If the whole band has travelled to the south of France and started recording already then I'm disappointed at the lack of evidence on social media. The band members were very good about keeping fans updated during last year's tour. Maybe Jesse went ahead as musical director? I also saw a clue in the last Central message, quoting from Interlude (co-written by a Frenchman) that Morrissey is in France, too. Call me crazy - it's okay, I can take it!
Listening to California Son is like attending a concert with superb acoustics.
There is more disquieting content to digest in LIHS, so sound must work harder.
If as some say, reviews since then have been patchy, I think major social turmoil and trends in world politics likely affected them. Since history shows change keeps happening, to last is to keep going, with a rush and a push, or with ease : )