ALBUM: World Peace is None of Your Business
Steven Patrick Morrissey has been influencing fans with his eclectic vocal abilities for over 30 years, creating 10 albums, publishing books, and becoming a legendary figure along the way. Morrissey’s latest album harnesses a more complex organization of sounds than his previous works contained. His dramatic songwriting holds strong, yet his sound has evolved. Since the quietude of the misfit was defined by The Smith’s in the early 80’s, Morrissey has allowed his once dreamy sound to evolve from his initial David Bowie style. In his childhood, Morrissey attended a Marc Bolan’s band T. Rex concert. Though his father accompanied him for safety, a young Morrissey seemed right at home there, describing the event as, “messianic and complete chaos.” Morrissey has risen to become an icon for the outcasts, misfits, and hipster generation, a figurehead in a new-age of counterculture that is anti-government and anti-carnivores. It seems, as the decades progress, the more Morrissey becomes ingrained in his opinions, the more gritty and raw his vocal accompaniment becomes. The lonely, depressed adolescent heard in “Bigmouth Strikes Again” has transformed into a disgruntled, hardened humanitarian, with fan following so strong, he’s had to enact restraining orders. Morrissey’s inexplicable allure has been generating stardom since the 1980’s. It’s speculated this magical attraction arises from his mysterious personal life. It’s quite possible that since his works, like “The National Front Disco” and “Stop me if you think that you've heard this one before,” focus on external popular culture commentary, his fan following has become desperate to understand his illusive, internal workings.
The evolution of his vocal and musical sound also contributes to the mysterious component of Morrissey’s persona. With a style that’s evolved over so many years, it sparks curiosity that he has remained so entirely famous throughout the dissolution of the Smith’s, his condemning of carnivores, and his public affronts against Margaret Thatcher. Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business clears away the cacophony of instrumental accompaniment that is found in his earlier tracks, like “Interesting Drug.” To be heard a bit more profoundly, he removes layers of instruments from the background, activating the affects of his selective structuring in his lyrical messages. With his songwriting front and center, the tracks become overtly dependent on the legitimacy of his arguments. Morrissey has risen to become the quintessential representative of the indie rock band, of the hipster wallflowers, and of the PETA activists. But, now, he attempts to embody the Dark Knight, the hero cast as a villain. He takes up the arguments that disrupt and disturb, taking a hard stance in the fights far from clean. By presenting, ironically, the opposite of his views, like in “World Peace is None of Your Business,” he pigeonholes himself into a specific indie, post-punk role of the exhausted activist.
With a stack of album work supporting him dating back almost 40 years, it’s difficult to understand World Peace is None of your Business as separate from the evolutions of Morrissey’s sound. The croon of his voice in earlier solo works like Viva Hate and Your Arsenal has diminished with age, and the differences in his 10th album are audible in comparison to his beginnings. Besides the vocal shift, it seems that since The Smiths break-up in 1987, the singer and lyricist has deeply settled into his disappointment with social and government institutions. The focus of his work has absorbed his radical animal protectionist position and standpoint as a dishearten humanitarian. Morrissey’s delirious contempt for mainstream meat-eaters appears to have superseded his intention for good art in tracks like “The Bullfighter Dies” and “I’m Not a Man.” They convey his painfully obvious opinions, without a shroud of creative formulation to keep them afloat.
The album World Peace is Not Your Business bounces between artistic genius and exhausting depression, as Morrissey himself does at the age of 55. His sarcasm has grown exponentially since his feud with The Smith’s guitarist Johnny Marr over the royalties the band accrued. Their last album as a band, Strangeways, Here We Come, published after the dissolution of The Smiths, emulates the beginnings of Morrissey’s love for the dark and campy. Madchester online comments that, “Marr particularly hated Morrissey’s obsession with covering 1960s pop artists […] in 1992, ‘That was the last straw, really. I didn’t form a group to perform Cilla Black songs.’ In a 1989 interview, Morrissey cited the lack of a managerial figure and business problems as reasons for the band’s split.” The dissolution of The Smith’s was an inevitable conclusion fueld by the rowing disparity between the two musicians.
As a solo artist, Morrissey has gravitated towards the punk-rock predilection he cultivated since childhood. Using his renowned fame garnered in The Smith’s, he vocalizes the pain and suffering of the world that he sees most important. His strongly held, and widely known, opinions take on an air of importance coupled with his global fame. The spoken word accompaniments aside the tracks support the new emphasis Morrissey places on the stories in his songs. The elements of poetic satire in World Peace is None of Your Business waver from song to song, resulting in an album with both electrically charged tracks, and tracks that come across as goofy and immature. He passed up his decision to retire at 55, and this album signifies a peaking of his musical maturity that may be past its prime.
“But you're in the wrong place, and you've got the wrong face/And humans are not really very humane/ And earth is the loneliest planet of all.”