Look, Steven, I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing about you now. There were a LOT of good albums this year, many of which I now listen to more than I listen to Years of Refusal. And I’ve already covered a lot of my history with you in the Smiths entry and various other Also comments since then.
Well, let’s recap, at least, and see how we got here. I loved Bona Drag, and still think it’s probably my favorite thing you’ve done, so when Viva Hate came out I’d already heard its best songs and found the rest a bit of a mixed bag. I liked Kill Uncle, but it was starting to feel a little effete, and so it’s not a surprise you got yourself a full band for Your Arsenal. I’m not sure what my problem was with that record, since as I’ve mentioned I love it now; I guess I was going through a phase where I was restless with all my old music and needed a change. I’m glad I came back to Vauxhall and I, and that I eventually gave Southpaw Grammar another chance; you’ve claimed the latter is your favorite album of yours and I almost believe you.
Then there was Maladjusted, and while I think of it as a weak album, it’s actually pretty great. The title track is a little forgettable, and “Sorrow Will Come in the End” is embarrassing vitriol, but “Trouble Loves Me” is a classic, “Wide to Receive” and “He Cried” are pretty sweet, and “Roy’s Keen” is a lot of fun. “Satan Rejected My Soul” is the hilarious sequel to “There’s a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends,” and “Alma Matters” is one of your best singalong singles ever. This was the first album of yours that my girlfriend and I bonded over, and sang along to endlessly in the car, and it’s the first album I saw you on tour for.
And I thought maybe you were done, but you came back stronger than ever with You Are the Quarry. Ringleader of the Tormentors was a little more self-indulgent and a lot more melodramatic, but still had plenty of appealing stuff on it. Years of Refusal…well.
It’s not all bad. “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” is a memorable kiss-off to antidepressants, “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” is gorgeous, “When Last I Spoke to Carol” is a welcome song that’s not exclusively about you.
The rest of it I can take or leave. I barely remember how some of the songs go. And that’s why I haven’t bought or even heard World Peace Is None of Your Business. I’m sure there’s at least one song on it I’d love, and even a weak Morrissey album is always listenable. But I can’t help feeling this is sort of the end of the line for us.
I mean, you cancel your Bay Area concert dates right and left, and at first I thought maybe you were just taking advantage of being in the city and enjoying the nightlife instead, but now I’m starting to believe you really were sick. You’ve said so, for a start, in some witty and fearless and direct soundbites that remind me why I think Wilde really is on your side, but also there’s that autobiography you wrote (which I also haven’t read — sorry) which is the sort of thing a man does when he’s staring down his mortality. Then again, here I am doing this, and while I have no reason to think I’m going to die right after I turn 40, they say it’s never too soon to make arrangements, you know?
But look, however mildly disenchanted I may feel with you right at this moment, I can’t deny what a profound influence you’ve been in my life. I’ve met people because of you that I would never have met any other way, a few I wish I hadn’t but most I’m glad I did, my girlfriend foremost among the latter group. Your interviews, quotes, and photographs sit in three different volumes on my shelf, not to mention that book Saint Morrissey you probably aren’t publicly thrilled about but might secretly be kind of pleased with. “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” of course, though being sued is probably a little worse than both.
Hell, you’re at least indirectly the reason I have a quiff — you and your band made it sexy to my girlfriend. Your music probably helped me learn to sing. The story is old, I know, but it goes on.
Pet Shop Boys, Yes
They’ve never been my favorite band, but they’ve been a perennial almost-favorite for more years than I actually remembered — the stretch from Please through Bilingual was consistently excellent. After that I started losing interest, but somehow this album grabbed me. “All Over the World,” “Did You See Me Coming?”, “More Than a Dream,” and “Pandemonium” were the reasons why.
R.E.M., Live at the Olympia
The newer tracks are as dull as I’d imagined them to be based on the samples I heard, but there are a lot of classic R.E.M. songs on here, and those are untouchably excellent. 26 out of 39 tracks date from New Adventures in Hi-Fi or earlier, and if you edit this two-disc set down just to those, you’ve got one hell of a live R.E.M. album. Almost as good as being there, I’d imagine (since I’ve never seen them).
Camera Obscura, My Maudlin Career
An adorable record that really sneaks up on you. “French Navy” is the irresistibly joyous standout, but I also love “Honey In the Sun” and the title track. I don’t want to be sad again, either.
- Fever Ray, Fever Ray
- Lily Allen, It’s Not Me, It’s You
- The-Dream, Love vs. Money
- Bat for Lashes, Two Suns
- Metric, Fantasies
- St. Vincent, Actor
- The Gossip, Music for Men
- Lady Gaga, The Fame Monster
- Morrissey, Swords
- Tegan and Sara, Sainthood
- Julian Casablancas, Phrazes for the Young