Before we begin, I suppose I should come clean and own up to being a Morrissey fan. Of course, for any other recording artist on God’s holy earth this would not be necessary, but there isn’t, nor has there ever been, any middle ground. None of that “he’s all right, but I prefer…” like some Aguilera vs Britney playground nonsense. There is no other artist to compare him with, except his own previous output.
So, just how does You Are The Quarry compare, given that all and sundry have been vaunting this as the great return? Well first up, that voice – has he ever, ever sung better than this? There are few departures in the delivery and he still ends songs with the punctuation of a spastic Buddy Holly, but there it goes – that trademark falsetto which left us as jelly way back when we were all spotty adolescents.
The execution is perfect, comparable perhaps to what Elvis Costello has tried to achieve, but he has never come as close to crooner-ism as Morrissey has here. It can only be a matter of time before he swaps his de-mob pinstripe for a velvet crush and a high stool.
Lyrically? All the usual suspects are there, with a few more thrown in for good measure. The opener America Is Not The World with its opening salvo of “America your head’s too big,” is “Manchester, so much to answer for” from another continent. It’s also possibly the first ever song to mention Estonia – outside of Estonia that is.
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores is a typical Morrissey anti-authority list song, before launching into its denigration of today’s young pretenders: “Popstars thicker than pig s**t”. Of course, in the chorus he turns the whole mess back on himself and implores us to love him (no change there then). As typical as typical can get.
Then there is his love/hate relationship with England and the English. Come Back To Camden is a prime example, under its slate grey Victorian skies. His body may be in Hollywood but his heart never really left. Along this same well worn path is the single Irish Blood, English Heart, but where Come Back To Camden is wistful, this is confrontational, cutting and it rocks. In fact, it rocks as much as anything off of his 1994 album, the chronically under-rated Vauxhall And I.
But is You Are The Quarry “better than”? Is it the “best”? Well as always, there are those detractors that say that a Boorer and a Whyte do not a Johnny Marr make. And on songs like How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel, a fairly uninspiring plough through an overworked theme, they may just have a point. An incongruous use of cheap ’80s keyboard does little to enhance, particularly on the end of Let Me Kiss You.
Between these two tracks, however, lies the little gem First Of The Gang To Die, which when first aired at his two sell-out shows at the Royal Albert Hall, was so obviously quintessentially Morrissey, that it was only ever going to be a favourite (particularly with his new found Hispanic fan club, one suspects).
So he’s back, although to some he never really went away. He’s a champion, a prodigal son, the only one who ever understood how we felt. And when this reverie has once again turned to scorn and backlash, as surely it will and as surely as Morrissey expects it to, then, then he’ll write the greatest album ever… since the last one.