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coverpic flag England - Full Moon 94 - 06/03/04

Morrissey
You Are the Quarry
Attack

The opening track of Morrissey's new album, You Are the Quarry, proves that pop lyrics should be listened to, not read. When I first read the lyrics to "America is Not the World", weeks before the release, I got slightly worried. It is a rather traditional love/hate-declaration to the US, and the critique is directed at the most obvious things: fattening fast food, white, male presidents and the expansionist tendencies. But of course, I should have known better. When I heard Morrissey sing the lyrics to Alain Whyte's beautiful melody, everything fell into place. Morrissey's voice breathes life into the sentiments, he intones in a delightful way, and when he adds "No no no no no", it says everything.

It's almost comforting to once again step into the world of Morrissey, as not much has really changed. He shows that even when having reached a mature age, it's not unnatural to still feel maladjusted and unwanted. He manages to vary between singing longingly for love and being ruthless against those who make his life miserable, persons against whom he would probably like to use the Tommy gun he poses with on the cover.

My expectations for the album were great, yet I knew what to find: guitar based pop music, playful song titles, brilliant (for the most part) lyrics - but everything would depend upon the quality of the songs. His last two albums, Southpaw Grammar and Maladjusted, are underrated, but they did contain a few too many weak songs. Discussing which album songs that should be relegated to single b-sides and the other way around, is a game among Morrissey fans. This time around too there's a couple of songs that should have been replaced. Still, it's a pleasure to say that overall the songs are stronger than in a long time. The main composers are the guitarists Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte, and the seven-year break has helped them develop a strong portfolio of songs. It doesn't hurt either that age has given Morrissey's voice added depth, and at times he uses to great effect the falsetto he last showcased on the early recordings by The Smiths. The producer Jerry Finn (who has previously worked with Blink-182 among others) has given the album a contemporary feel. It might sound dated in a few years time, but at the moment it appears refreshing. The new addition to the band, keyboard player Roger Manning, also contributes to make a richer sound, although the record would have benefited if money were spent on a real string section instead of using synthesisers.

As four of the songs were premiered in concert two years ago, and have since been widely bootlegged, I haven't yet managed to think of You Are the Quarry as a whole. Anyway, it's a great collection of songs, with both potential singles and typical album tracks. The emotional level in the songs vary between the heartfelt plea for love in "Come Back to Camden", to the angry "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?". The catchy "Let Me Kiss You" contains some vintage Morrissey-lines: So close your eyes/and think of someone you physically admire/and let me kiss you. And "The First Of the Gang To Die" would have been a number one hit in a world where perfect pop songs were the main concern.

Many fans of Morrissey have always felt that his lyrics must have been written after he had looked in their personal diaries, but nowadays it isn't always easy to follow how his mind works. It's clear that the lawsuit a few years ago by The Smiths ex-drummer over royalties still affects him. When he in "I Like You" combines his love for a person with his dislike for the magistrates, it sounds almost too private: Magistrates who spend their lives/hiding their mistakes/they look at you and I/and envy makes them cry. Sometimes the poetry suffers from blind anger, like in "How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?". And when listening to "You Know I Couldn't Last" I agree for the first time with those who think Morrissey is a whiner. He is at his best when he is not one-dimensional, like in the smart "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores", in which he also wonders if he might be one of the bores himself.

Before concluding I would like to step out of the part as the critic, and go back to being the faithful and less than critical fan: Of course I love this album more than almost anything else released in the last seven years.

Copyright © 2004 Jan Thomas Hasselgreen e-mail address

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