have heard through the musically best and most varied Morrissey album since "You Are The Quarry". You enjoy the wide-fledged T-Rex riff in the opener "My Love, I'd Do Anything For You", which, according to producer Joe Chiccarelli, would almost never have been on the record and to which he would, after consulting his client, add a pound of wind instruments, Timpani and fanfares missed. Bassist Mando Lopez's songwriting debut stomps heavily into the "glam dust" of "Your Arsenal". Morrissey innovates here deceptively, but euphorically and almost hilariously his promise to love.

"I Wish You Lonely" comes along like the bitchy little sister of Bowie's "Scary Monsters" and marches energetically and does not focus anymore for how long. Keyboarder Gustavo Manzur manages to use New Wave sounds in such a way that Morrissey's passionate, breathless and visually stunning desire for loneliness is transported even more intensely for his adversaries. Another candidate for a future single and already a live favorite of the previous Morrissey Concerts 2017.

"Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage", the second single release, reinforces the impression of a fabulous entry into this eleventh Morrissey solo disc after his band the Smiths released in 1987. Again Manzur offers extraordinary keyboard sounds, the band around Boz Boorer plays forcefully and the "King of Mope" clearly feels at ease when telling the world about the vain Jacky, who confidently pulls it onto the stage, even when the hall empties.

These are such inscrutable little stories that he still masters well and which could not only be interpreted behind closed doors as a metaphor for the exit of Great Britain (Union Jack) from the EU. Disguised as "Exit" or "Excess" in the hysterical outro of this addictive gem, "This Country Is Making Me Sick" and "Brexit" corroborate this thesis. Even more bizarre but more accurate, the state of Britain can not be formulated by one of its greatest modernist writers and critics. Especially with regard to the ailing domestic Prime Minister Theresa May, which is currently struggling with scandals and stagnation in the Brexit negotiations.

But Morrissey and the band are even more moving and serve "Home Is A Question Mark", a song that has its origins in the sessions of "You Are The Quarry". As a result, this ballad is "Larger Than Life" and Morrissey, the uprooted, who has become a globetrotter since leaving the UK in the late 1990s, longs for security and questions the value of home. Musically, his current cast is at its zenith. The crescendo of 90s indie guitars, a jingle tree and strings at the finale is hard to escape. Morrissey here, irresistibly, puts all his singing skills at the service of this future classic. Gorgeous!

"Spent The Day In Bed", written by Gustavo Manzur and equipped with unusual 70s e-piano sounds, got mixed reviews as a preliminary single. Morrissey's revival of his obsolete 80s bedsitter image and the negation of all media coverage is nice to hear, but actually is not one of the highlights of this very good disc and is simply not a forerunner to the album.

The opening of the second part of the album surprises with two consecutive pieces with hidden bonds to his unfortunately not particularly appreciated solo album "Kill Uncle" from 1991. "In Your Lap" is again accompanied by these unique Morrissey vocals and the piano part is pointed and nuanced. It's about protection in someone's womb with all the misery in the world. The piece needs a few passes, but then develops into one of the most beautiful of the album.

"The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Would not Kneel" prances via tango rhythm in a purely acoustic way and has always surrounded the anachronistic charm of Morrissey and he loves. The vocal sound here is fascinating as in his early solo phase, but here too the listener needs some time to get used to the modified and light sound. Old fans will recognize the "Kill Uncle" parallels and have their joy.

Everyone was astonished at the first live performances of "All the Young People Must Fall in Love". The master and his band adapt native American terrain with gospel and barrelhouse blues influences. Even more amazing: The whole thing works very well and Morrissey lyrically combines the love of youth with the half-life of unloved politicians. Typical for the Morrissey of the year 2017.

"When You Open Your Legs" sounds for German ears like hot-blooded 70s Schlager. The Manchester man tells of a hot and warm summer night in Tel Aviv, club visits and physical desire that seems to have inspired him. No real highlight of the record although already an integral part of the current liveset.

Lyrically, "Who Wants to Protect Us From The Police" is like a Morrissey too often heard, billing with police and state arbitrariness. Musically, the piece by Boz Boorer is unfortunately also similar mediocre as much on the overrated "Ringleader Of The Tormentors" album from the year 2006. Even the outro and the naming of the state "Venezuela" can not save the song from mediocrity.

But Morrissey and his band do not leave us without another climax. "Israel" has dignity, greatness and one of Morrissey's finest vocal performances ever. The Jewish capital as a symbol for a beloved, with all the beauty, the pain, the threat and the contradiction.

Recorded in the early summer of 2017 in Ennio Morricone's Roman studios and in southern France, almost the entire band is for the first time responsible for the songwriting. The band sound is therefore much more homogeneous and the songs also more valuable than on the much criticized predecessor "World Peace Is None Of Your Business". "Low In High School" has become a very good Morrissey album and tries to redefine old traditions with the strengths of the current line-up. However, it does not convey a general mood, such as his highly decorated 90s album "Vauxhall & I" (Nostalgia & Infatuation).

The lyrics of Steven Patrick Morrissey also have a different relevance in 2017 than they did in the 80s and 90s, when he wrote razor-sharp, everyday English observations and still expressed innocent desire and shy pardon. On "Low In High School", he is dedicated to hot desire, global police arbitrariness, corrupt heads of state, warmongers and, above all, the state of Israel, which is being staged in three titles. The symbolic presentation of Keys To The City Of Tel-Aviv in 2012 evidently deeply impressed the English-Irishman.

The globetrotter with the big world-grandson is even further away from his native England. While sunny Los Angeles officially declared November 10 the "Morrissey Day", on the cover of "Low In High School", it challenges a child to threaten monarchies with the ax. The cross-romantic romantic Morrissey was never alive, the Queen never in greater danger. "Low in High School" once again impressively demonstrates the exceptional position of the man "between all chairs".

Rating: 4.5 out of 6
Release: 17.11.2017
Label: BMG
Format: CD / LP / Download
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Nice review, especially the musical descriptions - thanks for posting.
Expect the non-English language reviews may be the most positive as, even if you speak the language well, bad lyrics never grate quite as much in your non-mother tongue, and the lyrics seem to be the main problem with the album.
There seems to be critical agreement on the rubbishness of Who Will Protect Us. Don't think I've read a single positive description.
Thanks for sharing. With every review I read the more impatient I'm getting. 5 more days, just 5 more days.

Morrissey's praise for Israel
If you insult Israel, you are jealous of it, sings Britpop's great old eccentric on his new album. It also contains a song about a girl from Tel Aviv.

"God bless Israel": With this sentence Morrissey finished a concert in Tel Aviv in 2008. A sympathetic reference to the host country, one might say. But at the same time a nuisance for the anti-Zionist movement, which calls itself BDS ("Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions") and which, in the pop branch, has an astounding number of followers. Among them is ex-Pink Floyd bassist Roger Waters, who fiercely attacks colleagues when they perform in Israel.

Morrissey did not give in to such criticism, on the contrary: at his concert in Tel Aviv in 2012, he wrapped himself in an Israeli flag, and in August 2016 he stated that he was proud that the mayor of Tel Aviv symbolically gave him a key presented to the city.

Well, on the new album "Low in High School" a hymnic song is called "Israel". "In other climes they bitch and whine," Morrissey sings with the great pathos he understands like no other in pop, "just because you're not like them, Israel." And: "The sky is dark for many others, they want it dark for you as well". If you insult Israel, you are just jealous of it. He can not respond to criticism of Israel's military actions, he sings: "I can not answer for what armies do, they are not you."

Then you can even hear the motive of the chosen nation, strangely mixed with the Christian idea of original sin, from which - as from the belief in many gods - Israel escaped, if one understands the Catholic raised Morrissey correctly: "You were born as guilty sinners, before you stood upright you fell, put the fear of many gods in Israel". Tricky terrain, also theological.

A second song on the album refers directly to Israel: The title "The Girl from Tel Aviv Who Would not Kneel" probably refers to the play "The Girl Who Would not Kneel", which ran in 2010 in Tel Aviv: It was based on the diaries of the Dutch-Jewish teacher Etty Hillesum, who was murdered in Auschwitz in 1943. The lyrics of the song, after praising a Tel Aviv girl ("would not kneel for a husband, dictator, tyrant or king"), however, rub off on a typical Morrissey slap in the American way of life: "The American way, displayed proudly, is to show lots of teeth and talk loudly."

Allegations of "Islamophobia"
At least, that sounds much more peaceful than earlier songwriting by Morrissey, recalling the song "Margaret on a Guillotine" dedicated to Prime Minister Thatcher. He also wished death to the Queen in a song and described her family as Schnorrer. His strong statements against carnal food ("Meat Is Murder") are legendary.

After the terrorist attack in his hometown of Manchester on May 22, 2017 Morrissey criticized that the Islamist background wasn't named, which led especially orthodox left people to call him "Islamophob". The German pop magazine "Spex", which had vowed him for decades, now punished him for his Israel songs with a tearing.

Morrissey shows his disappointment with the "Arab Spring" in the new song "In Your Lap"; He also recommends the retreat to the private life in "Spent the Day in Bed." Because, as he explains in his unchanged elegant English: "The news contrives to frighten you." In the end you are left with concrete slogans of freedom: "No emasculation, no castration. No highway, freeway, motorway. No bus, no boss, no rain, no train. "Presidents may come and go, he sings in another beautiful song:" But all the young people, they must fall in love. "

Here you can hear the lightness and agility in the melody that was typical for Morrissey, especially with his band The Smiths. By now it has given way to a powerful sound that underlines the theatricality of the lyrics: here, trumpets are being blown, drumming and tumbling is done, here the guitar may roar apocalyptically. For example, in the dramatic "I Bury the Living," in which Morrissey plays the role of a "sweet little soldier," who discovers he's just cannon fodder.

Or in "Who Will Protect Us From the Police?" in which he sings of tanks that attack the freedom of speech. Only at the end of the song does it become apparent where this scenario is taking place: "Venezuela", he chants. There, in Caracas, Morrissey performed in 2016, as in Bangkok, Saigon and Singapore. He comes around in the world, that old grim Briton, and he makes his rhyme out of it.
Musically, it’s their best effort since Quarry. The Smiths moment in "I bury the living" is a tearjerker. You will all love the Kill Uncle references during „Girl“ and „Lap“. Especially there, he finds a voice long forgotten and offers an anachronstic atmosphere. The studio version of "Home is a ?" is beyond belief and matches up with "Trouble loves me", imho. I was never a fan of his post Quarry stuff but this one kept me busy for 10 days to find the right words for our review. It’s really a positive development. Think about it before judging after first listen.
Musically, it’s their best effort since Quarry. The Smiths moment in "I bury the living" is a tearjerker. You will all love the Kill Uncle references during „Girl“ and „Lap“. Especially there, he finds a voice long forgotten and offers an anachronstic atmosphere. The studio version of "Home is a ?" is beyond belief and matches up with "Trouble loves me", imho. I was never a fan of his post Quarry stuff but this one kept me busy for 10 days to find the right words for our review. It’s really a positive development. Think about it before judging after first listen.

Thanks for these - encouraging comments apart from the fact that I never much liked You are the Quarry! Looking forward to hearing the more gentle songs especially after your comments.
Musically, it’s their best effort since Quarry. The Smiths moment in "I bury the living" is a tearjerker. You will all love the Kill Uncle references during „Girl“ and „Lap“. Especially there, he finds a voice long forgotten and offers an anachronstic atmosphere. The studio version of "Home is a ?" is beyond belief and matches up with "Trouble loves me", imho. I was never a fan of his post Quarry stuff but this one kept me busy for 10 days to find the right words for our review. It’s really a positive development. Think about it before judging after first listen.

And if musically World Peace was much better than Quarry?
For me, Quarry still has the best bunch of songs after the 7-year sabbatical, including fantastic b-sides. I still don‘t agree with the production of Jerry Finn (R.I.P.) but the other albums after that were a mixed bag, with lots of mediocre stuff. LIHS has 2-3 songs which are simply not good enough for my ears. The rest offers wonderful moments, at least for an old bone like me. Chiccarelli still is no Lillywhyte or Street but he has more to offer than in 2014. The band has found a common ground and a unique sound as well.
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