Ah, Morrissey. Where to start indeed? From the moment he appeared as frontman for The Smiths on Top of the Pops - sporting a quiff, an NHS hearing aid and brandishing a bunch of gladioli in place of a microphone in protest at being asked to mime - we knew that this was a unique artist. A famously dry, often grumpy man and a militant vegetarian, Moz has always polarised opinion, but love him or hate him, there’s no getting away from the fact that he is undoubtedly one of the best lyricists this country has ever produced.
Next week he releases World Peace Is None of Your Business, his tenth solo album in the 27 years since The Smiths disbanded and his first new LP in five years, following 2009’s Years of Refusal. Featuring one of the most Morrissey-esque song titles in recent memory in ‘Kick the Bride Down the Aisle’, the album is a reassuringly strong offering produced by Joe Chiccarelli (The Strokes, Alanis Morissette) that has already yielded four singles and has the potential for more. Particular highlights include the spiky guitar-fuelled ‘Istanbul’, the literary lyrics of ‘Neal Cassidy Drops Dead’ and single ‘Earth Is The Loneliest Planet’, which features a bizarre cameo from Pamela Anderson in its accompanying video.
For those who are Morrissey fans, it’s sure to be a welcome release and should do more than a little to relieve those Moz withdrawal symptoms. For new initiates to his post-Smiths work, we’ve put together five career highlights…
Every Day Is Like Sunday
(taken from Viva Hate)
Taken from Viva Hate, his first solo album after The Smiths’ somewhat acrimonious split, Morrissey returns with the kind of anthem that only Morrissey could write. Featuring lyrics that describe the dullness of an unnamed British seaside resort (“This is the coastal town / that they forgot to close down”), it’s one of his most iconic solo tracks and the perfect introduction to his work after The Smiths’ demise.
The Last of the Famous International Playboys
(taken from The HMV/Parlophone Singles 1988-1995)
Although this single never featured on a studio album, it was later included on compilations Bona Drag and, from the days when we had our own label, The HMV/Parlophone Singles 1988-1995. Featuring lyrics about London’s notorious gangsters The Krays, it was a Top 10 hit for Moz in 1989 and the b-side, ‘Lucky Lisp’, also featured ex-Smiths members Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce.
You’re The One for Me, Fatty
(taken from Your Arsenal)
Anyone who thinks Morrissey doesn’t have a sense of humour clearly hasn’t been paying attention, and ‘You’re The One for Me, Fatty’ actually sounds like a record that Moz had a really good time making. The song was actually written for and about Chas Smash form Madness, whom Moz had recently become friends with – a fact worth writing a song about in itself. Taken from Your Arsenal, this song is great fun and it’s got the kind of jangly guitar sounds that Johnny Marr might have been proud of.
The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
(taken from Vauxhall and I)
Released in February 1994 before its inclusion on the Steve Lillywhite-produced Vauxhall and I, ‘The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get’ is, both musically and lyrically, Morrissey 101. It also happens to be his only single to chart in the Billboard Top 100, peaking at 46. Maybe the Americans don’t quite get Morrissey, but we think this is brilliant.
Irish Blood, English Heart
(taken from You Are The Quarry)
The most recent entry on this list, taken from 2004’s You Are The Quarry, this track is as far from Smiths territory as you can imagine Moz getting, but its lyrics are heartfelt rather than sharp and sarcastic, and find Morrissey in contemplative mood, writing about his roots and upbringing. Every now and them, Moz repays his fans’ loyalty with an absolute belter and this, along with ‘First of the Gang to Die’ from the same album, is definitely one of those moments