“One day, eating cheeseburgers will be viewed the same way as smoking is today. A disgusting habit,” declared Morrissey in a recent interview. If you thought time would have mellowed Manchester’s greatest enigma, think again.
He’s still championing the underdog. Still a serious artist in an ever expanding ocean of charlatans, lightweights and Cowell clones.
Morrissey’s first album in five years, the much anticipated World Peace is None of Your Business, goes on general release from today. Adore him or abhor him, you simply can’t ignore him – is that a Morrissey lyric or have I just made that sentence up? Hmm…
Whimsical forays into animal welfare issues (‘The Bullfighter Dies’), bitter attacks on the conventions of masculinity (‘I’m not a Man’) on a big, nay immense 18-track album that also contains some of Moz’s most eccentric titles to date (‘Kick the Bride down the Aisle’) all played out to a lilting, pulsating symphony of maracas, castanets, trumpets and accordions.
Brim-full with lyrics that, as ever, can be quoted instantly (“You’re that part of the beach that the tide doesn’t reach”), this could only be Morrissey.
It’s been a long five years for the legion of Moz die-hards, of which there are many. In the meantime there’s been a best-selling autobiography which, despite being positively saturated in florid prose, sat at the top of the best-seller list for a stupefying five weeks. There’s a novel on the way, too.
There’s also been illness. Lots of illness, cancelled tours, and as I write Moz is still confined to a hospital bed having contracted a mysterious viral illness during his North American tour in which Cliff Richard (yes, that Cliff) is opening bat! Mozzy in hozzy (hospital for non-Merseysiders). Just imagine: “How do you feel today, Mr Morrissey..?”
World Peace is None of Your Business if nothing else is a big, generous album, and as such one that demands to be played over and over again to fully comprehend the sheer lyrical and musical richness on offer. If you’re looking for catchy pop tunes, then you may be disappointed. While there’s no ‘Suedheads’ or ‘Everyday is Sundays’ here, there are instead a plethora of dense, mature songs that have, you feel, been agonised over into the wee small hours.
I can’t help thinking of a shoemaker lovingly crafting a pair of handmade shoes, while factories in the Far East churn out million upon millions of identical pairs. Dammit Moz, its catching, whatever ‘it’ is..
The title track ‘World Peace is None of Your Business,’ an anthem for the weak and the dispossessed, is a tirade against the evils of capitalism, the fat cats, leaders and shakers. It’s Morrissey at his best, using the full force of that bitter sweet voice to take on the evils of the world, to chew them up and spit them out.
‘Neal Cassady Drops Dead’ is a trademark Morrissey track almost groaning under the weight of quirky couplets (“Everybody has babies, babies with rabies”). It’s the closest thing to rapping you’ll ever hear on a Moz LP.
Points also for producing a song examining the pressures of gender stereotyping, but from a male perspective this time. Feminists everywhere ought to listen to ‘I’m not a Man,’ as the weight and expectation of masculinity are smashed to smithereens in eight gloriously anti-testosterone minutes.
The closest to catchy you’ll get is ‘Kiss me a Lot’ – a song which finds Morrissey improbably extolling the virtues of intimate physical contact (“kiss me all over my face”). Such expansive moments though are rare. 'Staircase of the University' is a typically macabre vignette, dealing with a student suicide attempt in the face of unrelenting pressure: “If you don’t get three A’s her sweet daddy said, you’re no child of mine.”
The irreverent cynicism is (mercifully) much in evidence. In ‘Kick the Bride down the Aisle,’ the bride in question is getting married “so she can laze and graze for the rest of her days.”
More though can sometimes be less. And arguably there are half a dozen songs here that are merely making up the numbers. Tracks such as ‘Oboe Concerto,’ ‘Forgive Someone,’ ‘Julia in the Weeds,’ to name but three feel curiously out of place with their almost cabaret-like optimism.
Thankfully, the French horns inspired ‘Art House’ is a rousing finale to the album, poking fun at the human propensity to…well bullshit. It’s Morrissey getting cross again and as we all know a cross Morrissey is quite a proposition. The whole western creative world is under attack here from critics to dilettantes as Morrissey tantalisingly invites those of us “who cannot stand this fake world” to take his hand. I’m in.
Eclectic, whimsical, melancholic, irreverent, philosophical, ironic…World Peace is None of Your Business is all of these things and more.