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Friday, 22 May 2009

Morrissey At 50

Morrissey, as readers of Eyewear will know, is one of my favourite singer-songwriters. I've said in print he is Britain's leading pop musical genius, a sort of Mancunian Bob Dylan. So, it's good to see the man celebrating tonight back home, in Manchester. He's aged well, in terms of growing handsome, solid, and broad - but his recent work unfortunately pales in comparison to that of the 80s and the 90s. It's true, he had an Indian summer two or three albums back, but then the latest was miserable again, without the charm or wit. Morrissey's lyric style is predicated on repetition of key lines, phrases, and words - as well as sudden leaps in logic ("flying bullet for you") sung in surprisingly elastic ways, tricking the syntax and diction across the tongue. At its best, this is electrifying, and at times uncanny. This is why he is so Dylanesque - his words are brilliant, but the way he purveys them is more so. However, his broad themes of stymied eros and unloved romanticism, as well as frank disenchantment with post-Suez Britain (Morrissey is nothing without Mr. Bleaney), work when combined ("under the iron bridge we kissed") - generating a sort of Audenesque landscape of bleak possibility, where glimmers of hope and lust and humour escape from the glumness; just as Waiting for Godot is now seen as almost joyously comic and full of potential, the best of The Smiths, and Morrissey, is ultimately utopian: have tea, will whinge. And, so long as one is complaining, as Mildrew knew, one is alive. Therefore, to see Morrissey still alive and kicking at the pricks, half a century on, is good news. Many happy returns!
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