- 29 May 19
Oh, Morrissey. The Grand-master of Malcontentedness returns, and he nearly sounds happy. It was always going to be interesting to watch where The Smiths frontman went next with his art. Given his recent Broadway run, which concluded last week, and his further descension into arch villain of the left - a title well-earned, given his expressions of support for some truly questionable people and causes - you might think he had too much going on to release a new solo record.
But release it he has, a collection of covers of '60s and '70s protest songs (no, really), including tracks from Dylan, Dionne Warwick and Joni Mitchell. While his stock among casual fans may have been torpedoed by his right wing causes, it's clear from the list of collaborators - Ed Droste from Grizzly Bear, Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, Petra Haden and Young The Giant's Sameer Gadhia among them - that he is still venerated.
There is surely an unintended irony that many of those artists he is covering here on California Son wrote these very songs of defiance, against the very type of views Morrissey himself now claims - or seems to claim - to support. Infamously, his performance of the opener, al Jobriath's 'Morning Starship' on Jimmy Fallon recently, was overshadowed by his wearing of a pin on his suit, purportedly supporting the For Britain Movement, a party with Anti-Islam ties.
So, the challenge here for listeners may be to separate the singer from the song. Those songs, incidentally, are good. He finally sounds like he is having fun with something too - the contemporary twist he gives the 5th Dimension cover 'Wedding Bell Blues' (featuring Armstrong and Lydia Knight) is a case in point. Similarly, on Roy Orbison's 'It's Over', Morrissey empties the tank, proving he loves the songs he's chosen. Whether or not his passion will saves him from the fans' gallows remains to be seen.
Morrisey's new album is out now.