Morrissey - World Peace is None of Your Business

Morrissey employs satire and incites activism in his 10th album.

Additional Info

7.5

ALBUM: World Peace is None of Your Business

ARTIST: Morrissey

2014

Rock

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.”

1. World Peace is None of Your Business
An anticipatory drum and tambourine spark curiosity at the beginning of the track. It doesn’t seems spontaneous enough for the likes of Morrissey, though. A simplistic five-line refrain makes up the majority of the lyrical content, repeating a docile, non-threatening message. “You must not tamper with arrangements/ Work hard and sweetly pay your taxes.” Our talent’s signature cynicism rises from his abstruse sarcasm. The lyrics are sung tongue in cheek, embracing mockery that ensures us the artist retains his political charge. Slight quips inserted between the lines inspiring obedience are startling and jarring in their honesty. “Police will stun you with their stun guns. Or they’ll disable you with tasers/ That’s what governments for.” Morrissey invites his listeners back into his familiar dialogue through the stale guise of dispassion.8.5
2. Neal Cassidy Drops Dead
A grungy punk rock guitar strikes a chord, and cuts off fantastical chimes, followed by a snippet of Smiths-like acoustics. Morrissey’s lyrics capitalize on the countercultural of the 1950’s, the Beat generation’s offspring. “Neal Cassady drops dead / And Allen Ginsberg’s howl becomes a growl.” Neal Cassady, a cowboy icon of the Beatnik generation, lead a life that inspired parts in On the Road and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. His death shook up Ginsberg, a figurehead and renowned poet in the Beatnik gay rights movement, and he mourned the complacency of the California Supermarket. In his infamous poem Howl, much like Morrissey, Ginsberg mourns the institutional structures and influences that confine life’s radical thinkers. His social commentary is presented in a twisted mess of puns “Babies full of rabies/ Rabies full of scabies/ Scarlet has a fever,” that reads like a Dr. Sues book, which de-intellectualizes his material, yet adds a layer of satirical entertainment to the hardcore rock song.7.5
3. I’m Not a Man
The beginning of the song is occupied by what sounds like the inside of an airplane hanger, or maybe a boiler room, with iridescent glimmers of a twinkle breaking up the monotonous, and random, introduction. A minute and a half later, Morrissey emerges from the cloud of sound confusion to brighten “I’m Not a Man” with his rippling singing. He lists for the listener society’s constructed characteristics of a man. Morrissey claims acting as a misfit once again, “Don Juan/ Picaresque/ Wife beater vest/ Cold hand/ Ice man/ Warring cave man/ Well if this is what it takes to describe.../ I'm not a man.” The melodic tone reminds of a lullaby, tainted by the rough images of a “man”. His inclusion of the “Picaresque” man invites images of the rugged Neal Cassady all over again. Yet, his third track on the album packs even less of a punch than “Neal Cassady Drops Dead,” for his use of rhymes like, “Beefaroni/ A-ho but lonely,” cheapen the depth he is trying to achieve. A crescendo carries Morrissey into falsetto as he serenades about how he is bigger and better than the average hombre.6.0
4. Istanbul
Morrissey harnesses his earlier punk rock influences here, à la You are the Quarry (2004). He places himself in a fictional tale where a lover dies in childbirth, and he is too young to care for the newborn. He searches for this son in Istanbul, fabricating a sympathetic story that could parallel his thoughts on the socialization and loss of nationalism involved in immigration. A lawsuit arose from Morrissey’s alleged quote to NME, "Although I don't have anything against people from other countries, the higher the influx into England the more the British identity disappears. So the price is enormous. […] travel to England and you have no idea where you are." “Istanbul” may represent the artist’s fear of losing the national pride and identity of his “Mother county,” because the, younger generations, his “son,” is “In amongst them, you are one/ Oh what have I done,” blaming himself for not educating the young people in England of their heritage roots.8.7
5. Earth is the Loneliest Planet
Flamenco style guitar meets Morrissey’s voice to reenergize his sound, delivering his message in new-fangled package. He affirms his grip on lyrical intention, for the rhyme scheme and lyrics used here are received in a much more poetic, and much less satirical, manner. “Day after day you say one day/ 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.” Instead of an account of worldly injustices (see “Neal Cassady drops dead), Morrissey zooms out his focus here, moving away from the his listing style of songwriting. The track remains simplistic, yet Morrissey’s claim that, “humans are not really very humane,” has powerful resonance. He illuminates the realization that heads are full of dreams, but they rarely manifest in real life.9.2
6. Staircase at the University
80’s Pop rock reminiscent of The Cure rears its head, and Morrissey succeeds again at throwing real-life, everyday funereal into the public’s face. It’s masked in an upbeat, even cheerful ballad, that verges on mocking its content. Unlike the previous tracks, the dark lyrics create a pleasant tension up against the jovial musical accompaniment. He mourns the common, yet imposing pressures from parent to student, belting out the routine admonishment, “‘If you don't get three As,’ her sweet daddy said/ You're no child of mine and as far as I'm concerned, you're dead.” The way his voice looms over the line, “She threw herself down and her head split three ways,” is eerie and emphatic. The song ends in a triumphant finale, with words like “Crammin', jammin', pack-em-in rammin’,” making for a melodic taunt, as the onomonopias reflect her descent down the staircase.9.0
7. The Bullfighter Dies
Through an upbeat anthem, Morrissey delivers a novel perspective on a longtime Spanish tradition. He mulls over lonesome Barcelona and merciless Murcia, affirming his discontent with lifestyles worldwide. The refrain is peculiar, and too cut and dry. “Hooray, hooray/ The bullfighter dies,” is aimed at being the poignant centerpiece of the track, but its delivery isn’t supported by any artistic efforts. It’s as if The Smith’s Meat is Murder exhausted Morrissey’s morally charged inspiration, and all the wit he could muster resulted in, “Nobody cries/ Because we all want the bull to survive.” It seems his real-life statements, such as, “You cannot ignore suffering simply because animals ‘are not us’” leaves much more of a resounding impression on its audience. His most recent comment likened eating animals to pedophilia, “They are both rape, violence, murder,” yet this track fails to properly convey his anguish over the issue.6.0
8. Kiss Me a Lot
World Peace is None of Your Business incorporates some abstract electronic influences at this point of the album, surrounded by Morrissey’s indie rock foundation. This track also introduces the first love song to the collection. Many have speculated on the sexual orientation of Morrissey over his years of lasting fame, but the artist has yet to reveal any answer besides, “Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In a technical fact, I am humansexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course… not many.” This track fails to place a gender on his object of affection, pumping curiosity into the track. Though dependent on fairly simplistic songwriting, “Kiss Me a Lot” holds up as a success against his traditionally opinionated lyrics.8.2
9. Smiler With Knife
The album takes a dark, gruesome turn here, as Morrissey details a murderer’s mind against the backdrop of a strumming acoustic guitar. The lyrics regain a sense of complexity, seen in lines like, “I am sick to death of life,” and, “Time has frittered long and slow/ All I am and was will go,” that is emphasized with the delicate musical accompaniment and eerily calm refrains. The slow, creeping melody is struck with the occasional chord from an electric guitar, mirroring perfectly the menacing, yet unavoidable fate depicted in the lyrics.8.5
10. Kick the Bride Down the Aisle
Morrissey shifts from protesting animal cruelty to protesting the institution of marriage. He seems to enjoy holding such radical perspectives, and presenting them in an inverted matter to his audience. The tone of the song is very much rock n’ roll, with an underscore of lamentation for the married woman; “Look at that cow in the field/ It knows more than your bride knows now.” Morrissey insinuates through lines like, “In a mudslide of gloom/ She'll order you to tidy your room,” that the married woman, the wife, is only a mechanism of control and manipulation. He encourages beating the bride down the aisle because of her future transgressions. He emphasized his admonishment with the ominous melody of a organ played in minor key, making the wedding song a portentous warning full of musical anticipatory gloom.5.5
11. Mountjoy
Entitled with an ironic misnomer, this track’s opening line track confuses, leading listeners to the assumption that Morrissey is scrambling for content at this point in World Peace is None of Your Business. He seems to be documenting a certain chip off his shoulder, a moment, or various moments, when he was slighted by, “a 3 foot half-wit in a wig / I took his insults on the chin, and never did I flinch.” The tone of the track reflects the emotion conveyed in “Smiler With a Knife,” foreboding and discouraging, almost apocalyptically so. Following through with his consistently pessimistic tone, Morrissey moves from a brooding artist to a seriously depressing man who has, “no one on this earth/ Who I’d feel sad to leave.” “Mountjoy” amounts to a grumble voiced with a deafening lack of creativity.5.0
12. Oboe Concerto
Electronic influences return, exciting the end of the album with a fusion of new and old Morrissey style. The track assumes all the intentions of “Mountjoy,” yet is able to present them in a much more elegiac manner. His jaded personality is showcased, and the track casts him as the last of the great musicians, an icon in his musical era. “All the best ones are dead/ And there's a song I can't stand/ And it’s stuck in my head,” illustrates the pain a talented figure like Morrissey must go through every day. His life is a monotonous amalgam, paralleled in the sluggish, off key rhythm. He ends the album as he amidst a lack of purpose, “Round, rhythm goes round/ Round, round rhythm of life goes round.”8.0
Written by Shelby Tatomir
Reading and writing are my roots, making music, design, and photography sprouting branches of special interests that I am always striving to cultivate.



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