Years of Refusal - mix question

saddave

New Member
As I listen to my Morrissey cds in chronological order again I feel moved to ask - is it just me or does this album just sound like crap? I'm not talking about the band's performance, the writing, or the singing. Just the production/mix - the sludgy, murky, bass-heavy sound. Claustrophobic, with nothing very much going in at the high end. There's a distorted drum sound 13 seconds into the first track which sort of sets the scene for the whole album. It's different to all the other Morrissey disks. Fast forward to World Peace Is None Of Your Business and check out Istanbul, Earth is the Lonliest Planet, Staircase at the University etc. I'd absolutely love to hear a remix of this album with a little more sparkle. Was there another release of this album on vinyl, or abroad, which sounded different to the original UK Polydor cd?
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
Looking at the Dynamic Range Database, it's possible that the vinyl might sound better to your ears - going by the figures it appears to be a different master than the CD, less loud/compressed with a better dynamic range. https://dr.loudness-war.info/album/list/album/desc?artist=Morrissey

Then again, it might be that you just hate the overall mix itself, which nothing is really going to fix. Personally I love the sound of this album (it's 'Tormentors' I find a muddy mess), but these things are always subjective.
 

Ben Budd

Well-Known Member
I am not much of a muso, so I can't answer your question properly, but I have always felt that this album, along with the other Finn-produced LP YATQ, felt very polished and 'plastic' (for want of a better phrase). I can see why you/others may not like the sound of it. Apropos, I've always really liked Refusal, at it's best, Skull, Riverbed, Birthday etc it's great, but there's some really dodgy moments like One Day... on it.
 

Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
I am not much of a muso, so I can't answer your question properly, but I have always felt that this album, along with the other Finn-produced LP YATQ, felt very polished and 'plastic' (for want of a better phrase). I can see why you/others may not like the sound of it. Apropos, I've always really liked Refusal, at it's best, Skull, Riverbed, Birthday etc it's great, but there's some really dodgy moments like One Day... on it.

In regards to Refusal, some of the songs are good enough to survive the poor production, and that goes for Quarry too.
 
A

Anon23

Guest
I remember reading that it was recorded "live" - i.e. all the musicians, including Moz, playing live in the studio at once, with instruments bleeding into one another, rather than overdubbing. This probably contributes to the muddiness, though it gives it an energy and drive
 

dotmatrix522

Everybody's running to the exit↔️
Subscriber
I definitely agree with what you mean. While it’s not my favorite ever, I do enjoy the album, but I find the production does have a slick, “Hot Topic” pop- punk sound to it.
A lot of the songs come across way better in live renditions where there’s some more warmth added back in.
 

9 x Fined

nevermind
I am not much of a muso, so I can't answer your question properly, but I have always felt that this album, along with the other Finn-produced LP YATQ, felt very polished and 'plastic' (for want of a better phrase). I can see why you/others may not like the sound of it. Apropos, I've always really liked Refusal, at it's best, Skull, Riverbed, Birthday etc it's great, but there's some really dodgy moments like One Day... on it.
Totally agree. Overproduced. A lot of those YATQ tracks lost their edge after so much polishing.
 

NealCassidy

FREE SPEECH #FBPB
Agree with you
 

marred

Member
As I listen to my Morrissey cds in chronological order again I feel moved to ask - is it just me or does this album just sound like crap? I'm not talking about the band's performance, the writing, or the singing. Just the production/mix - the sludgy, murky, bass-heavy sound. Claustrophobic, with nothing very much going in at the high end. There's a distorted drum sound 13 seconds into the first track which sort of sets the scene for the whole album. It's different to all the other Morrissey disks. Fast forward to World Peace Is None Of Your Business and check out Istanbul, Earth is the Lonliest Planet, Staircase at the University etc. I'd absolutely love to hear a remix of this album with a little more sparkle. Was there another release of this album on vinyl, or abroad, which sounded different to the original UK Polydor cd?
I have one vinyl from polydor and one from attack if I remember correctly and one of them definitely sounds better than the other. I just can't remember which. There's an easy way to remedy that I suppose. As far as CD goes I'm not sure.
 

Raphael Lambach

Well-Known Member
I like Refusal. The heavier tunes have a mix sounding like punk, IMO. I love "I'm ok by myself" and and "Sorry doesn't help".

When World Peace came along, I remember a guy on Facebook complaining about it's mixing. I like it alot too, and it's a very good album. For me, the original editora of Kill uncle is terrible, a true disaster in technical questions.
 

🐈🐈🐈

Well-Known Member
I remember reading that it was recorded "live" - i.e. all the musicians, including Moz, playing live in the studio at once, with instruments bleeding into one another, rather than overdubbing. This probably contributes to the muddiness, though it gives it an energy and drive
This would explain the energy. Always thought it’s a spontaneous record and the production was to smoothen the edges. 🤷‍♂️
 
J

Js138

Guest
Finn had worked with some tremendous bands but his bread and butter will always be punk rock and it impacted every album he did. Years of Refusal is an album that in my opinion, could have only worked with a producer like Jerry Finn because with it’s more aggressive rock angle, would have been watered down by any other producer Moz may have used. Finn knew they had a more aggressive album this time around and honestly I think he nailed it. It’s had an edge to it not really seen since Viva Hate.

Say what you want about Green Day, but Dookie is fantastically mixed thanks to Finn.
 

Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
Finn had worked with some tremendous bands but his bread and butter will always be punk rock and it impacted every album he did. Years of Refusal is an album that in my opinion, could have only worked with a producer like Jerry Finn because with it’s more aggressive rock angle, would have been watered down by any other producer Moz may have used.
I wonder.
Finn knew they had a more aggressive album this time around and honestly I think he nailed it. It’s had an edge to it not really seen since Viva Hate.
You think Viva has more edge than Arsenal?
Say what you want about Green Day, but Dookie is fantastically mixed thanks to Finn.
Wouldn’t be caught dead with that in my ear holes.
 
J

Js138

Guest
I wonder.

You think Viva has more edge than Arsenal?

Wouldn’t be caught dead with that in my ear holes.

Viva Hate in my opinion at times is very experimental and very unorthodox. It’s one of the reasons I liked it so much upon first listen. You could tell they were looking to make an artistic statement, not just good songs. From the noisy distorted intro of Alsatian Cousin to the out of nowhere composition of Little Man, What Now. For me the experimentation, the unorthodox approaches, allowing the songs to kinda get lost in themselves, gives the album an edginess that Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, Vauxhall lack. Years of Refusal, brings the edginess back but this time in the form of heavier songs, faster tempos, heavier guitars, loud noisy production. I hope that make sense, I just feel Uncle, Arsenal, and Vauxhaux are all very “proper” albums more in line with the type of singer most think Morrissey is.
 

Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
Viva Hate in my opinion at times is very experimental and very unorthodox. It’s one of the reasons I liked it so much upon first listen. You could tell they were looking to make an artistic statement, not just good songs. From the noisy distorted intro of Alsatian Cousin to the out of nowhere composition of Little Man, What Now. For me the experimentation, the unorthodox approaches, allowing the songs to kinda get lost in themselves, gives the album an edginess that Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, Vauxhall lack. Years of Refusal, brings the edginess back but this time in the form of heavier songs, faster tempos, heavier guitars, loud noisy production. I hope that make sense, I just feel Uncle, Arsenal, and Vauxhaux are all very “proper” albums more in line with the type of singer most think Morrissey is.

Ah ok. When you used the word edgy I thought you meant rough, aggressive, etc.

I think your description of ‘edgy’ for YOR above is more more in line with Arsenal, though of course Ronson’s work on Arsenal is more than just heavy. YOR’s sound comes nowhere close to the rich and imaginative sound of Arsenal.
So that’s why I wouldn’t compare YOR with Viva, or call Viva edgy, the better word would have been experimental, but not really. Maybe experimental when compared to the generalized label of the prior Smiths sound, which I believe Street made the wise decision to move away from to some extent. The use of electronic percussion, Vini’s talents and Paresi’s skills really shape, color and separate Viva Hate from what’s gone before.


Not a fan of Finn’s work with M. Though he did better with YOR. He might be known with working with heavy sounding bands, but when I listen to YATQ and YOR, there’s something plastic sounding about them. M felt comfortable around Jerry it seems, probably was a great guy to work with.

Also I wouldn’t put KU in the same category of Arsenal and Vauxhall. KU and Bona Drag was another low point in choice of producers, not all of the songs but most of them. I would have loved to hear Ronson produce November for example.
 
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marred

Member
I like Refusal. The heavier tunes have a mix sounding like punk, IMO. I love "I'm ok by myself" and and "Sorry doesn't help".

When World Peace came along, I remember a guy on Facebook complaining about it's mixing. I like it alot too, and it's a very good album. For me, the original editora of Kill uncle is terrible, a true disaster in technical questions.

Viva Hate in my opinion at times is very experimental and very unorthodox. It’s one of the reasons I liked it so much upon first listen. You could tell they were looking to make an artistic statement, not just good songs. From the noisy distorted intro of Alsatian Cousin to the out of nowhere composition of Little Man, What Now. For me the experimentation, the unorthodox approaches, allowing the songs to kinda get lost in themselves, gives the album an edginess that Kill Uncle, Your Arsenal, Vauxhall lack. Years of Refusal, brings the edginess back but this time in the form of heavier songs, faster tempos, heavier guitars, loud noisy production. I hope that make sense, I just feel Uncle, Arsenal, and Vauxhaux are all very “proper” albums more in line with the type of singer most think Morrissey is.
I get that unorthodox improper vibe from Southpaw also.
 

Jamie

Bluff, Ardour & Assoc.
It's kind of a sad irony that Alain was apparently dismissed from the YOR recording sessions because the approach of recording live was of a piece with the material he was recording with Red Lightning at the time. The R.L. EP was recorded/produced by Dave Newton of the Mighty Lemon Drops and, arguably, the mix sounds better than Finn's for Years of Refusal - the guitars have bite but aren't so distortion-clogged as to lose clarity, in part because Jesse was so heavily-favored in the final mix. One of my first takeaways from early listens to Ringleader and YOR was how difficult it was to find Boz in the mix, which was never a problem when he and Alain worked in tandem.

For YATQ, I know it was intentional for Morrissey to have the crisp, modern but punky edge - and, most importantly, radio-friendliness - that Finn brought to albums he made and/or mixed with Green Day, blink-182 and, especially, the Smoking Popes. But I think his work on YATQ was hit or miss. I don't know if it was a question of Finn's availability but M clearly was angling for a similar modern sound when he originally hired Jeff Saltzman to produce Ringleader since he was coming off the big hit of The Killers' Hot Fuss. Ultimately, he opted for a more "widescreen" approach with Visconti - and, of course, some of that was a fait accompli of the inspiration derived from working in Rome. Then, he pivoted back to the "live room" feel of YOR, which, intentionally or not, hearkens back to the live feel of Southpaw. As @Raphael Lambach says, there is a certain sense of urgency to the proceedings. Imo, you get the sense that the band worked up some of the arrangements during soundchecks on tour. There's a bit of the feel that New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M. did - and they recorded several songs on that album while on the road.
 
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Ketamine Sun

Now, today, tomorrow and always
It's kind of a sad irony that Alain was apparently dismissed from the YOR recording sessions because the approach of recording live was of a piece with the material he was recording with Red Lightning at the time. The R.L. EP was recorded/produced by Dave Newton of the Mighty Lemon Drops and, arguably, the mix sounds better than Finn's for Years of Refusal - the guitars have bite but aren't so distortion-clogged as to lose clarity, in part because Jesse was so heavily-favored in the final mix. One of my first takeaways from early listens to Ringleader and YOR was how difficult it was to find Boz in the mix, which was never a problem when he and Alain worked in tandem.

For YATQ, I know it was intentional for Morrissey to have the crisp, modern but punky edge - and, most importantly, radio-friendliness -

it does seem that way. It’s unfortunate the Finn episode. And I speculate that he brought Finn back in part because of the success of YATQ.

I wish he worked with Joe Strummer. And it would have been interesting if he worked with some of the older greats, though he probably thought their prices too high (?) don’t know. Though I am curious and looking forward to hearing what Andrew Watt has done with Bonfire.


Best producers

1 Ronson with Arsenal/ Lillywhite with Vauxhall
( it’s a tie, for different reasons)
2 Street Viva Hate
3 Visconti Ringleader
4 Joe Chiccarelli
World Peace/LIHS/INADOAC

and so on.

that Finn brought to albums he made and/or mixed with Green Day, blink-182 and, especially, the Smoking Popes. But I think his work on YATQ was hit or miss. I don't know if it was a question of Finn's availability but M clearly was angling for a similar modern sound when he originally hired Jeff Saltzman to produce Ringleader since he was coming off the big hit of The Killers' Hot Fuss. Ultimately, he opted for a more "widescreen" approach with Visconti - and, of course, some of that was a fait accompli of the inspiration derived from working in Rome. Then, he pivoted back to the "live room" feel of YOR, which, intentionally or not, hearkens back to the live feel of Southpaw. As @Raphael Lambach says, there is a certain sense of urgency to the proceedings. Imo, you get the sense that the band worked up some of the arrangements during soundchecks on tour. There's a bit of the feel that New Adventures in Hi-Fi by R.E.M. did - and they recorded several songs on that album while on the road.
 
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