Years of Refusal
He’ll be turning 50 this spring, yet Morrissey is making the best music of his post-Smiths career. Years of Refusal, his ninth solo full length in twenty years’ time, is full of the maudlin and masterfully mopey expressions of self doubt that fans have come to expect and adore from Morrissey, but delivered with a bolder punch — thanks to the comfortable collaboration the Moz has cultivated with long time band members Boz Boorer, Jesse Tobias, Matt Walker, and Solomon Walker. Heavy percussion and rockabilly guitar riffs lay beneath the uplifting melodies and downtrodden lyrics transforming tales of loneliness, love loss, and mortality into hit songs. Weaving it all together was producer Jerry Finn who past away shortly after finishing production on this album.
The musicians play a big role, perhaps a bigger one than on previous records, in forming the moods of a Morrissey release, but when everything is really stripped away the true soul of the song falls inside of the enigmatic front man’s twisted tongue. It’s his inflection, his word spinning, his quirky sentence structuring that defines his music. Who else could pull off a chorus of “It’s not your birthday anymore / did you really think we meant / all of those syrupy, sentimental things that we said” (from “It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore”)?
He can tap Jeff Beck to play on his record (“Black Cloud”), spin a spaghetti western tale (“When Last I Spoke to Carol”), or pull some jangly pop from his back pocket (“I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”) — and it all sounds genuine. The 21st Century Morrissey is comfortable with himself in the present, as he proclaims in “I’m OK By Myself.” From here forward he seems determined to bury his brilliant beginnings with Johnny Marr beneath piles of fresh brilliance.