Monday, May 18, 2009

Birthday Blessings to Morrissey

Artist: Morrissey
Album: Years Of Refusal
Label: Lost Highway (US), Decca/Polydor (UK)
Rating: 8 of 10

It’s hard to believe Morrissey turns 50 on May 22nd, but luckily he never ceases to be the embodiment of eccentricity, an enigmatic oddball to revere. He fiercely continues to give mainstream pop the cold shoulder (and perhaps rightly so), and is no more acclimatized to the pop music scene than he was twenty-three years ago when he emerged as Britain’s beloved outsider with his 1980’s fĂȘted band, The Smiths.

Never lacking of critics, Morrissey has been countering back with successful solo albums and touring to sold-out shows from L.A. to his birthplace of Manchester, England since 1988. His latest rebuttal, Years of Refusal, seemingly reflects the artist’s acceptance of a life-sentence of sour discontentment. Below its 12-track listing, the album’s subscript reads in lower cased italics “produced by jerry finn, recorded in los angeles, play very loud” and compelling proves that age hasn’t diffused Morrissey’s perspective nor his ability to deliver vocal potency. “It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore” hallmarks his sublime falsetto and track two, “Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed”, is lushly layered and enjoyable despite its somewhat disturbing lyrics. The opener, “Something is Squeezing My Skull” scowls with energetic ferocity, stating the big sound theme. Collaboration from long-time band mate Boz Boorer is evident as is punk-pop producer, Jerry Finn’s contribution, which was tragically the 39-year-old’s last effort, having succumbed to a brain hemorrhage only weeks after finalizing the Morrissey recording. A full-bodied intensity flares through to the finale, bonus track, “Shame Is The Name”. Undisputedly, melancholy and wry lyricism, not to mention a notorious quaff, have served Morrissey well and he deserves a very happy birthday.

- Stephanie Kiernan