I try to recall when it all went down. Quite often when love dies it doesn’t happen over night, it’s a slow and subtle process with a way too sobering result. That’s the same with me and the music of Morrissey. Mabye it was somewhere around the summer of 2011 when I paid almost 60 Euro for a show and he showed up playing only 70 minutes (it was an open air concert and it was still daylight when he left the stage) and I asked myself: Why? Or maybe it was the weird speech during the concert where he ranted about meat-consuming people. Just a few weeks earlier he mocked the victims of the Breivik mass shooting in Norway by stating that it was on the same level as the daily slaughter of animals in the fast food industry. I’m pretty sure he also made a really silly Holocaust comparison as well in the past (Spoiler: he did). Maybe it happened later due to the countless silly concert cancellations, sympathy with Ukip and the whole Brexit movement, weird almost racist comments or fighting his label shortly after the release of his 2014 LP World Peace Is None Of Your Business or personally throwing out the owner of a fansite from one of his concerts. I actually don’t know.
When I fell in love with the music of Morrissey it was in my early twenties around the time of his spectacular 2004 comeback LP You Are The Quarry. Mostly it was The Smiths I fell in love with, although I really wished I had discovered them when I was around 15 or 16. Back then the band was a revelation to me (as it probably was to everyone who once fell in love with their music). The songs, the lyrics, the attitude – and of course, since their career was a short-lasting one I also fell in love with a lot of Morrissey‘s solo recordings in those days. My first concert attendance was a 2006 show, where I stood in the front row, worshipping his presence along with hundreds of others and even managed to grab a piece of the maestro’s Gucci shirt. I had a lot, the posters, the CDs, a self-printed ‘There’s The Light That Never Goes Out’ shirt and all that. Now, eleven years later and in the wake of his new solo album Low In High School my excitement for the return of the 58-year old icon is indeed on a new low point for multiple reasons.
First of all, I have changed and so did my life’s circumstances and beliefs. Morrissey has always been the voice of the miserable misfits and unloveable outsiders, celebrating weltschmerz at its finest. There is definitely a time in life for those emotions but unlike the Mancunian musician I wasn’t interested in keeping that feeling alive on a 24/7 basis. I fell in love, enjoyed it, found friends, and a more or less solid path for my life I decided to walk on. I still love melancholia and way too often I question human existence but miserable self-flagellation isn’t an option anymore for me, it’s a cowardly egoistic excuse since we all make our own luck. And that brings me to the other argument for my declining admiration – the man itself, his lack of empathy, his messages and partly reactionary and questionable beliefs. I understand the need to go meatless and of course, the fast food industry is a shitty one but judging and insulting all non-vegans (remember the famous ‘I smell meat in audience’ incident?) isn’t the most effective way to change a society that is used to eat meat for centuries. Such changes take time and a little more empathy. His ignorant and diva-like encounters with the music industry and structures are another aspect. Thank god, he finally seems to understand the 21st century by founding his own label for the new album.
To me, Morrissey often appears like a man stuck in the past, often refusing progress and understanding these modern times. I mean, this can also count as integrity and we surely never wanted a Morrissey EDM album, but on the other hand he’s more and more looking outdated and jaundiced to me, especially through some of his statements (No, Nigel Farage isn’t a ‘great deal’). I mean, there are worse problems we are currently facing than the British monarchy, right? Who would have thought the queen is still very much alive 31 years after he declared her death on the iconic Smiths album? Morrissey has always been about attitude and stubbornness but that was never meant to appeal to everybody anyway.
Never judge a book by it’s cover, but a Moz by it’s messages
The really bad thing is that Low In High School is actually not bad, it’s indeed a more vital sign of artistry than its predecessor or 2009’s grumpy garage rocker Years Of Refusal. Solid and diverse production meets sharp songwriting but once again it’s tough to enjoy this one in the wake of some of its lyrical content that often comes with weird simplification of political correlations. All soldiers are bad, all politicians only want oil in the Middle East, the media is bad for you, Israel is automatically good! Really? A message like the one of Spent The Day In Bed about simply not watching the news anymore sends wrong signals in a time when political awareness and media education are essential to fight the reactionary populist movement all over the world. By refusing to address the big picture, it opens the room for conspiracies and stigmatisation, mixed with ignorance people of his age are showing way too often. The world has gotten complexer (unfortunately) and by not seeing that complexity a person like Morrissey is not a stubborn outsider, he’s just plain wrong. Especially due to his history of strong and important lyrics you can’t only judge these songs by their good melodies, solid vocal performance and nice production – it’s also the message that has always been important. And I simply cannot relate to it anymore. We had our time, Steven. It was wild, intense and life-changing but I know it’s over.
Having said that, I still very much honour big parts of his musical legacy, especially the music of The Smiths which remains as mesmerizing as it has been in the past 35 years. His huge solo output always felt like a mixed affair to me, including many highlights and a lot of mediocre stuff (Maladjusted, I’m looking at your direction). But it’s been almost a decade since I last got excited about a new Morrissey release or tour and that’s pretty much it. Nostalgia isn’t the most efficient gasoline to keep a career going, at least not for me. These things can happen and they did with other artists and bands as well. And Morrissey himself probably couldn’t care less about these things and my opinion. We all know it couldn’t last. He himself once sang a really clever song about that realization. That was, of course, a few years ago.
UPDATE 20/11/17: Two weeks after the publication of this article, the once great leading man contiunes to distub his remaining fans by defending the sexual harassment cases of Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, blaming the victims in some form. Just when you think you can’t get any lower, right?