Morrissey “Low In High School” Review

(Photo Credit: Fahrenheit Magazine)

Though wavering, Morrissey’s eleventh is a surprisingly bombastic trip.

Much like Roger Waters’ new album in June, fans were expecting a Morrissey album in 2017 to be a political affair. The man has made a career off of bluntness and controversy, and if there has ever been a time to capitalize on that, that time is now. Needless to say, Moz refuses to give out bandages for the deep wounds he causes all across “Low In High School.”

It’s fair to say that Morrissey has gotten to this point of respect because of his lyrics. He’s never been one for veiled poetry, usually opting for blunt satire and character studies. These are both on supply here – even on the album’s opening lines, which rhyme “propaganda” with “media” (on “My Love, I’d Do Anything For You).” The album’s centerpiece, “I Bury the Living,” is a masturbatory anti-war song in the same vein as Sonic Youth’s “Anti-Orgasm.” Still, the song’s lyrics, sung from the POV of a soldier, are a big bite: “Give me an order / and I’ll blow up the border / give me an order / and I’ll blow up your daughter.” The track right before it, lead single “Spent the Day in Bed,” also has the condemning line, “Stop watching the news because the news contrives to frighten you.” The album’s cover has even sparked some controversy.

And on a musical standpoint, the album also largely succeeds. This is a fuller sounding album than many of Morrissey’s recent releases. Opening track “My Love…” has a huge, full-band sound that’s catchy while sounding loud, a sound he can’t replicate on follow-up “I Wish You Lonely” but does on follow-up “Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage.” Moz’s voice shines bright throughout, piercing through the music on most tracks, like “The Girl from Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel,” which is cemented by a great piano rhythm. For the first time in a while, a Morrissey album feels like a complete work, with exciting music supplementing the lyrics.

As a Morrissey album, it isn’t without its low moments. The music of “All the Young People Must Fall in Love” is taken almost directly from John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” rather shamelessly. And the follow-up, “When You Open Your Legs,” sounds more like a tired Morrissey parody, given the singer’s views on sexuality. “Everything I know deserts me now when you open your legs,” Morrissey sings in what sounds like a Tumblr. post with 55 notes. Likewise, “Jacky’s…” is a fine song, one with a truly exciting and unexpected climax, but one that follows a relatively mundane story (especially for a third track).

Setbacks aside, this album is a true Morrissey romp, with Moz willfully and gleefully singing about war, police brutality, sheer loneliness, and many of his familiar topics. Never a big fan myself, I had all but given up on Moz’s solo output, but this album was a surprisingly well-rounded, relevant and urgent album with the kind of energy I thought he had replaced with malaise years ago.

Grade: B+

-By Andrew McNally

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