The opening track of ‘You Are The Quarry’ has a line that describes the US as “Where the president is never black, female or gay”. Now Obama’s in the White House, I can’t shake the feeling that Morrissey’s the type to write to the him saying “I have forgiven your country; we may now discuss worldly matters”. Back in the 80’s when he wrote great songs, he actually meant something to millions of lonely teenagers of all ages. Now he’s a 50-year old who still thinks he’s in he can pass for early twenties and that he’s got something interesting to say; nine times out of ten, both these beliefs are false. Even so, he can occasionally surprise even his least faithful fans… occasionally. Strangely touching ballad ‘Come Back To Camden’ has a great straight-up love lyric, despite having an instrumental part so unbelievably cheesy it sounds like a Muzak version of a Lionel Richie song. The patriotic “not nationalist honest” anthem ‘Irish Blood English Heart’ is probably an album highpoint; two and a half minutes of blue blooded descending guitars and righteous “I have a dream” choruses which somehow work really well. Then there’s the superb cinematic romance ‘First of the Gang To Die’ set against theft, gang warfare and dismemberment which ranks up as Moz’s most nimble since 1994. Where ‘Quarry’ falls flat however is wherever he tries to be a teenager again; the groan-worthy “no one understands me” ‘How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel’ sounds like he’s crying for some help which he’ll refuse when he’s offered it. Lines like “She told me she loved me which means she must be insane” and “I’ve had my face dragged in fifteen miles of shit and I do not like it” belong scratched on a Good Charlotte fan’s pencil case, not within a mile of the former “Alan Bennett of British pop”. Where the record is really unforgivable though is the music itself which is more often than not the sound of an extremely bored classic rock covers band with a dull artificial aftertaste. Sometimes it’s not bad at all, but for the most part it’s uninspiring.
Woefully inconsistent with some fairly good highs and truly subterranean lows ‘You Are The Quarry’ scrapes an “average” mark. Then again, it’s dragged down even further by a soul-less instrumental section and Morrissey’s constant crown-of-thorns mentality which is either fake and cringe-worthy, or real and about as unintentionally pitiful as Alan Sugar sobbing into a tea towel and listening to ‘Lay Lady Lay’. Amazingly, this is his best record of the past fifteen years. That is not a compliment.
Listen to this: in London feeling bitter.
Key Track: First of the Gang To Die