Southpaw Grammar


Reprise, 1995

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


Southpaw Grammar is probably the best gift Morrissey could ever give his band -- taking a backseat himself and letting them take charge of the music. This is the only Morrissey album that stands out for reasons other than Morrissey himself.

Take the six-minute long “The Operation,” which starts off with a drum intro, then continues well into the two-minute mark before the song actually begins. Throughout the record, there is a sort of a freeform nature to the music: the drums flail about without any inhibitions, creating beautiful destruction; the guitars squeal at odd moments and are oftentimes percussive and brash; and the basses dictate the music with the drums, not just playing as mere accompaniments. The band plays like a bunch of voracious jazz musicians, and Morrissey just tries to fill the music with words whenever he can.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Morrissey pulled out a similar trick with Your Arsenal, but the music there was layered and refined and what resulted was a polished rock album. However, Southpaw Grammar is crude. The distortion flutters proudly on the foreground, and Steve Lillywhite’s deliberately raw production lets it be that way. And in the shadow of the music, even Morrissey’s silky vocals don’t sound as smooth.

With mostly long songs with more music and little vocals, Morrissey seems out of ideas for songs; his lyrics too aren’t so sharp. But in letting his extremely competent band compensate for his lack of contribution to the music, Morrissey has created a great experimental rock album. Sometimes the music is almost like a jam session, and the utter deftness of the band makes up even for the lackluster tunes on the record like “Do Your Best And Don’t Worry” and “Best Friend On A Payroll.”

With the aggression of Morrissey’s band on Southpaw Grammar, it is hard to believe that this is the same bunch of guys that played on the previous record, the folky and arduously moody Vauxhall And I. For an iconic singer and a lyrical genius like Morrissey, it is ironic that one of his records on which he takes the supporting role should be so wonderful. This just shows one more facet of Morrissey’s brilliance.

Rating: B+

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© 2008 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Reprise, and is used for informational purposes only.