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Music Review

Morrissey: 'Years Of Refusal'

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Morrissey: 'Years Of Refusal'
Released on Monday, Feb 16 2009

"How time grips you sliming in its spell, and before you know goodbye will be farewell," croons Morrissey in typically morose fashion midway through his tenth solo album. He may be approaching 50, he may have fallen out with the NME (again), and the revived commercial fortunes of 2004's You Are The Quarry may be fading, but he's lost none of his sardonic wit. Well aware that a portion of his fanbase is expecting him to announce his retirement, the bequiffed troubadour has returned with an album that matches up to anything from his illustrious back catalogue.

Opener 'Something Is Squeezing My Skull' features the beefed-up arsenal of guitars that have been his standard template since Quarry, but there's an added dose of swagger and spunk here that marks it out as a future Moz classic. Lyrically it finds him cocky ("I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out... thank you, drop dead"), cheeky ("The motion of taxis excites me when you peel it back and bite me") and at his most intriguing ("Diazepam, valium, tramazapam, lithium, ECT, HRT... How long must I stay on this stuff?").

Anyone frustrated by the banal lyrics peddled by today's stadium rock acts will find plenty to enjoy here. 'One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell' finds Moz in self-deprecating mode, deeming himself a "savage beast with nothing to sell", before urging his love to "grab me while we still have the time". Equally stunning is the brooding 'It's Not Your Birthday Anymore', which features one of the singer's finest vocal performances and the deliciously snarling line: "Did you really think we meant all those syrupy, sentimental things that we said yesterday?"

However, what makes Years Of Refusal stand out as a great Morrissey album isn't the usual dose of miserabalist poetry - even 2006's so-so Ringleader Of The Tormentors had some classic lines (c.f. "There are exploding kegs between my legs"). Messrs. Boorer, Tobias and Walker, the musicians who've played on the majority of Morrissey's solo output, have upped their game here too. Usually a side-note to the singer's waspish put-downs, on the flamboyant flourishes of 'Birthday', the Spanish guitars of 'When Last I Spoke To Carol', and the thunderous clunk of 'Black Cloud' they actually threaten to overshadow their frontman.

Years Of Refusal suggests, not for the first time, that Morrissey is at his best when his back's against the wall. He frequently returns to well-worn themes of mortality and paranoia, but here there's a palpable sense of anger exuding from his vitriolic put-downs. "Then came an arm around my shoulder, well surely the hand holds a revolver?" he seethes on album closer 'I'm OK By Myself', before ending the album by crooning: "I don't need you and I never have!" Not since Vauxhall And I or possibly even The Smiths has he sounded quite so defiant and alive.

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