Years Of Refusal

Morrissey

Attack/Lost Highway, 2009

http://www.morrissey-solo.com

REVIEW BY: Melanie Love

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/03/2009

In some ways, Morrissey is the Crown Prince of emo: all well-coifed, eyelinered histrionics, lines like “Last night I dreamt that somebody loved me / No hope no harm / Just another false alarm” swathed in sweeping instrumentation. Still, whether it’s in his iconic work with The Smiths or his fairly prolific solo career, Morrissey has every Fall Out Boy beat with his signature sardonic wit, and this is more evident than ever on his latest disc, Years Of Refusal.

Not much has changed here. His deep, emotive vocals are as rich as always, and backing band the Tormentors provide a muscular rock underlayer with their thick guitars and relentless drums. And yet there seems to be a renewed sense of energy and immediacy to these tracks. This is evident right from the start with opener “Something Is Squeezing My Skull,” which builds on an energetic riff with Morrissey’s alternately ferocious and tongue-in-cheek vocals as he rattles off a litany of prescription drugs and the intriguing couplet, “The motion of taxis excites me when you peel it back and bite me” as the song rattles towards its close.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

This sort of blackhearted raucousness characterizes Years Of Refusal, whether it’s the throbbing rhythms and yearning yet accusatory vocals of “Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed” or the sheer vigorousness of the stabbing guitars in previous chart-topper “That’s How People Grow Up,” which contains the succinctly resonant sentiment, “Let me live before I die.”

Morrissey’s sharp wit lends itself to being quotable, and this disc is full of one-liners: “I’ve hammered a smile across this pasty face of mine,” he says in “When I Last Spoke To Carol” as the horns and textured background (including yelping and other unsettlingly random screeches) rises above him and swallows his startling imagery.

Later, standout “It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore” swerves from its gentle beginning -- softly padded drums, Morrissey’s soulful croon -- to a simmering kiss-off (“It’s not your birthday anymore / Did you really think we meant all of those syrupy sentimental things that we said?”).  Morrissey at his most ferocious culls his most evocative material, especially when the deceptively tender rhythms give way to the deeper bitterness stewing below.

Unfortunately, the previous vigorousness slips a bit after “Birthday.” “You Were Good In Your Own Time” plods along for an overlong five minutes and relies too much on ambient noise near the end, while “I’m Okay By Myself” is a solid enough closer, but without the confidence and spacious soundscapes of the earlier material here. Overall, though, Years Of Refusal is a stunning return-to-form for one of rock’s most controversial and brazenly confident figures, worthy of repeated playing and delving into.

Rating: B+

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© 2009 Melanie Love 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 Attack/Lost Highway, and is used for informational purposes only.