Review: Morrissey- 'Low in High School' (2017)
Morrissey shows little sign of age through his refusal to pipe down
Morrissey has been sketched out as a voice of emotive realism since 'The Smiths' formulated an intellectual challenge against an era still convincingly dominated by cock rock, acting as a vehicle for eternal emasculation to which he found himself greatly resenting. Few critics would argue however, that he and his ex-compatriot Marr in this decade, have started to arrive at very different answers to some of the common questions they once shared and in other cases, completely different enemies. The former in particular has showcased a strange if not inconsistent amalgamation of political views since the turn of the millennium, however it cannot be denied that there is substance behind this anger the inherent entitlements of royal blood and the imperial incentives of war all highlighting the vast abominations that continue to exist with few others asserting sufficient pressure in opposition. It is of course to some extent subjective as to whether one perceives him as a progressive or reactionary provocateur but regardless, with 'Low in High School', Morrissey successfully retains his unhinged political voice that refuses to be absorbed in a discourse of censorship.
The bombastic brass, scything electronica and guitar riffs in opener 'My Love, I'd Do Anything for You' perhaps best symbolises how since he first embarked on his solo career following The Smith's demise, he has gradually shifted from being unashamedly androgynous in resentment of patriarchal expectations to in fact embracing those very expectations; albeit within an ironic context, however this is not to say that he has retired the poetic element of his appeal. His lyrics and prosodic delivery without doubt remain uncompromisingly poignant throughout; making the case for 'Low in High Schools' being one of his most self-assured releases and one that builds on the tranquil successes of its predecessor 'World Peace is None of Your Business' (2014). Regardless of the ideological contradictions involved in condemning royalty and yet embracing British Nationalism, 'I Wish You Lonely' is cladded with an infectious Franz Ferdinand inspired in-the-pocket rhythm section complimented with a synthpop sounding low-frequency oscillating bass, comprising a sound that could be best described as like a combination of The Horrors and Goldfrapp.
Up to the lead single 'Spent the Day in Bed', which through the almost chimerical synthetic strings, embraces the sense of relief in 'no boss, no bus, no rain, no train'; opitimising the mortal need for escapism and relaxation to warrant its place as the album's most inoffensive contribution. The political transmissions so far, have therefore been somewhat tame for Morrissey's standards, making it appropriate for 'I Bury the Living' to affirm its weight as an unrelenting dig at military personnel. This could be perceived by some to symbolise a watershed moment in retiring on the ambition of reaching out to the disenchanted; disregarding fact that the system itself may be seeking to gain from those who are overpowered by a desire to belong. The merits in the instrumental track's dynamically expressionistic arrangements are therefore overlooked by the regrettable impression, that the figure who once symbolically stood up for the marginalised, has succumbed to becoming one of modernism's alleged perpetuators. Piano ballad 'In Your Lap' extends this discourse on imperialism, satisfying in its dissonant ambience contributing the disturbing uncertainty of the Arab Spring; fast-forwarding to the end, 'Israel' carries this theme further with a pleasant but dragged out nonetheless piano over a militant looping snare to re-affirm his defense of the American occupied regime in case it happened to be ambiguous. 'The Girl from Tel Aviv who Wouldn't Kneel' also deserves a particular mention for Morrissey showcasing himself at his satirical peak through the stylistic use of a tango sarcastically addressing a barbaric form of cultural dominance, under the umbrella of a traditional and mutually shared pheromone exchange when in character with its Latin-American origins.
These themes are not entirely new to Morrissey nor to his fanbase who nowadays, are perhaps more likely to be drawn to his topical content that to the music, which at times, feels like an accompaniment to an epic monologue for the Sleaford Mods in reverse. 'All the Young People Must Fall in Love', which borrows the 'boom-clap' of 'Do I Wanna Know?' mourns the situation whereby young people are expected to go about their daily lives in the midst of presidents waging war on one another. Despite being somewhat contradictive through being in the same album as 'I Bury the Dead', where he points the finger at the 'cannon fodder' fighting those president's wars, Morrissey shows that he still has to capacity to be opinionated and yet still wide reaching. It would also appear slightly misjudged to expect him to change when the world refuses to return the favour.
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