Morrissey - Years Of Refusal
Posted by Kuang on Tue, 24 Mar 2009.
The ninth solo studio album from the former Smiths frontman harks back to the days of Viva Hate, with a sharp and aggressive atmosphere that initially catches you off guard. The band have captured a very live, raucous feel, hammered home by a shedload of swagger and bile.. so much so that the traditional Morrissey naysayers might feel affronted by this unrepentant shot across their bows.
'Years of Refusal' kicks in without mucking about, the defiant 'Something is Squeezing My Skull' laying out the cards with 'I know by now you think I should have straightened myself out / thank you, drop dead' - a swing at the pidgeonhole-happy elements of the media, or maybe frustration at the world's general lack of empathy? The album is laced with the ambiguity we've come to expect, but delivered with such force that it's unsettling and difficult to come to terms with. This is Morrissey baring his teeth and rolling up his sleeves rather than penning carefully worded critiques for later use. The spirit of the earlier release 'You Are The Quarry' is here in spades, but sharply honed and unconcerned with niceties.
The first half of the album sweeps through criticisms of people who were never there, unrequited love, and the needless mistakes of the past. The energy levels are boosted by the thumping distorted bassline and slashing guitars of 'All You Need Is Me', venting frustration at the petty-mindedness that drags people down in the face of bigger issues.There are occasional moments that lift above the grind and call earlier lyrics to mind - 'That's how people grow up' comes across like a bitter retrospective take on 'How Soon is Now?', with 'I was wasting my time / trying to fall in love' edging out 'There's a club if you'd like to go / you could meet somebody who really loves you'. It's like we're seeing the latest chapter in a complex and fraught life, embittered by the weight of experience.
The ride isn't all downhill and out of control though - Morrissey still has the knack of wrapping savage social commentary in appealing melodies. The bare and cinematic ' You Were Good In Your Time' weaves a barb into the very title, with Morrissey's voice softening to tenderness with 'are you aware / wherever you are / that you have just died?' before the track descends into radio static, fractured voices just on the edge of hearing and pulses of draconian synth for the next two minutes. This is every bit as unsettling as it sounds and reminds you not to take anything or granted.
The thing that always comes across in Morrissey's lyrics is the sense that the world has been particularly unfair to him, and that he reckons he deserved better. It's easy to criticise that stance, but how many people have never felt that way, or found some solace and in the music of those who've also been there? Smiths lyrics always captured that sense of social disaffection, and as Morrissey has aged he's stuck to his guns and refused to let the world get away with injustices, perceived or otherwise. Whether or not you're a fan there's no questioning the man's integrity, and 'Years Of Refusal' stands as one of the most forthright and uncompromising albums he's ever released.