Friday, February 18, 2011

You're the One for Me Fatty

A complete and utter throwaway pop song with a wonderfully subversive title that only Moz could get away with I do believe this song is Morrissey deconstructing the tropes of modern pop songs with a naive cheer outside his usual idiom.

It is a continuation of his now iconic assertion from his Smiths days that "some girls are bigger than others" this seems to be about loving people no matter what. It's a lovely sentiment to express such affection for someone that you can overlook the superficialities which blight contemporary views on love and romance.

I'm not sure the song has any great depth but as a pop single it works wonderfully with the band in great form. In later sleeve notes for the Southpaw Grammar re-issue album Moz would lament that the weaker songs on Your Arsenal became the singles. One can't imagine he meant the sublime "Tomorrow" in this assertion but it wouldn't be unreasonable to believe he was referring to this. Ostensibly lightweight, no pun intended, the song is a breezy affair, not worth much analysis, but it is often when he is at his most carefree that I feel he exhibits some interesting traits. His love of pure melody and hooks shine through. We've long known of his command of angst through his art form but here he is as joyful as he would ever get and that must be commended. As toe tappin' pop Morrissey goes, this is a gem. If only someone had conjured a reply song, maybe "You're the one for me Mopey"?

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Driving Your Girlfriend Home

My favourite song from Kill Uncle, this tender little gem is a great example of Morrisseys command of nuance. A song which gives you only the merest hint of the story, a woman tied to a person who doesn't make her happy, sharing this confession with a third party who can offer no advice to the questions asked, the feelings raised.

The exact relationships here are very vaguely defined. Based on the title alone one could surmise that the singer is friends with this girls lover so it seems odd that she's being so confessional and cutting towards her boyfriend. There's a feeling she's confiding all this in him so that he will sweep in and rescue her from "the very existence she planned on avoiding" but this doesn't happen. It reads like a perfectly crafted scene in a play or kitchen sink drama and we as the audience are left none the wiser. Does the singer want to be with this woman? Or is his hesitation the act of a man who doesn't want to betray a friend by agreeing with what he's being told?

It really is a wonderful snapshot of a very ordinary situation. We all have friends who get embroiled in what we would consider destructive relationships and it's very hard to know how to deal with the pitfalls that presents. This is a gentle ode to different types of yearning. A longing for escape, or a romance worthy of your most personal dreams, it makes it all the sadder as the song ends with the moment slipping by, the status quo untouched, the would be lovers or even potential friends part as if they have shared nothing.

Musically it's a lovely soft performance, an airy confection which allows the emotions to float through, it seems to conjure up a crisp night, where the hue of the sky is changing as morning light creeps across it. I believe this drive and the moment almost shared, will resonate long with these characters as their individual roads further diverge.

Monday, January 31, 2011

In The Future When All's Well

Featuring a mild glam rock stomp in it's fluid playing this song is a wonderful late period single which seems, to my ears at least, to be very sardonic in its subject matter.

Chronicling an unknown future time when all concerns will be assuaged and issues worked out I do believe this is Morrissey addressing himself regarding his persistent obsessions and recurring fears. It's all here, an overwhelming pre-occupation with death, the pitfalls of love, the appreciation for a soul who could provide it but the song has its tongue firmly in its cheek. It's the Morrissey of 2006, a time when he was in fact riding pretty high having fun at our expense with his own take on the themes best shown in the rat pack classic "The Best is Yet to Come".

It's a riposte to all those people who see someone with a sullen expression and rudely interject with that most dispiriting of phrases, "Cheer up, it might never happen." The song seems to take this false and myopic cheer and filter it through a healthy dose of irony. Is there really a "Lee" who could stand up and defend him? It doesn't matter, Morrissey is singing to an archetype here, a friend to see this new future with and although all will be well there, the song has the odd lurch with its "paired off, pawed til I can barely stand it" lyric, we must wonder just how secure this brave new world of joy really is. In various media the future is so often portrayed as a dystopia but here Moz gives us perhaps a flawed Utopian take on the "wait and see" notion. Time will never erase the things which plague him no matter where this world goes. Some things are just eternal. Morrissey finding faults and crooning about them is one such stalwart and his diatribes will echo long after his personal future is ended by his own "long, long sleep."

From a musical point of view the song is a triumph, a comfortable mid tempo rocker where the keyboard and backing vocals give it an extra colour and weight. The production of Tony Visconti locks the piece in a wonderful if slightly cluttered groove. One could almost paraphrase an old b-side of his here the song "Girl Least Likely to", ""There's happiness, the new year" (It's never in this year)."

Video Note: A loose sequel of sorts to the "You have killed me" video it features the same Italian host introducing Morrissey in a very bright and garish studio. This follows on from the Eurovision chic of the previous video. It's a shame they didn't see this through with the other singles as it would have given a great cohesion to the videos as well as a wry aesthetic narrative. His videos are so often bland. A good idea should be seized upon.

Satan Rejected My Soul

A fairly perfunctory re thread on the theme of not belonging, Morrissey has tackled this with more flair in the past and with much more identity. Like a lot of songs from this era of his career, there's nothing particularly wrong with the piece but there's nothing really to recommend it either. Outside the already loyal, this tune sank as its rather low chart placing proved (although perversely it did better than the comparatively sprightlier and altogether more fun "Roy's Keen") that maybe it was time for a break.

It's a one joke song and while the central conceit is a good one, Satan himself can't even take to the so called "Pope of Mope" it's disappointing that there's not a new twist elsewhere in the work. I guess self deprecation pops up so often within his songs, finding a new wrinkle is going to be impossible each time.

The music itself is again standard Morrissey, a slightly personality-less run through of indie tropes and soft rock cliches. Live the song packs much more of a punch boosted by the mans natural theatrics and stage presence. This wilder streak is absent from the somewhat sterile studio version. Limping out as third single from the unloved but underrated Maladjusted album there's no wonder it stalled whatever momentum Team Moz had until 7 years later as he made a remarkable comeback. Satan may have rejected him then but Lazarus surely must have returned his phone call circa 2004.

Let Me Kiss You

Given as a gift to Nancy Sinatra for her 2004 self titled album, "Let Me Kiss You" is a gorgeous song of yearning and inevitable romantic disappointment. So yes, it has a lot of brother and sisters within Morrisseys songbook but the songs irresitable melody and phrasing elevate it above more standard fare. It was even a modest hit for Mozzer when released as a single.

What I find interesting about the song is how its protagonist seems to romanticise the wrong elements. The act of kissing is seen as something which must go hand in hand with a fiction of some sort while America is presented as a mythic "place in the sun, for anyone who has the will to chase one". Having fled England and found a home in Los Angeles this section seems fairly auto biographical for our star. However well travelled he may be in life or in love, true romantic contenement seems to still be an unknown destination and in its place the singer would take sympathy over anything else.

The hang dog persona here is comically underlined with the chorus, a wonderfully wry self put down, "close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire and let me kiss you." How many of us have had that person in our life, whom we deeply care for but who could never see us in that light? The idea that the person would have to fake an attraction for you should be off putting enough to effectively end any sort of courtship but not so here. Desperate enough to take whatever love can be caught the person we're given would brave personal scorn for a chance to fully connect to something. It's a lonely world of closed eyes but opened hearts and whether sang by Nancy or Morrissey the songs melancholy can not be dismissed, nor can its truthful humour be denied. Close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire and throw this song on.

Angel, Angel Down We Go Together

A surprisingly direct and austere plea from the Viva Hate album it almost seems redundant to discuss this song as Morrissey himself explicitly spoke about it in a refreshingly frank manner. For the record here is what the man himself had to say about it:

"It was written with Johnny Marr in mind and it is the only song that I have written with him in mind, post Smiths. I saw him in the music industry being used and being pushed around and being manipulated and I felt I was in a situation and I thought, 'Look at me, look at you - it's the same, it's a mess and this is as far as we will go' which wasn't quite true in the end but at that moment it felt pretty despairing for both, I felt despairing for both of us but I was wrong."

The song has expanded beyond that remit though and has become a touchstone to many, especially as it deals with quite unsettling subject matter. Themes of suicide and have long been in his work and to me, that should be the focal point here, rather than another tirade at the music business, a ridiculously easy and overexposed target for artists. As a fan base people who follow Morrissey can be quite critical of his actions even as they track his career so fervently. However this song is always discussed in the most revered of ways and perhaps it's the genuine emotion on display. It is the meeting point of Morrisseys honesty (which pops up far more frequently than people give him credit for) and his overriding sense of theatricality. Set to a string section reminiscent of "Eleanor Rigby" the track exudes a timeless quality and its musical bedding remains unique within his canon. It stands as the song to coax people back from the brink. For all the lazy assumptions of misanthropy Moz is secretly a humanist of sorts. Perhaps the rabble disappoint him more often than not but I hold to the idea that he fundamentally believes in the potential of people. Many accuse him of self absorption and arrogance, but he has so many songs of naked emotion, exemplified here with the claim "I love you more than life." An ode to Marr or not, this could be a promise of unconditional love to his fans and although Morrissey may be far from an angel, that love is certainly reciprocated by so many of us.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Honey you know where to find me

An outtake from Southpaw Grammar which was recently dusted off and included on to the re-issue of that album, this is a lightly rocking gem of a song. It may have been left off due to the fact that it wouldn't have suited the more intense atmosphere of the work around it but I think it might have broken up the gloom of the piece much more efficiently than "Best Friend on the Payroll" for example.

It's a reassuring mission statement that Morrissey is, to borrow from Talking Heads, "the same as he ever was". So at ease is he now with his personality he has no desire to change or adapt. This long held self confidence has long been a trait and is the counterpoint to his more doubtful side which more often than not pops up on the "weepies" in his body of work.

The cheer of this song seems a little forced however, suggesting that whatever his feelings are regarding his current state, he has at least considered the alternative option. He has decided to carry on as he always has and that is great news for the fans. It tells us that whenever we need the sentiments he so often sings about we'll always know where exactly to go for his unique brand of solace. Mixed a little indifferently, no doubt the fate of a song left behind, it could be a bigger production and would benefit from such care but maybe a low key mix is a perfect fit for its modest, well trodden themes.