MOZ IS BACK...
Updated: Mar 24, 2020
...and he’s certainly no dog on a chain.
March 20th saw the release of the latest album from Morrissey ‘I am not a dog on a chain’. His last album ‘California Son’ compelled me to write a blog post about what, in my opinion, was the greatest album release in 2019, despite its harsh reviews from an evidently anti-Moz clutch of oh-so predictable music journalists. The tide seems to have changed for this release though and the press (with the exception of, not unexpectedly, The Guardian) are waxing lyrical about his latest offering claiming it to be “his best music in years” (Associated Press) and “worth crossing the the Twittermob line for...” (NME) - not that Morrissey ever needs to covet favourable press reviews!
Should I be worried at the reviews? Has “the one-time poet laureate of the sensitive, the lonely, the misunderstood and other people who spent too much time in their teenage bedrooms” (The Times) gone soft in his old age? I’d have to wait until my pre-order vinyl copy arrived to find out...
In today’s mass-produced and downloaded musical landscape there are very few albums that I await with such eager anticipation and when the package finally arrived just two days after its launch date I headed straight for the solitary confines of my ‘vinyl listening room’ with strict instructions to the family of ‘do not disturb, I’ll be out in a few hours’.
Well, I’m several plays in and my fears of Morrissey going soft are, thankfully, completely unfounded. This is indeed one of his finest self-penned albums for many years. His die-hard fan base is in for a real treat as he proves, once again, that he is to be taken very seriously indeed. In the words of the Associated Press this album is “an album filled with electric and adventurous tracks that often shake his morose stereotype.”
For what it’s worth, here is my track by track commentary on the album.
Jim Jim Falls kicks in with a synth groove reminiscent of an 80’s club track and then Moz’s unmistakable voice graces the mix to allude any fears of this being a disco album. Add in some electric guitar and some tasteful string arrangements by Boz Boorer and you have an absolute belter. I love it!
Love is on it’s way out sounds as though it could have been an unused track from the excellent California Son album production wise - except of course it’s penned by Morrissey and it is rather splendid.
Bobby don’t you think they know - I’m in familiar territory here as this track was widely available online prior to release and it set the scene for what promised to be a fantastic album (and indeed it is). Noticeably it has some stunning backing/vocals from soul/Motown diva Thelma Houston and that really works. The keyboard towards the end reminds me of something The Stranglers may have used in their hey day. There’s also a sax solo from Boz showing what a truly versatile and talented musician he is.
I am not a dog on chain - the title track, often chosen by artists as the strongest track of an album, which for me this isn’t - but it certainly doesn’t disappoint. It’s a wistful arrangement with classic Moz anti-establishment lyrics delivered with just the right amount of style and venom. It’s probably the message it puts out that earned it the heady accolade of title track.
What kind of people live in these houses? - oh my, we have ourselves a slice of classic Morrissey here. Beautifully lyrical and ‘bouncy’ if I can use that word (Moz fans will get me on this).
Knockabout World - the perfect end to side 1 (for those, like me, listening on vinyl). A track boasting extremely modern production values (the drums sound almost programmed but are not) with big synths and a surprisingly abrupt ending. Moz’s vocal is big, almost anthemic.
Darling, I hug a pillow - bring on the Mexican trumpets! But don’t be turned off by this... they work perfectly. Mando Lopez’s laid back bass groove carries you through the verses with such style. There’s no synths on this track but the multitude of guitars and trumpet harmonies create a very cool electronic vibe throughout.
Once I saw the river clean - we’re on a strict synth/mellotron groove here but somehow Moz’s vocals take it as far away from electronic music as is possible. I can only assume the lyrics tell the story of a trip back to a Manchester with his grandmother with tales of Chester Road, Cornbrook Street and Talbot Road. There’s even a tip of the hat to Marc Bolan with a mention of Metal Guru.
The truth about Ruth is a big, almost orchestral arrangement before the drums and guitars kick in. He’s telling us that ‘Ruth is John’ and he’s a ‘sleuth that’s ferrets out the truth’ - it’s simply Moztastic!
The secret of music is a haunting and complex arrangement that may not appeal to everyone. It’s the longest track on the album at almost 8 minutes but it’s production qualities are lovely and as always Moz’s lyrics and vocal delivery are sublime.
My hurling days are done - we’re at the final track of the album and for me it’s been a joyous journey. I’m again reminded of California Son with this track - I think again it’s the production values - there’s even a kid’s choir on it. It’s the perfect end to an album and it leaves you in no doubt that Morrissey is certainly at the top of his game.
The wait has been worth it and perhaps, finally, the music press (with the exception of the Guardian) have at last given up their lazy journalistic style and finally recognised Morrissey for what he is - one of the most prolific, engaging and inspiring writers/performers of our time. 10/10.