Morrissey returns with his first album since the brilliant 2015 release, World Is None of Your Business...This new offering, Low In High School is an album he intriguingly describes as a 'rage in his blood and endless hooks'.
The Morrissey appeal endures and continues to fascinate. Even with an epically stunning and frank Autobiography published, questions still remain of the mercurial singer. His unpredictability was further highlighted recently with rumours of curious rumblings and right-wing musings passing Steven Patrick's lips. Love or loathe Mozzer, he remains opinionated and interesting in a way unlike most other musicians.
Low In High School is suitably confrontational and features classic Mozzer themes such as a disgust of those in power and a clear hatred of profiteering warmongers. However, it also captures Morrissey in an amorous mood, and highlights his strangely blossoming relationship with the state of Israel. Low In High School adds to the intrigue and Moz-mystique...
Producer Joe Chiccarelli takes an Ennio Morricone-esque approach with album opener My Love I'd Do Anything for You. It is a large, cinematically brooding affair that has pleasing flashes of the Morrissey falsetto. The typically Moz titled I Wish You Lonely follows and introduces a major L.I.H.S motif 'tombs are full of fools who gave their lives on demand'.
New single Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage discusses the frailty of the artistically-minded and escapism through performance. Interestingly, the present state of affairs is also commented upon, with Moz announcing that 'this country is making me sick' and finishing with the angry repetition of the word 'exit'.
Home Is A Question Mark requests a companion to 'wrap your legs around my face just greet me'. The virility of Morrissey's 'bulbous salutation' is piqued again later in the album in When You Open Your Legs. This is possibly evidence of Morrissey's 'Carry On' humour, or maybe the once celibate frontman is entering his Prince phase. Either way, it is an unexpected but brilliant twist from an artist that refuses to be pigeon-holed (oo-er).
The prominent anti-work issue that has frequented his career resurfaces with Spent The Day In Bed, and sees Moz swooning over a pop backing almost bereft of guitar riffs. Although the track is accessible and radio friendly, the closing refrain is classic Morrissey, 'no bus, no boss. No train, no rain. No emasculation, no castration.'
Lyrically, Low In High School pulls no punches and flourishes of vintage Morrissey are never too far away. I Bury The Living takes an aggressive swipe at foreign policy and makes its brutal point directly, 'give me an order; I'll blow up a border. Give me an order; I'll bury your daughter'. An eerie jack-boot stomp soon follows and reverberates with the military chant of 'honour-mad, cannon-fodder'. In true Morrissey style it is a sprawling album centrepiece that muses on the futility of conflict with the lyric, 'funny how the war goes on without our John.' In the following track Morrissey just wants his face In Your Lap as means as escaping the sorrows of war.
The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn't Kneel, has a gentle music-hall feel that is fused with a Middle Eastern backing. Morrissey adopts a slick, crooner persona whilst the contrasting lyrics discuss 'legalised torture'. He also describes the American way as to 'proudly, show lots of teeth and talk loudly'. Tel-Aviv is unmistakably Morrissey; it marries a jaunty tune reminiscent of Mary Hopkins' Those Were The Days to bleak refrain of 'what do you think all these conflicts are for? Because the land weeps oil'.
All The Young People Must Fall In Love is clear choice for a future single release. It could happily sit on any album from the vocalist's stellar back-catalogue. It is the perfect vignette of adolescent romance set against a backdrop of corruption and lunacy.
Earlier this year, Morrissey took to social media after a brush with the law (at gun-point) in Rome. In Who Will Protect Us From The Police he gives his damning indictment and further voices his dislike. The track casts Morrissey, where he is best suited, as the sharp, down-trodden outsider. Protect Us From The Police serves as an angry riposte and touches on territory previously featured in Moz classic Ganglord.
The closer is the already contentious Israel. The ever capricious singer has bucked the trend adopted by many artists and has played live shows in Israel. Curiously, this affiliation has become something of a love affair and Moz has since been the given the freedom of Tel-Aviv.
Even in 2017 when we think we finally have a handle on Morrissey, he still has plenty of surprises in store. Low In High School is certainly not a safe crowd-pleaser of an album. It promises to be his most controversial, aggressive and passionate offering to date. Low In High School breaks new ground and raises further questions on an out-spoken and enigmatic icon...
Low In High School is released on Etienne Records/BMG 17th November.
To pre-order and hear a sample of the album – click here
To see a YouTube video of Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage – click here
Morrissey is also touring in 2018 but the nearest he gets to Salford is 24th February at the Leeds First Direct Arena. For ticket details – click here
Review by Ian Leslie