Morrissey - You Are The Quarry (CD)

Attack ATKDX001, released 17 May 2004 (available as limited LP, limited CD with DVD and standard CD)

Seven years have passed since the lukewarm album that was "Maladjusted" (and that was, even for diehard Morrissey fans, quite malformed), and a long seven years without the bite, the barb, or the song writing that made Morrissey a legend to those in the Manchester music scene and far beyond. Living in America, and escaping the wrath of those who continually denounce him for no reason in the UK music press, has given him time to regroup and finally release an album which harks back to the best of his solo work.

The twelve tracks on the album deal with everything from his many fans to the way the music industry operates, and quite a bit in between. The album opener, "America Is Not The World" sets the tone well: "America, your head's too big, becuase America, your belly's too big" and spits vitriol on the way that some Americans think they are all that matters in the world, but despite all this he lives there and offers America himself. It's a clever juxtaposition, yet spells out feeling in equal measure. And England doesn't escape either, with the rocking single "Irish Blood, English Heart". It cleverly references his embracing of the Union Jack back in the early 90s, and how he wishes it was not "shameful, racist or partial" to do so, while simultaneously being completely pig "sick to death of Labour and Tories". As a single it's a great two and a half minutes to put him back on the map, and within these two tracks the tone is set well.

In "I Have Forgiven Jesus" he explains how Jesus deserted him and gave him desire, a dangerous thing to have, and asks why he put him in "self-depreciating bones and skin", it's almost confessional, full of Catholic guilt, and by Friday "life has killed me". It's delicately handled with a very lush arrangement backing everything really well. On we go to "Come Back To Camden", a paen to his adopted London home where you can be "drinking tea with the taste of the Thames" and where "taxi drivers never stop talking", done in a really slow melodic way and with hope and inspiration at the same time. For some reason it reminds me of "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" on "Your Arsenal" - it has that sort of feel just with enough tinge to make it almost sad and wistful.

The pace slows down here too for "I'm Not Sorry" where he confesses that he's not sorry for all the things he's done and for there being "a wild man in my head" - treat that as you will. It's almost hinting at sadness, yet not regretting a thing he's done, and then out comes the cynical barb in full effect for the observation that "The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores" where lock jawed pop stars are "thicker than pig shit" - it's really accusational and you could look at it as being a reflection of the Joyce vs Morrissey/Marr court case, make of that what you will. Again, the arrangement is carefully placed, and some good gentle use of piano here makes the track work.

But if you want cynicism, then "How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?" is the track for you. It's much more open and rockier, and he gnashes out "I've had my face dragged in fifteen miles of shit, and I do not like it", with the last three words really belted out through gnashed teeth. If you've ever had someone say to you "I know how you feel", when clearly they don't, then this is the one for you. And "as sick as I am, I would never be you" says all you need to know. There's some really gritty guitar playing which underpins the track wonderfully. A future single beckons, if there's any justice. Same goes for "First Of The Gang To Die" which reflects how gang culture ultimately results in death, guns and violence, yet handled sensitively with almost pop perfection, and some great hooks which really set the scene well of how Hector became the first of the Pretty Petty Thieves to be "the first to do time, such a silly boy", and it's told expertly.

"Let Me Kiss You", by comparision, is a bit weak. It's almost soppy to the point of desire and wishing for love, and the only real twist is at the end of the song: "You see someone that you physically despise, but my heart is open to you". It's not helped by the fact the arrangement just doesn't seem to work so well here, either. But it would be asking too much for twelve good tracks. However, in "All The Lazy Dykes" he's soon back on form, in an almost tributary form to his large lesbian fanbase, "you actually see me, and I've never felt so nice", he proclaims, with some nice little sound effects in the background that add to the gentle guitars and make this such a nice track to really mellow out to.

"I Like You" is really uplifting (yes you anti-Morrissey cynics, uplifting!!) and really deals nicely with the way that even if someone isn't nice to someone else, the reason maybe they take it all is because they actually like them. "You're not right in the head, and nor am I, and this is why I like you", he confesses, admitting a kindered spirit with someone, and also played with such gusto and hope and emotion all at the same time, it's one of the real highlights here. As is the closer "You Know I Couldn't Last", where he almost looks back over his own career, and admits freely that the press, as cynical as they can be, can also make someone, and how the "royalties bring you luxuries" and the reason it doesn't last can be down to many things, including legal eagles, accountants, and how not to let the good days come and mug you, more thinly veiled references to many court cases as I've already referred to. The real reason this works so well is the quietly played verses with lovely piano, giving way to thundering guitars crashing in the chorus, and this contrast works well, and despite almost six minutes of self-reflection, it doesn't at all feel wasted.

Many of us, Morrissey fans or not, have waited patiently for an album that measures up to probably his best solo meisterwerk, "Your Arsenal". Finally, he's got here, and although being backed by pretty much the same staff since the Your Arsenal era, he and they have delivered an album that stands up well against any of the many young pretenders out there and shows them a thing or two in terms of how to write a song with wit, intelligence and barb. Simply put, Morrissey is back. I knew it was going to happen someday.

Warren's rating: 91%