Morrissey | Years of Refusal (Attack/Lost Highway)

cd_moz.jpgYou know you’re in for a ride when "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" kicks off the disc with a fast pace and driving guitar.







Over his 20-plus years as a solo artist, it has seemed that each Morrissey release has been a little bit weaker than his predecessor. Early releases yielded classics—"Suedehead" (Viva Hate), "Sing Your Life" (Kill Uncle), "The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get" (Vauxhall and I), and nearly every song from Bona Drag—yet, aside from the occasional standout ("Irish Blood, English Heart" from 2004’s You Are the Quarry), the albums have been satisfactory but less than stellar.

Because of this, I approach each new Morrissey release with a mix of thrill and trepidation. As far as I’m concerned, Morrissey is a legend who deserves every bit of success he earns; the guy could sing the phone book and it would still draw me in. Yet a solid new release is something I thought I’d only dream of; happily, Years of Refusal reminds us all why Morrissey is the king that he is.

You know you’re in for a ride when "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" kicks off the disc with a fast pace and driving guitar. In it, Morrissey hits a note previously unreached by him—an unexpected treat. Its fast pace is elevated at the end, which finds Morrissey delivering "Don’t give anymore" in rapidfire repetition. While it won’t be a hit, "Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed" deals lyrically with tragedy, hearkening back to The Smiths’ "This Night Has Opened My Eyes" from Hatful of Hollow.

After a meandering strings introduction, "Black Cloud" is another full-on rocker, exploding into a driving drum-and-guitar foundation. This song is one of many on Years of Refusal that reassures listeners that, yes, Morrissey really is, if not at the top of his game, not too far behind. Following the near-poppy single "I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris" is the rocking "All You Need Is Me," which concludes with Morrissey echoing the sped-up "la-la-la-la-la" closing of "The Headmaster Ritual" from The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder. I don’t know about you, but hearing upbeat, fast-paced songs from a legend approaching 50 truly fills me with hope for the future.

There’s a Latin feel to the guitar behind "When Last I Spoke to Carol"; "That’s How People Grow Up" and "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell" are straightforward rock ‘n’ roll numbers. Title-wise, the slow-building "It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore" recalls "Unhappy Birthday" from The Smiths’ final album, Strangeways, Here We Come.

Of course, lyrically, Years of Refusal is standard Morrissey fare: laments about his unlovable-ness, stabs at his detractors, tales of woe and tragedy. There’s "only stone and steel accept my love" and "nobody wants my love" ("I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris"), "She said, ‘I’ve hung on, I have edged/ along this narrow ledge/ since the day I was born’" ("When Last I Spoke to Carol"), "Disappointment came to me and booted me and bruised me" ("That’s How People Grow Up").

"Sorry Doesn’t Help" is typical Morrissey fare, and musically recalls Kill Uncle. Closing the disc, "I’m OK by Myself" reveals an elevated pace, the drums and guitar keeping it rocking until end, when the drums take over and race to the finish line. Truly, it’s the perfect way to close Years of Refusal: Morrissey can still rock, and lyrically he can still bring it. And that’s all we can ask, isn’t it? All we can ask—and precisely what we receive. A | Laura Hamlett

RIYL: If you don’t know this by now, you shouldn’t even be reading this review

About Laura Hamlett 467 Articles
Laura Hamlett is the Managing Editor of PLAYBACK:stl. In a past life, she was also a music publicist and band manager. Besides music, books, and other forms of popular culture, she's a fan of the psychology behind true crime and violent criminals. Ask her about mass murder...if you dare.

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