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“DD Review: Morrissey – Low in High School.”

Score: 9/10

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Every time I hear Morrissey start singing, every time one of his songs starts (and for some reason this is way truer of his solo stuff than of Smiths jams), I think to myself, HOW the he** is he going to do this? How is he going to pull all this sh** together, another song of this ridiculously guileless, straight-ahead, no-frills (okay, it’s “dorky,” there, I said it) singing style, and actually draw me in to the point where I’m not only not going to want to break my radio, but maybe even zone in to what’s going on a little bit?
I still remember reading this one dude on cokemachineglow.com complaining about the Pitchfork festival (keep in mind Pitchfork was their rival, when they were in existence)… he was basically a total curmudgeon, unleashing all this banter about how bad Heineken is and stuff, and he said something along the lines of it would take Morrissey and Jeff Mangum to lure him back to this sub-par festival again next year.
Now, this dude’s very massive indignation was enough to cement the experience of reading him in my mind. To this day, I find Neutral Milk Hotel really annoying, not to mention finding it odd that he wouldn’t just mention these blokes’ original BANDS, rather than longing to see them solo [1], but I consider Morrissey an elder pop statesmen and can put in his whole best-of, sink into my couch and really rediscover how immortal I really am (hey I had to get a cheesy music-snob bit of faux-mysticism in there somewhere… Morrissey himself would be proud of me).
And yeah, I have no idea why Morrissey called this “Low in High School,” why he’s again weirdly got a little kid on the cover, why the little brat mentions this thing called the “monarchy,” or what his fixation with little kids is in the first place… he** maybe that’s whom he’s really singing to. Well in this case I’m eaves-dropping, but anyway in order for something to truly transcend, it has to be UNCANNY. Uncanny, Low in High School is not, and if any uncanniness ever emanated from Morrissey or his old gang of ragamuffins he used to run around with then it’s been more than occluded in this lad’s mind by the nauseating amount of hipster adulation I’ve heard attached to him and his over the years. Low in High School is hypnotic. It’s equal parts poetry, pop, and instrumentation, these three factors constantly weaving themselves in and out, the primary difference leering into artist’s erstwhile work being that these songs are just so BUSY and BIG. This is Morrissey’s first PROG album, not in terms of song structure, but undeniably, instrumentation, with trumpets draping the last part of “My Love, I’d Do Anything for You,” an urban electro-pop veneer doused on “I Wish You Lonely,” and that harpsichord thing opening “Spent the Day in Bed.” But the thing that sells Low in High School, the thing that will appease traditional Morrissey fans, here, is personality. The Angeleno-via-England [2] has got it by the pill-box here, my favorite maybe being the repetition of “Everybody’s heading for the exits / Exits / Exits” in “Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s up on Stage” (yes perhaps I’m exposing my misogynistic innards here). He gets in your head with such AUTHORITY, as in “Spent the Day in Bed” with the little vignette “I recommend to all my friends / To stop watching the news / Because the news contrives to frighten you / To make you feel sad and alone / To make you feel that your mind isn’t your own”. It’s funny to think, but have you really heard better lyrics than that this year, other than maybe the end of “Protest Song” by Broken Social Scene? Part of why it works so well, anyway, is that along with everything else on this excellent LP this little bit of lucid everyman’s (or woman’s) imagery is unveiled with such artistic confidence. It’s like the artist is really channeling the power of all the days he spent as an underdog, all those episodes of baring his soul to us in The Smiths, now come full circle to where he doesn’t even have to sing about himself anymore, because that’s something he’s done in the past. And it’s not even really like he’s having FUN making this album, although I’m sure like any creation it does warrant a certain pleasure in his mind. In fact, I’m not sure what’s going on here, really… I don’t even know how to describe this project other than that it’s just plainly a great, great Morrissey album, probably as good as Swords and even better than the gnawingly bleak Years of Refusal, and casting aside all the futile psychosomatic theories of psychology I purportedly learned in college, all I really feel like doing is sitting back and enjoying this sucka.
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[1] Indeed, the instrumentation on Low in High School will make you wonder how the he** they round up all these to play these horns and incredible drum fills… nobody knows them or ever talks about them. I’m pretty sure “Spent the Day in Bed” opens with harpsichord and… you guessed it, another awkward vocal.
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[2] Yes, apparently this is the stupid moniker for person from or in Los Angeles.

 

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