'Low In High School' Louder Than War in depth review

fergal_41

Member
http://louderthanwar.com/morrissey-low-high-school-depth-review/#.Wgw7RpjCFZF.twitter

“Without ever having been particularly left-wing” wrote Alan Bennett three years ago, “I am happy never to have trod that dreary safari from left to right which generally comes with age, a trip writers in particular seem drawn to, Amis, Osborne, Larkin, Iris Murdoch all ending up at the spectrum’s crusty and clichéd end.” To this roll call, Bennett could also have added his onetime Camden neighbour, Morrissey. Whilst accusations of racism have, often unfairly, pursued Morrissey throughout his career, his pronouncements over the last few years have left little room for ambiguity. He has made positive noises about Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage. He blamed the horrific Manchester Arena attack on Theresa May’s immigration policies (the murderer, like Morrissey, was born to immigrant parents in South Manchester). He falsely claimed that Sadiq Khan would not condemn Islamic State. And appearing on 6Music earlier this year, he bemused daytime radio listeners the depth and breadth of the UK by offering his theory that UKIP’s leadership election was rigged against the (profoundly anti-Islam) candidate Anne-Marie Waters. Thus, you can forgive my trepidation on reading that ‘Low in High School’, Morrissey’s 11th studio album, would be his most political yet.

It’s easy to forget the extent to which world affairs – animals and the Queen aside – left Morrissey unconcerned. Continuing the steady shift that was apparent on 2014’s ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’, there are more explicitly political tracks on this record than in the first two decades of his solo career put together. But where that album was sparkling and much underappreciated (almost impressively, Morrissey fell out with label Harvest during the album’s promotion period), ‘Low in High School’ is a record with little of the same insight, depth or variety – instead, it’s characterised by a deficit of ideas.

At the end of ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’, we left Morrissey jangling the chains of Dublin’s Mountjoy prison and reflecting on his own mortality. And where do we find him now? Raging against the fake news and the crooked media, in the album’s opening lyrics that sound even more clunky than they scan: “Teach your kids to recognise and despise all the propaganda / filtered down by the dead echelons mainstream media.” What’s making Morrissey grate again? Thankfully the track in question, ‘My Love I’d Do Anything For You’, is otherwise one of the album’s clear highlights – a glam racket with much of the same greasy stomp of 1992’s ‘Your Arsenal’ record. The title of ‘I Wish You Lonely’ may appear from the Random Morrissey Generator, but it’s a catchy and modern take on Magazine with its pulsating and fizzing synths. Similarly, ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage’ is a delight with a brilliant moment of meta-commentary on his own career: “Scene Two, everyone who comes must go! Scene Four, blacker than ever before! Scene six, this country is making me sick!”. An enjoyable burst of self-awareness in an album that, otherwise, is thin on the ground with such reflection.

For Morrissey’s band – headed by musical director of twenty five years, Boz Boorer and as well as musicians like Jesse Tobias and Gustavo Manzur who have been with him over a decade – there’s multiple triumphs on this record. Where 2009’s ‘Years of Refusal’ was an exercise is clunky US rock guitars, now the band are able to craft a real sonic language for the throbbing neuroses of Morrissey’s lyrics. It’s a less straightforwardly pretty record than ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’, but it does continue that album’s intriguing dalliance with bossa nova and flamenco. More than this, the chugging, gothic rock opera of ‘I Bury the Living’ could be one of the most ambitious moments in the late Morrissey catalogue. Instead, his satire of a soldier – characterised here as thick and violent – is limp and ill-targeted. Morrissey was once able to write with fluency about the contradictions of tough guy machismo, instead the refrain here of ‘honour-mad cannon fodder’ feels a little Sixth Form. It’s a theme that re-emerges later in the record as Morrissey asks ‘what do you think all these armies are for? It’s just because the land weeps oil’.

This speaks to the main flaw of ‘Low in High School’ – Morrissey is clearly a seasoned provocateur, but unusually the album suffers from a real dearth of things to say. War is bad, government is bad, armies are very bad; the same tropes re-emerge constantly through the album but without proper exploration. Ideas often surface without being followed through – the Arab Spring appears, but then fades into a mere backdrop for loneliness and oral sex (the album’s other great theme). ‘Spent the Day In Bed’ – the album’s lead single – works because it more successfully fuses the personal and the political, where something like ‘In Your Lap’ is unfocused and lumpen. Much better, as always, is Morrissey is on his star subject – himself. ‘Home is a Question Mark’ is by some distance the best track on ‘Low in High School’ – this is confessional, after-hours Morrissey and it builds to a gorgeous final vocal soar.

Perhaps the most remarked upon aspect of ‘Low in High School’ has been its focus on Israel – and it’s apparent that Morrissey has been spending some time there since being awarded the freedom of Tel Aviv in a 2012 ceremony. Be it the humdrum towns of the 80s North, giddy London in the 90s or LA and Italy in the 00s, some of the most interesting twists in Morrissey’s career arc have been provided by finding inspiration in geography. And make no mistake, ‘Low in High School’ is every bit as coloured by Israel as ‘Ringleader of the Tormentors’ was with Rome. Both ‘the Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel’ – the title an apparent reference to the work of celebrated diarist Etty Hillesum, who died in the Shoah – and ‘When You Open Your Legs’ are set in Israel. In the latter, we find Morrissey stumbling out of a Tel Aviv nightclub at 4am seemingly en route to a booty call.

But it’s on piano-led torch song ‘Israel’, which closes the album, that we get the heart-on-sleeve moment about (gulp) the Middle East peace process: ‘In other climes they bitch and whine / just because you’re not like them / Israel…the sky is dark for many others / they want it dark for you as well’. Without any desire to relay in the Israel/Palestine conflict in the middle of an album review (for the internet is a terrible enough place as it is), there is a real inconsistency with how waspishly Morrissey puts down those who oppose Israel and his own seven minute condemnation of militarism just a few tracks earlier. Of course it is absolutely Morrissey’s right to take a side – indeed, if anything more detail on this in the track would have been fascinating – but his sledgehammer approach feels artistically disappointing and only highlights the extent to which his writing has become a nuance-free zone.

Whilst ‘Low in High School’ does have moments that work, there are plenty more false starts and moments that infuriate. Not yet sixty, and clearly looking outwards to the world, there’s no reason why Morrissey shouldn’t be writing as sharply as ever. Instead, we’re left with a record bereft of any of the punch in the gut moments that remind you quite how powerful the man can still be. For next time? More introspection, and a little less InfoWars.

All words by Fergal Kinney
 

nitrate21

Member
I was gonna say "fair enough" to the political objections, though nothing quoted really bothered me. Pointing out that oil drives our Middle East politics may not be strikingly original, but it has the benefit of being true and people should be reminded of it. But InfoWars? Really? A website about lizard demons and attacking Sandy Hook parents? A low blow against Moz, who may have his inflammatory opinions but doesn't make things up and still has leagues more class than any slimeball like Alex Jones.
 

Ugly Devil

Well-Known Member
I was gonna say "fair enough" to the political objections, though nothing quoted really bothered me. Pointing out that oil drives our Middle East politics may not be strikingly original, but it has the benefit of being true and people should be reminded of it. But InfoWars? Really? A website about lizard demons and attacking Sandy Hook parents? A low blow against Moz, who may have his inflammatory opinions but doesn't make things up and still has leagues more class than any slimeball like Alex Jones.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
In some ways it's not morrissey who changed but the politics or each side of the spectrum. I can remember a time when those on the left questioned routinely the bias of corporate media (think of why and how the idea of alternative came to be) and questioned routinely religion and especially Islam for being patriarchal and brutally anti feminist. These stances changed as the right changed though. The obvious ugly persecution of arabs and muslims has made it now traitorous on the left to condemn Islam on its own merits in any way. Same with the media. Does morrissey always side on what I believe? The answer is no and I think he can be blind to things with his own bias such as in the le pen debate. I think there his own hatred at macron made him blind to le pens obvious failings. Same with his claims about politicians being protected though they are to some extent at least when compared to the non rich. Was he wrong about khans calling the terrorist an extremist instead of an Islamic extremist. I know there are reasons politicians don't do this but it wasn't exactly an incorrect statement
 
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Anonymous

Guest
Steven is no different from Alex Jones. Staying on message, in exchange for ego candy, visibility and cash.
This "Israel" song is guaranteed to be a career-killing howler.
 
Morrissey hasn't changed that much. It's just the streets around London and Manchester used to be his Arena and now he's a world traveler over multiple decades.
To him Rome and Israel are now the same as Leeds side streets and London.

Not exactly excellent phrasing to call it "Brash outrageous and free" or to say "hang the DJ" because you don't like his music. Now it's about Israel and Hang the military. Every army in the world. Just Hang them.
Instead of wanting the head of Elton John he wants the head of Donald Trump.

He just has a much larger stage to walk upon and most of us really have no idea about that kind of life experience.

I'm much happier about his path than those who change with the times for the sake of staying in fashion. Many fall down that hole.

He's still writing what he knows and where he goes. Admittedly, somewhat more bluntly than he used to. Sometimes.
 
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Anonymous

Guest
I was gonna say "fair enough" to the political objections, though nothing quoted really bothered me. Pointing out that oil drives our Middle East politics may not be strikingly original, but it has the benefit of being true and people should be reminded of it. But InfoWars? Really? A website about lizard demons and attacking Sandy Hook parents? A low blow against Moz, who may have his inflammatory opinions but doesn't make things up and still has leagues more class than any slimeball like Alex Jones.

The info wars comparison is completely accurate. TTY has featured a piece posted by the main man of it’s UK incarnation, Paul Joseph Watson.
 
Alex Jones adores Trump and Morrissey hates Trump. I'd say somewhere in between lies a difference.
And it makes for more interesting lyrics than Fox or CNN would.
 

nitrate21

Member
The info wars comparison is completely accurate. TTY has featured a piece posted by the main man of it’s UK incarnation, Paul Joseph Watson.
Try harder. That’s guilt by association, not proof that Morrissey traffics in insane misrepresentations of reality and baseless conspiracy theories.
 

Uncleskinny

It's all good
Subscriber
Try harder. That’s guilt by association, not proof that Morrissey traffics in insane misrepresentations of reality and baseless conspiracy theories.

That's hilarious. And what funnier is that you actually believe what you're saying. You are literally talking about a man who sees a conspiracy anywhere when it suits him, for example, the conspiracy not to release 'Paris', and that stickers were being put on his records to reduce sales.

http://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-31-1191993

http://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-hmv-smiths-freeze-sales-response-2090678
 
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nitrate21

Member
That's hilarious. And what funnier is that you actually believe what you're saying. You are literally talking about a man who sees a conspiracy anywhere when it suits him, for example, the conspiracy not to release 'Paris', and that stickers were being put on his records to reduce sales.

http://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-31-1191993

http://www.nme.com/news/music/morrissey-hmv-smiths-freeze-sales-response-2090678
Sure, that’s just like claiming Sandy Hook victims aren’t real, troll.
 

Bluebirds

Well-Known Member
f***ing hell. I didn't realise Louder Than War writers could actually write. Some of their gig reviews make my five year old niece's scribbled efforts read like Agatha Christie. Hardly surprising when John Nobb is the editor-in-chief. So kudos to this review which is considered and well-written.

"Let me tell you about punk rock and the Roses...."
 

Orson Swells

Well-Known Member
That's hilarious. And what funnier is that you actually believe what you're saying. You are literally talking about a man who sees a conspiracy anywhere when it suits him.

You do understand you have just described yourself and your attitude to Morrissey?
 

nitrate21

Member
That Sandy Hook thing is kinda screwed up though. Look into it a bit. It's interesting why people see a conspiracy there.
Go f*** yourself for insinuating insane shit without anything solid to back it up. How dare you perpetuate that horrible lie, you should have been on clean-up duty picking up the limbs of children severed by gunfire you shitbird.
 
Go f*** yourself for insinuating insane shit without anything solid to back it up. How dare you perpetuate that horrible lie, you should have been on clean-up duty picking up the limbs of children severed by gunfire you shitbird.
I merely said it was interesting that people find a conspiracy there and why. I didn't even say anything was true or wasn't true. Are you American by any chance? Your reaction would lead me to believe so. Anyway I don't come here to argue. Read my statement again I didn't even say anything besides to comment on previous comments.
 

nitrate21

Member
I merely said it was interesting that people find a conspiracy there and why. I didn't even say anything was true or wasn't true. Are you American by any chance? Your reaction would lead me to believe so. Anyway I don't come here to argue. Read my statement again I didn't even say anything besides to comment on previous comments.
Look up “insinuating.” To hell with your plausible deniability. There’s nothing interesting about Sandy Hook conspiracies except the extent of the depravity and insanity of the theorists.
 
Look up “insinuating.” To hell with your plausible deniability. There’s nothing interesting about Sandy Hook conspiracies except the extent of the depravity and insanity of the theorists.
Well, this shitbird will be busy f***ing himself this afternoon. Do Not Disturb. Leave a message after the beep.
 
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