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Morrissey
World Peace Is None Of Your Business Matthew Foster , July 14th, 2014 10:47

Sorry Dad, I've failed. I'm approaching my 30s and I've just enjoyed another Morrissey record. I know what I said about the book, how I told you that the nasty stuff he said about Julie Burchill's legs and the 473 pages of photocopied invoices from a court case made me sure I'd grown out of it all. And yes, I remember when you rang me up and said, "Son, not even you, with your pasty face and aversion to light, can defend 'The Kid's A Looker'." And I agreed. I said, "Dad, it's a lumpen, tuneless mess. The wheels are coming off. From now on, I swear, I'm going straight."

So the wily git goes and puts out his best record in twenty years, doesn't he, just to really ruin things for me? No, of course it's not The Queen Is Dead. Of course it isn't Vauxhall And I. Do you honestly think any record is going to bring your hair back, you twazzock? It's World Peace Is None Of Your Business, it's 2014, and, honestly, it's the best case yet made for the continued existence of Morrissey. Look, it opens with a didgeridoo; what exactly was I supposed to do?

The worst bits, granted, are some of The Worst Bits. 'Staircase At The University' is a chugging, artless Britpop clunker, over which Morrissey drizzles a Calpol spoon of effort. The chorus doesn't show up for work, the characters have the depth of a tweet, and any drama that may have been possible with its academic pressure/teen suicide setup is spunked away within the first minute or so. It's what you thought this record would sound like, and it nearly stops the whole thing dead.

But that's as much as you're getting for misfires, really. Stick that up your Mancunian bedsit. Whether it's producer Joe Chicarelli at the dials, or the addition of new boy Gustavo Manzur to the writing team, some air seems to have been let into the room. World Peace... breathes, take its time, and, I'm not joking here, has  fun. Something has happened to the band, the one you last heard stuffing the beak of 'This Charming Man' with corn until its liver burst. They're mostly ace here, and seem to have been let loose in a studio full of new toys, given license to play and experiment rather than deliver a Morrissey product.

So there's a track called 'Earth Is The Loneliest Planet' (I know, I know, but I think by now he does too) full of slinky flamenco twists and turns, a shimmer of harp, a blast of accordion, and the catatonic Kristeen Young on backing vocals. Her ethereal yowling, which also saves the dubious 'Kick the bride down the aisle' from oblivion, is the perfect antidote to late-Mozza's thick gurgle. There's 'Istanbul', at first glance stalwart co-writer Boz Boorer-by-numbers. But where Years of Refusal would have cranked up the distortion, 'World Peace' treats it with a lightness of touch, a crystalline beam of reverberating guitar flies out, field recordings are weaved into the mix, and the whole things bounds along again on the Solomons' irresistible groove.

Granted, there's nothing subtle about the way this record opens.  The title track is a big fat stadium stomper that teeters on absurdity, shrieks a Jesse Tobias guitar yowl at you, sloganeers 'til the cows come home. But it's also touchingly internationalist in outlook: "Each time you vote your support the process" or "Police will disable you with tasers" might seem far-fetched sat in a Bognor Regis car park, but when the old sod weaves Egypt and Bahrain into the argument, you have to concede defeat.

Brash it may be, but nothing here is as downright thrilling as 'Neal Cassady Drops Dead', which does everything possible to defy your expectations of a 2000s Morrissey track. "Victim, or life's adventurer; which of the two are you?" we're asked, as processed percussion, synthesiser burbles, and hammer blows of distorted guitar stomp on our lovely thoraxes. Yes, in certain lights, 'I'm Not A Man' is utterly preposterous, a seven minute prog rock warbler doling out erroneous dietary advice and sanctimony. But it provokes a reaction, and at the very least, you'll laugh porridge out of your nose.

It's the final third of the record that really seals it though, that from now on will be held accountable for my days in bed, inability to talk to women, and failure to wear trousers, my regression to the Morrissey mean. Bringing the man closer to the mic, dimming the lights, pouring a whiskey, 'Smiler With Knife' arrives, and in a hush opines "All I am and was will go. But where to and why now?"

Elsewhere, smoky prison ballad 'Mountjoy' continues the lifelong obsession with the romance of crime, and from a rat-infested Victorian cell concedes: "We all lose, rich or poor." And then his best song since 'Speedway' stopped ringing in your ears, two decades ago, drops in, casually. A lazy bassline meanders, wrapped in a Boorer jangle, a sax plays somewhere off stage, piano ambles, and 'Oboe Concerto' closes the record with one of Morrissey's most straightforwardly lovely melodies, one of his least arch lyrics. The very best moments of World Peace... allow a rare slip of a perpetually teenage mask. It's the revenge of Morrissey the artist over Morrissey the cartoon character, and he's caught me completely off guard, the bastard.

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