Stephen Patrick Morrissey has always been a bit of a marmite figure since the demise of The Smiths, whom everyone felt could do no wrong. He`s had health scares over the last couple of years, leading to the cancellation of shows but seems to have put that behind him as he releases a new album “I Am Not A Dog On A Chain”, his first since 2017`s “Low In High School” if you ignore last year’s poorly received covers album “California Son”
Whether you believe all that is written about him is true, there have been some odd patterns of behaviour, such as at live shows selling lp`s of David Bowie, Patti Smith, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed signed by himself and t shirts stating what he thinks of The Guardian review of his covers album. The most worrying though has been his seeming support of the far-right group For Britain, a political party led by former UKIP candidate Anne-Marie Waters, a politician who is unequivocally anti-Islamic.
The album opens with `Jim Jim Falls’ which has a slightly electronic feel with some superb distorted guitar riffs with Morrissey`s distinctive vocals back to their best relaying a rather odd type relationship at Jim Jim Falls, a waterfall in Australia`s Northern Territories. The almost anthemic `Love Is On Its Way Out’ follows, a statement on the way the world has such contradictions with children being nerve gassed as rich playboys go shooting elephants and lions for fun.
‘Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?’ is a more gospel kind of offering which benefits from R&B and soul legend Thelma Houston`s additional vocals, a wonderful Doors style organ refrain and a slinky saxophone break, stunning. A light almost upbeat throwaway song ‘I Am Not A Dog On A Chain’ allows the singer to take a swipe at the newspaper outlets calling them troublemakers but retains his most subtle dig towards winter clothing manufacturer Canada Goose who have used animal fur in the production of said clothing wear.
‘What Kind of People Live in These Houses?’ appears to be a subtle dig at the publics lack of ambition, other than materialism and their reliance on trusting what television tells them to believe. The tune gains from some very delicate guitar inflections throughout. A real earworm comes with `Knockabout World`, a tale of survival, which seems to lay bare what the artist feels about the media with lyrics “Congratulations You have survived Congratulations You’re still alive They kicked to kill you Do not forget They tried to turn you Into a public target Welcome to this knockabout world”
There are some delightful trumpet snatches on ‘Darling, I Hug A Pillow’ an ode to an almost unrequited love. A song of the reminiscence of youth enjoyed in the company of his grandmother is shared with ‘Once I Saw the River Clean’ Cash for T Rex singles and cigarettes amongst the nostalgic recollections and a tune that is a real mix match of eighties influences.
‘The Truth About Ruth’ has some twinkling piano keys to open this quite dark refrain, a real kind of torch song. A fairly lengthy piece ‘The Secret of Music’ runs at just under eight minutes long and is the penultimate song on the album. I found the rhythmic drum beat with Morrissey`s vocal delivery laid atop quite mesmerising and hypnotic. The song will get into your subconscious it`s so subtly spellbinding. ‘My Hurling Days Are Done’ closes out this offering and it`s again another reflective track that builds musically and has some graceful almost choral childlike harmonies.
I have so say I wasn`t sure what to expect but any misgivings I may have anticipated were overcome. It`s somewhat different musically but still recognisable as Morrissey and a Morrissey back at the top of his game. The lyrics can be a little eccentric at times but are also intriguing and thoughtful. Musically it is quite orchestral even verging towards cinematic at times, it is certainly a collection that will grow the more it`s listened to. But I found it most rewarding and reveals a more mature phase of this artist`s career. It would seem like a good wine; Morrissey gets better with age. Maybe, the more you ignore him, the closer he`ll get.
Rating 9.5 /10