From The Published Archives: Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal

This week, Morrissey cancelled on Jimmy Kimmel.  The former Smiths frontman apparently didn’t realize he was booked the same night as the guys from A&E’s Duck Dynasty and announced he was backing out of his booked appearance for moral reasons.  (He’s been a longtime animal rights proponent.)

On Tuesday, Kimmel and the Robertson clan made fun of him because of his cancellation.  The Mopey One was not amused.

Since then, they’ve been trading barbs.  Kimmel’s been alternating between jokes and sincerity through his show and official Twitter account while the old-fashioned Morrissey prefers venting through press releases.  Despite the comedian’s hope he’ll change his mind, The Mozzer will probably never appear on Jimmy Kimmel Live ever again because of all of this.

Regardless, the 53-year-old singer is once again back in the news for his outspokenness.  It’s too bad it’s not for his music.  (He’s currently back on a U.S. tour after being briefly sidelined by an illness.)

It’s been four years since he released a new CD.  Once again without a record deal who knows where he’ll sign next.  Maybe he’ll pull a Radiohead or a Nine Inch Nails and eschew the corporate music business altogether to become what he once was:  independent.  Either way, he’s not going away any time soon.  He’s written an unpublished autobiography and continues to work on solo material.

In the meantime, let’s go back to 2009 to reflect on his last proper studio album.

Years Of Refusal was probably his best-reviewed disc since Vauxhall & I.  When I heard a public library copy, I immediately understood the critical acclaim and decided to add to it.  (I want to buy my own copy but I can’t find it anymore.)  A review was submitted in October 2009 to MonkeyBiz.ca who proceeded to sit on it for many, many months.

After a long period of silence, I finally worked up the nerve to find out what was taking so long.  When I did, I was told to re-submit the review (along with a few others that were in limbo) and they would publish it.

Four pieces, including that review, were originally emailed to a contact that my old Employment Hamilton job counsellor had put me in touch with during one of our many sessions.  (He called her for her contact info and passed it on to me.)  She was very enthusiastic about my involvement and told me to submit pieces directly to her.

I should’ve submitted them to the editor instead because at some point, my contact suddenly quit the website.  (The editor told me in an email reply which my job counsellor confirmed shortly thereafter in one of our meetings.)  Despite being annoyed about all of this (why wasn’t this brought to my immediate attention?) the good news was my first four submissions were finally going to be showcased on MonkeyBiz.

On June 28, 2010, more than eight months after it was written and submitted, my review of Years Of Refusal finally surfaced on their website.  There were numerous structural changes beyond the routine breaking up of big paragraphs into much smaller ones.  Several of these alterations I’ve maintained for this re-posting because they improved the original text.  But not every editorial change was welcome.

One of my pet peeves with MonkeyBiz was their tendency to delete bracketed asides in my reviews.  I understand why this was done (to make the lines flow more smoothly) but I don’t like having any of my thoughts erased.  There were only a couple such asides dropped from this Morrissey critique but I’ve reinserted them.  They’re necessary and should never have been dropped in the first place.  All other changes I’ve made are of the nitpicky variety (a restored contraction here, little words added there).

For the most part, I was pretty happy with the MonkeyBiz version, all things considered.  But I’m much happier with this updated version.  I hope you like it, too.

Morrissey – Years of Refusal

Posted on June 28 2010 under Arts & Entertainment
By Dennis Earl

Seven years. For his most loyal fans, it probably felt like an eternity. But taking that much time off to break away from his exhausting write, record, tour routine was clearly one of the smartest decisions Morrissey ever made.

The permanently woeful singer disappeared for nearly a decade after a succession of solo releases and a humiliating legal defeat (ex-Smiths drummer Mike Joyce successfully sued him over unpaid recording and performance royalties in the late ’90s).

As a result, his return to full-time music making in 2004 was not only surprising but triumphant. Of all the comebacks this decade, his was the most welcome.

Years of Refusal is the 50-year-old singer’s ninth proper studio release and the followup to last year’s solid but unnecessary Greatest Hits. For the most part, it’s reminiscent of Southpaw Grammar with its frequent use of military drum patterns, energetically driving guitars and mostly tight running times.

Lyrically, it’s not much different from past offerings (the album could’ve been called More Songs About Death And Loneliness), but Morrissey continues to find interesting variations on his favourite themes. Overall, this is one of his most confident-sounding records to date.

Being middle-aged hasn’t eased his sense of cruelty. On It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore, which sounds like a cross between With or Without You and My Hero, he coldly informs a potential love interest, “There’s no need to be kind to you/and the will to see you smile and belong has now gone.”

On Sorry Doesn’t Help, an ex-lover is scolded: “You lied about the lies that you told/which is the full extent of what being you is all about.”

During the Spanish-flavoured When Last I Spoke to Carol, which features an entertaining horn section, he bluntly kisses off the title character: “I can’t pretend I feel love for you.” You don’t want to know what happens to Carol at the end.

When he’s not being brutal, he’s the spokesman for the forlorn generation, terminally resigned to the idea of a life without true love. Black Cloud’s chorus steals its rhythm from Monster Magnet’s Powertrip and features Jeff Beck on guitar. No amount of effort on Morrissey’s part can lead to a successful seduction: “There is nothing I can do to make you mine.”

The drug-addicted protagonist in Something Is Squeezing My Skull wearily observes, “There is no love in modern life.” I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris is Morrissey’s solution to an “absence” of “love” and “human touch.”

There’s also the self-explanatory and gripping I’m OK By Myself whose only flaw is some excessive vocal scatting near the end.

That’s How People Grow Up features the lovely soprano of Kristeen Young at the top and showcases a philosophical Morrissey bemoaning the whole idea of romance as a complete waste of time.

And then, there are the eulogies:  The matriarch driven to suicide and greatly missed by her family in Mama Lay Softly on The Riverbed (“It’s just so lonely here without you.”), which features a guitar section that would make Captain Beefheart raise an eyebrow.

And the mysterious, bedridden sufferer in the gorgeously heartbreaking You Were Good in Your Time (“You made me feel less alone”) which suddenly changes track in its final two minutes.

After Morrissey sings the final lyric, the music stops and the French dialogue that has been playing in the background throughout can be heard a bit better. A more unsettling arrangement begins, like something you would hear just before a kill scene in a horror film. It reminded me of Someone’s In The Wolf by Queens Of The Stone Age.

With no bad songs (the darkly biting All You Need Is Me rounds out the track listing) and plenty to sing along to, Years of Refusal offers endless emotional delights. Here’s hoping Morrissey never disappears again.

Dennis Earl
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Thursday, February 28, 2013
3:48 p.m.

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Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 3:48 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] Count Yer Lucky Stars and Wilson Semiconductors by The Howling Hex.  Later on, evaluations of Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal and the When You’re Strange Soundtrack (featuring the music of The Doors) were put up here, […]

  2. […] months of uncertainty, as documented in that first link.  (Two more reviews of The Unborn and Morrissey’s Years Of Refusal would follow two months later, as would a fifth, Jennifer’s Body.)  By the way, this Dirty […]


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