Morrissey – Low In High School (Review)
The idea of Morrissey often eclipses the reality of Morrissey.
Unapologetically honest, there seems to be a never-ending backlash against the singer whether for his politics or his always tentative relationship with tour dates. And yet, last week, I watched 17,500 fervent fans singing “Everyday Is Like Sunday” with all their hearts at the first of two sold-out shows at the Hollywood Bowl. The adulation and passion of his fans, both young and old, is a light that never goes out.
On his latest album Low In High School, Morrissey makes it clear that he doesn’t waste a second worrying what we think of him while lounging in a mansion somewhere in California watching old Hollywood films (or so I imagine). The glam-stomp opener “My Love, I’d Do Anything For You” adds unexpected horns to take the song down a road that would have never occurred to The Smiths. For many, therein lies the problem with Morrissey’s solo work but those folks probably left the party sometime after 1992’s Your Arsenal.
Poetically rich, the first half of the album might be the strongest collection of Morrissey songs since the 1990s while the second half suffers from an often heavy-handed approach to his cantankerous worldview. Opener “I Wish You Lonely” plays to our expectations of Morrissey’s emotional malaise – “I wish you lonely, If only for one day, So that you might see routine for me, Since the day I was born” over swirling guitars and electronics. Another can’t-miss single, “Jacky’s Only Happy When She Is Up On the Stage” could be interpreted as a veiled celebration (or damnation) of nationalism in England – “Scene Two: Everyone who comes must go!, Scene Four: Blacker than ever before!, Scene Six: This country is making me sick!” which has been reinforced on tour as the word “exit” morphs into “Brexit” on several occasions.
“Spent The Day In Bed” reinforces the Morrissey ethos that both process and participant are equally vulgar in a world of fake news over a light, plunky riff. It also captures the underlying sense of humor in Morrissey’s writing that rarely gets its due – “I’m not my type, but I love my bed.” Whether you wish you were sharing his bed or that he would stay in bed and stop releasing albums, there is no denying the pop craft that Morrissey can still wield when the mood strikes him. On Low In High School, it strikes him more often than not.