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Morrissey – Swords

on November 27, 2009, 3:15am

For this writer, Morrissey saved the male pop-singer from blandom. It’s not just his time in The Smiths that I just latched onto, but it’s how he’s translated into his solo work that makes it worth it for me. He invented the ironic pop song, and gave music some of its best one liners. That being said, something happened over the past couple albums, and the signature bite just isn’t what it used to be.

Sure, Morrissey has serious staying power, but as of his latest, Years of Refusal, his song titles are the only thing left with the classic Moz sarcasm that his music used to carry. He’s got a system, and it worked on 2004’s You Are The Quarry, giving you hope for the man in the next decade. Not much of the same could be said about 2006’s Ringleader of the Tormentors, however. It was too middle of the road Morrissey, and we knew he was better than that.

As a collection of B-sides, and not a new record, Swords is more of Moz’s goodness, even though it’s 18 of his left overs from the past five years. Being the perfectionist that he is, however, what’s trash for him ends up giving us, the moody masses, a few more tasty morsels to feed upon. My advice, though: Take them with a large grain of salt.

Naturally, it’s easy to tell which tracks were part of certain recording sessions. There’s a good amount from the last two records, with Quarry seeming to have the smallest stake. However, they are very “take them for what you will and move on” kind of songs with most not standing out as anything extraordinary. It’s also a little too obvious why some didn’t make the cut.

“The Never-Played Symphony” is more over the top, but empty strings. His experimental side gets a little awkward with the lo-fi electronics of “Sweetie Pie”, cruising right into the comical open letter ballad of “Christian Dior” as he laments to the designer, “You could have been impregnating women or kissing mad street boys”. It’s tracks like those that make you ask why they happened in the first place, let a lone why you would release them. It’s not all lost, it just rides in the dirt some.

Early on though, you do get a refreshing flash of brilliance with “Ganglord”, a snarky and sharp social jab in the vein of “Irish Blood, English Heart”. Its chunky rhythm section and piano hook make for one of the best of the past five years. Another highlight is with the album’s rocking opener “Good Looking Man About Town”, which seems more or less a throwback to past Smiths work. That’s about it though for anything that’s worth a serious listen.

Others make it easy to roll over into like “Shame is The Game” and it’s strum along-a-long catchiness. “My Dearest Love” is one more that grows on you with its peaking moodiness and apt use of the left side of the keys.  With those though you’re just settling for something else to hold onto. I hate to be so crass, but that’s about as good as things get here.

The secret to Morrissey has always been with the darker rock songs with his all too addictive melodies, and that’s where you find the goods with this collection. Other than that, the tracks were B-sides for a reason and probably didn’t need to be pressed. The opening selections may perk your ears, but as the record plays out, so do the tracks, just leaving you with a “meh” feeling of dissatisfaction. Even if you love Morrissey, you may just want to wait for the next record of A-sides.

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