It’s nigh on impossible to look at Morrissey‘s Greatest Hits without thinking of the lyrics to one of The Smiths’ finest moments, Paint A Vulgar Picture, the bitingly funny satire from Strangeways Here We Come of how record companies like to cash in on their acts.
“Reissue, repackage, repackage, re-evaluate the songs. Double pack with a photograph, extra track and a tacky badge”. And indeed, that’s what we have here, minus the tacky badge – a thrown together collection of Steven Patrick’s most commercially successful solo tracks.
However, let’s ignore the arguments about whether there’s really a need for this album (especially in this age of iPod playlists and where there are already two or three Morrissey compilations out there) and concentrate on the music.
Greatest Hits, as the name would suggest, focuses purely on the chart successes. So, it’s heavy on the early and later part of Mozza’s solo career, and very light indeed on the much-maligned (and somewhat under-rated) rockabilly/Mark E Nevin collaborative era.
There’s also no discernable order to the tracklisting, starting off with First Of The Gang To Die, then zig-zagging across the years to take in early hits such as Suedehead and Everyday Is Like Sunday, throwing in an excellent live version of Patti Smith‘s Redondo Beach, shoving two brand new tracks in the middle and finishing back where we started with another You Are The Quarry track, I Have Forgiven Jesus.
Of course, being a Morrissey compilation, there are always going to be moments of genius. The crushing ennui of Everyday Is Like Sunday still sounds marvellous, the muscular Irish Blood English Heart is a contender for best single of the last 10 years, and Let Me Kiss You is a fine example of Morrissey being one of the finest lyricists of his generation.
The two new tracks are somewhat underwhelming, That’s How People Grow Up is a tad lumpen , although lyrics such as “I was driving my car, I crashed and broke my spine, so yes, there are things worse in life than never being some-one’s sweetie” are oddly comforting (if slightly unbecoming of a man approaching 50). All You Need Is Me is a bit better (with a fine payoff line of “you’re gonna miss me when I’m gone”) but both previously unreleased tracks do kind of scream ‘filler’.
As with most compilations, there are notable omissions – the rather heavy reliance on Morrissey’s last two albums, as great as they were, means that there’s no room for gems such as Interesting Drug, My Love Life, Pregnant For The Last Time, and perhaps most unforgivably, his finest moment as a solo artist, November Spawned A Monster.
If you’re in desperate need for a Morrissey compilation, then it would be better to seek out Suedehead and then grab You Are The Quarry and Ringleader Of The Tormentors. Although the music here is generally wonderful, there’s a nasty whiff of record company cash-in around the whole thing, especially with a “2 disc deluxe edition” also available. As the man himself once sang: “Best of, most of, satiate the need, slip them into different sleeves…buy both and feel deceived”…