TheMidlandsRocks: "I Am Not A Dog On A Chain" album review (February 2, 2020)

First review of the new album...

Looks like it came out a few days ago. General vibe is 'quite good music, not great lyrics',a bit like the High School reviews . Criticises 'Bobby'which, for those of us who really like the song, suggests we may feel differently to this journalist about the rest of the album too...

Morrissey – I Am Not a Dog On a Chain review. - TheMidlandsRocks.com

By Angri Peters - February 2, 2020.

Writing a Morrissey review is a near impossible task today. If I’m positive, a wave of people who loathe his politics will descend upon me for implicitly endorsing a rising wave of Islamophobia. If I am critical, I will be set upon by people who refuse to accept that anything he does is less than genius (yes, even “Roy’s Keen”) amid claims that I must be part of some Guardian-led media plot to destroy him. For transparency, I love The Smiths. If I could rewrite history and make a single album of Morrissey’s finest moments (“Boxers”, “Now My Heart Is Full”, “Every Day Is Like Sunday” and a few others) then I reckon it would rank up there as one of the finest albums of all time. His politics have never put me off his solo material; his solo material put me off his solo material. It just never consistently hit the highs I knew he was capable of. I opted to review this album because I heard he’d changed direction and I was interested. In fact, the review should occur without any reference to his politics at all. That’s right. Judging it by its own artistic standard!

What I did like was that the album defied expectation. This was not another Morrissey album. The first thing the listener hears is something like Altern-8. Likewise, the second track “Love is On Its Way Out” begins with what sounds like the menu screen of an 8-bit platformer set in a spooky mansion. Then the choruses of both kick in with Andreas Johnson’s “Glorious”. That’s pretty much a formula for the more diverse parts of the album. That kept me intrigued. However, that doesn’t mean that any of these songs had the soaring, stomach-churning, tear-jerking, heart-tugging splendour of the aforementioned classics or indeed any of the so-so hits of previous years. The production was doing all the work. Producer Joe Chicarelli (Beck, The Killers) said that Morrissey has “pushed the boundaries yet again – both musically and lyrically”. It’s true that he is out of his comfort zone, but is he pushing our boundaries as listeners? If you only listen to Morrissey, then yes. But if you’ve heard electronic music, synths, strings, slightly wonky guitar and backing vocals before….then no. The difficulty is that any attempts at doing something contemporary on the album already sound a bit dated and old. Listen to single “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?” Thelma Houston adds additional vocals- but to what end? A normal sounding Morrissey tune ends up with the sort of intermittent “the kids like this, don’t they?” interjections that pensioners tend to think make something contemporary. You might as well have stuck Bubbler Ranx on there. It’s Morrissey doing 90s “My Father’s Eyes” Eric Clapton.

Even the few moments of nostalgic whimsy don’t really land. “What Kind of People Live in These Houses?” is a classic Morrissey sounding moment, and along with “Darling, I Hug A Pillow”, they could have been from the Viva Hate era. All the hallmarks of what we liked appear (obvious rhymes, jangly guitars, suburban daydreaming) but without any real payoff. “Once I Saw The River Clean” is almost literally “Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before” but produced by Bronski Beat. “My Curling Days Are Over” features some beautiful lines and the lushest production of the whole album (example “Time will mould you and craft you/But when you’re looking away it will slide up and shaft you”), all wrapped up in a Fiction Factory-meets-The Sundays crooner. This is maybe the sole shining moment, albeit one that hangs around a minute or so too long.

And while I’m trying not to get caught up in Morrissey bashing, he introduces the musical equivalent of Piers Morgan: “I Am Not A Dog On A Chain” (“I use my own brain…I do not read newspapers/They are mischief makers/Listen to what’s not shown/And there you will find the truth”) You started this Morrissey, not me! It’s a cockney walkabout tune where a grown man complains that you can’t even voice support for far right political parties with overt racist agendas without someone from the left mentioning it. It’s not even a clever song. It’s just a man (probably wearing a suit jacket and jeans together) ranting about how you have to be brave to speak the truth (or “be a bit racist”) and not just listen to what the papers say – as if those are the only two options! It’s the noble rallying cry of a silent majority who have forgotten that we’re having Brexit, we’ve got the Tories in power, and two of the biggest newspapers in the country are The Daily Mail and The Sun. Oh how unrepresented you must feel, Moz! How brave you are to say what millions think on a daily basis on the internet and in pubs and in bus queues and in taxis and… I could go on. He may not be a dog on a chain, but he certainly responds to dog whistles – and this song isn’t about rising above or showing strength. It’s the embodiment of what surrounds it: a man who is out of touch with culture complaining that he’s out of touch with culture, whilst trying to remain relevant to culture itself.

So there you go. I reviewed it on its own merit – but like Christmas dinner with Granddad- someone has to bring up how you can’t say anything nowadays without offending someone. And when people respond, he’ll get a cob on. However, against the tide of lefty woke twitter assassins, I disagree that Morrissey says these things to draw attention to his music. I’m starting to think that he says them to distract us from it.

Midlands Rocks album
 
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Comments

A
Hello - anonymous here who posted the review (big deal!).
My expectations of M's lyrics these days are pretty low - I just don't want to cringe too much.
The first two songs we've heard surpass that wish quite considerably. The Bobby lyrics are mysterious but intriguing, the 'Love is' lyrics are actually pretty good if a little simplistic in places. Neither of these was praised by the reviewer - if the lyrics are as good as these throughout, the musical backdrops are as unusual as he claims, and there are songs that are strongly reminiscent of Viva Hate and Strangeways, I think this album could actually be pretty good (all things considered).
Mr M Maher
 
A
"his solo material put me off his solo material. It just never consistently hit the highs I knew he was capable of."


That is absolute bollocks.
 
A
In fact, the review should occur without any reference to his politics at all. That’s right. Judging it by its own artistic standard!"


That is exactly as it should be.
 
The quoted lyrics don't really back up the review's rant.

It is a pity that Moz thinks blogs tell the truth though. I might lob some books about internet propaganda at the Wembley stage.
 
A
"It’s a cockney walkabout tune where a grown man complains that you can’t even voice support for far right political parties with overt racist agendas without someone from the left mentioning it."

Well, in fairness, if Morrissey thinks that he can voice support for Anne Marie Waters/For Britain, then he shouldn't complain when people, be they fans or newspapers, voice their opposing views.

So this is just bollocks:

"I use my own brain…I do not read newspapers/They are mischief makers/Listen to what’s not shown/And there you will find the truth".

I mean, we all heard him voice his support for Anne Marie Waters during that gig he did to promote Low In High School. It was either on the live stream or that BBC gig he did. Can't remember which. So telling us not to listen to the news is absurdist. Not that I believe 100% of what I read or hear. But I heard him say what he said with my my own bloody ears during that gig...
 
M
“What Kind of People Live in These Houses?” is a classic Morrissey sounding moment, and along with “Darling, I Hug A Pillow”, they could have been from the Viva Hate era.
 
A
"It’s a cockney walkabout tune where a grown man complains that you can’t even voice support for far right political parties with overt racist agendas without someone from the left mentioning it."

Well, in fairness, if Morrissey thinks that he can voice support for Anne Marie Waters/For Britain, then he shouldn't complain when people, be they fans or newspapers, voice their opposing views.

So this is just bollocks:

"I use my own brain…I do not read newspapers/They are mischief makers/Listen to what’s not shown/And there you will find the truth".

I mean, we all heard him voice his support for Anne Marie Waters during that gig he did to promote Low In High School. It was either on the live stream or that BBC gig he did. Can't remember which. So telling us not to listen to the news is absurdist. Not that I believe 100% of what I read or hear. But I heard him say what he said with my my own bloody ears during that gig...
There's no uncertainty about whether he supports Waters and For Britain. He wrote a piece on his website calling for us all to support them, and he wore the pin that you only get when you join them.
 
A
Obviously, I don't have any idea yet whether this is a fair review, but a fairly rare example of a reviewer who can actually write.
 
I’m curious about the notion that Morrissey is trying to sound contemporary through the new album. Both tracks I’ve heard seemed wilfully, wonderfully, and obviously retro. Like Rusholme Ruffians must have, when people first heard it.
 
B
This review hurts. Was quite excited to hear IANADOAC. Have never heard of Angri Peters or Midlandrocks, yet they have a website so they must know more than I.
 
Read this review because I saw it was written by “Angri Peters”. Lol.

I think this is fake. Most of the review is talking about either songs you already know about, the past, or politics. Very little substance.
 
You know, Moz could have kept "Your Arsenal" in the can, unreleased, for 28 years, released it NOW, and these jokers would rip it apart, just because of the current partisan divide...I don't take these reviews seriously...neither should anyone else.
 
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