Years Of Refusal


Attack/Lost Highway, 2009

REVIEW BY: Kenny S. McGuane


Former Smiths frontman Steven Patrick Morrissey has repeatedly exceeded expectations of fans and critics alike. It seemed unlikely that, post-Smiths, there was any way for Morrissey to go but down. Not the case. The charismatic performer has an excellent body of quality solo work and although -- like any other artist -- there are some low points, overall, Morrissey, who turns 50 in May, has done a fine job of maintaining his image and his relevance. This is particularly true if one considers his last two albums: both 2004’s my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 You Are The Quarry and 2006’s Ringleader Of The Tormentors reinforced the notion that Morrissey is one of pop’s most distinctive and vital performers. Morrissey’s latest, Years Of Refusal, has extended his artistic renaissance through 2009.

More rock driven than any of his previous records, Years Of Refusal finds Morrissey at home with his predictable poetry and wit. He’s never been subtle and he’s never been restrained in performance, but on this disc, Morrissey sounds vocally and lyrically more confident than ever.

Aesthetically, paying no mind to the words, Years Of Refusal is thoroughly enjoyable as a straight-ahead rock record with straight-ahead rock arrangements. Lyrically, though, Morrissey battles familiar demons: suicide (“Mama Lay Softly On The Riverbed), loneliness (“I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris”), ego (“All You Need Is Me”), isolation (“I’m Ok By Myself”) and so on. Indeed Morrissey has said it all before and in a thousand different ways, but there exists a certain flexing of the muscles on this disc that makes it all sound better than it has in quite some time.

It’s difficult to gauge which direction Morrissey can or will go next -- which is not to say that Years Of Refusal takes him in new musical or lyrical directions, because it doesn’t. But it’s not an easy task, especially these days, for 50 year old pop icons to continue making music that matters. The music on Years Of Refusal matters whether it’s considered in and/or out of The Smiths’ and Morrissey’s own musical and cultural context, and if it proves to be Morrissey’s final musical outing, it’s a hell of a note to end on.

Rating: B

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© 2009 Kenny S. McGuane 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.