Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review of Morrissey, "Years of Refusal"

Years of Refusal ***

The cult of Morrissey is still going strong 25 years after the band that made him famous, the Smiths, released their debut. Morrissey seems to transcend the generations. Think about it - whenever you see an Elvis fan, it's always some middle-aged dad embarrassing his kids with his pseudo kung-fu moves. When you see a Morrissey fan, it's always going to be a teen with a glum look on his or her face, wearing a Meat is Murder shirt. It's been like that for 25 years. There's a possibility that this will continue for another 25 years.

Right now, however, Morrissey fans will obviously be salivating for his new album, the ninth of his solo career and the third of his current middle-aged renaissance. Said renaissance began with 2004's You are the Quarry and continued with Ringleader of the Tormentors. With these albums, Morrissey is smooth, suave and approaching 50 with much class. The same goes for Years of Refusal, which continues the same formula as the previous two albums. His lyrics are still clever and ambiguous, and his voice doesn't sound like it's a day over 30.

It might be difficult to understand the album. Fans are so accustomed to the Morrisseyisms of his lyrics, vocal range and song titles. The music feels the same and is listenable, but there is a sense of confusion over this album. The reason lies in the music.

Sure, it is like the previous albums, but it's a bit harder. The previous two albums had songs that were soft, poppy and occasionally hard punk. Years of Refusal doesn't really give you a break from the pummeling guitars, though it's not really a bad thing.

Some of the tracks stand out really well. "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" is classic Morrissey, filled with his witty lyrics and melody, and it may or may not be about America's Most Well-Known Socialite (you know who I'm talking about). "When Last I Spoke to Carol" is dominated by a flamenco guitar, and "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell" has some trumpets
with a little southern flavor to it.

Both are obvious nods to his legion of Hispanic fans, and the former is a fine tune. The latter is okay; the trumpets add some excitement to it. "That's How People Grow Up" is another atypical Morrissey song. It's a good song, but it doesn't really have its own voice, as it's a bit similar to other songs of his.

All in all, Years of Refusal is your typical Morrissey album, though it's a little too typical. Some artists can never pull off sounding the same, or do sound the same from song to song, but it gets redundant.

Morrissey has had a unique sound to him for the last 25 years, and the common moments in Morrissey songs haven't hurt him, but rather made him an alternative rock icon. However, this album doesn't add much and sounds a bit stale.

Conversely, there's nothing to worry about with this album. Many artists like him have not aged gracefully and have been accused of losing their way or getting soft. Morrissey still keeps it cool, and maybe his next album will be a return to his renaissance form, as with You are the Quarry.

Who says we're NSFW?

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