Years of Refusal
First Appeared in The Music Box, March 2009, Volume 16, #3
Written by John Metzger
Tue March 24, 2009, 06:30 AM CDT
Morrissey has spent so much time wallowing in the misery of his own life that it’s hard to imagine he ever could find the desire, let alone the willpower, to escape from the darkened space that he calls home. Sure enough, throughout his latest offering Years of Refusal, he continues his narcissistic ways by detailing the latest round of tormentors that have caused him undue anguish. Yet, buried far below the surface of his new batch of material, something seems to be happening to Morrissey that might take many of his detractors by surprise. Of course, it very well could turn out to be a ruse or, perhaps, a temporary bout of self-reflection, but overall, the collection surely makes it seem as if he finally might be ready to grow up.
This year, Morrissey will turn 50, and the dawning of this milestone in his life understandably has spurred him to consider his own mortality. He still rails against the friends and paramours who not only failed to satisfy his ideals but also left him feeling disappointed and angry. As expected, he continues to exact revenge by tossing an array of barbed lyrics at those who have done him wrong. Likewise, he remains bitterly resigned to the fact that his endless quest for salvation in a soulmate might never bear fruit. At the same time, though, Morrissey also fights back against himself. On Something Is Squeezing My Skull, he violently refuses to accept the easy solutions commonly offered by modern psychology for what ails him, while on One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell, he cautions those who would take life and love for granted. In other words, although his songs may be self-absorbed rants, they now bring a mature dose of perspective with them.
After years of appearing as if he was adrift, Morrissey returned with a vengeance on You Are the Quarry. Ever since, the same group of musicians that had helped him to whip the effort into shape has been by his side to support him in his pursuits. This consistency has served him well, too. Over the past five years, the ensemble has transformed itself from a strong support network into a full-fledged band that actually sounds like it is having a grand, old time performing together. Although Morrissey had worked closely with the outfit in guiding You Are the Quarry to fruition, it now seems like his comeback set was merely a warm-up act for Years of Refusal.
Many of the ideas that Morrissey and his entourage deployed on You Are the Quarry and its successor Ringleader of the Tormentors resurface on Years of Refusal, and the versatility of his backing band provides plenty of opportunities for him to explore and further refine his ever-expanding sonic palette. Several cuts are dotted with mariachi horns, while others are adorned with dissonant keyboards and electronic effects. Morrissey’s biting lyrics are punctuated by sharp, stinging guitars, thrashing bass lines, and big, thunderous drum beats. Yet, this time, he makes better use of dynamics, allowing the twists and turns to occur within songs rather than simply between tracks.
At the turn of the millennium, it certainly looked as if Morrissey had lost his touch. With the trilogy of albums that began with You Are the Quarry, however, he has managed to stake a comeback of which many would be envious. In fact, Years of Refusal alone is so ferocious, urgent, and vital that it makes a clear-cut case that he isn’t ready to be written off just yet.
Of Further Interest...
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1 Star: Pitiful
2 Stars: Listenable
3 Stars: Respectable
4 Stars: Excellent
5 Stars: Can't Live Without It!!
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