Thursday, June 12, 2008

Morrissey: A riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma

English singer/songwriter Morrissey (Stephen Patrick Morrissey) was recently voted by the British people to be the second most popular "Living Icon" in the UK. Ahead of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, and Michael Caine. Either Morrissey's talents have been understated, underrated and plain overlooked or there's been a serious cultural famine on a certain 'island in the silver sea.' Seriously, Morrissey is a talent; having started a three-decade-long career with the Smiths, he's made the jump into a solo career, producing a number of fine albums and dodging the limelight often with a trademark incredulity.

So, the Sacramento Public Library owns a few of Morrissey's solo works, with the best being the 2005 You Are the Quarry. My guess is that his 2008 Greatest Hits album with be soon to follow as a library purchase. What makes Quarry so good is Morrissey's endearing honesty about politics, himself, himself, and himself. Self-effacing, perhaps a bit too much at times, is his standard. But, his stance on politics and tolerance is just as common. "America is Not the World" and "Irish Blood, English Heart" are especially poignant in this regard, the former singlehandedly harpoons the American way of life with the nine words: "America, you know where you can shove that hamburger," while the latter rehabilitates, then assassinates Oliver Cromwell (1599 – 1658) for murdering 1 out of every 3 Irishmen. For the video of "Irish Blood, English Heart," click on the image below:

Into Morrissey's personal world the album takes us, often with a real feel of sympathy for the guy, mixed with the inclination to laugh. Strange contradictions dot his word: he's critical of the Americanism, yet chooses to live in LA; he laments his place amongst England's working class while growing up, but has recently conceded a yen for jolly, old England, and its gray skies. One almost gets the feeling that the significance of his lyrics is multilayered. There's no doubt that Morrissey thinks highly of himself, yet he's always so willing to pull his own tail, as we see in "Let Me Kiss You":

Close your eyes and think of someone you physically admire

And let me kiss you. Let me kiss you. But then you

Open your eyes and you see someone that you physically

Despise but my heart is open my heart is open to you.

Enjoy the album. It's serious, then funny, sometimes odd, but always heartfelt. Morrissey sees his music, his performances as real life. To call him a performer wouldn't be right. He equates performing with acting and his art is not an act.

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