If there’s one man capable of turning the critical pen into mush, it’s Morrissey.
Through his work with The Smiths, the Manchester icon turned being lonely into something glamorous, a status almost worth attaining. Critical analysis of the singer’s work is suddenly blunted by an urge to tell the world you lost your virginity to ‘Half A Person’ and that she never loved the real you. I didn’t, by the way (and she didn’t, while we’re here).
But time was not on the mercurial quartet’s side. The five-year career of The Smiths pales in comparison to Morrissey’s 21-year occupation as one of the most fascinating and controversial men in British music. The old bugbears of sexuality and tortured adolescence remain, but Morrissey has explored a vast variety of musical ground since The Smiths bit the dust in 1987.
Ahead of the release of his new album ‘Years Of Refusal’, released on February 16, Clash takes a Fan’s Eye View on some of Mozza’s finest solo releases…
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‘Viva Hate’ (1988)
What to do after splitting arguably the greatest group of a generation? Upon removing The Smiths from the indie landscape things suddenly looked a whole lot emptier – or clearer depending on your point of view. Morrissey came home to his native Manchester and recruited an all-star band that included reclusive Factory genius Vini Reilly. Swapping one Northern guitar hero for another, the lyricist set about funnelling his aggression over the split into a series of songs that stand as some of the most direct he had written up to that point. Check out ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ and its refrain of “come, come nuclear bomb”. Lead single ‘Suedehead’ stormed into the top ten, outstripping all previous efforts by The Smiths. Riding atop a vicious Reilly riff, Morrissey intoned a tale of forgotten hooligans stealing his diary. Full of repressed longing and desire, of course, but who longed for who was another question entirely. This burst of passion would also dent his pen, resulting in the fairly boring ‘Margaret On The Guillotine’ and the lyrically questionable ‘Bengali In Platforms’ – the accusation of racism can only truly be answered by Morrissey of course, but the faux easy listening backing make it a moment to forget. Not that ‘Viva Hate’ is easily forgotten, however. Morrissey returns to his old family home with ‘Late Night, Maudlin Street’ bidding adieu to some bitter memories, while ‘Angel, Angel Down We Go Together’ is a stunning evocation of love with someone bent on self-destruction – which, admittedly, is rather like being a Morrissey fan at times.
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‘Bona Drag’ (1990)
Morrissey always loved the seven-inch single. The weapon of choice for punk rockers and ‘60s starlets alike, Morrissey’s career is littered with non-album releases that frequently result in his best work. Driven by creative desire after the success of ‘Viva Hate’, the singer swiftly returned to the studio crafting a number of songs including the single that could well become his epitaph – ‘The Last Of The Famous International Playboys’. Gathered together on ‘Bona Drag’ these singles form something unlike the rest of Morrissey’s solo career. Often his albums are statements, about events in his personal life or a musical direction. However, ‘Bona Drag’ sits merely as music, created for the hell of it with people whose company he enjoyed. Sparking one of his funniest moments – ‘Hairdresser On Fire’ – it finds Morrissey in relaxed mood. The album also represents one of the last times the singer would speak to his former Smiths outside of the courtroom. Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke appear, alongside sometime Smith Craig Gannon, and the air of camaraderie is present on the track ‘Lucky Lisp’. Joyce and Rourke would later inspire more Morrissey material, though probably not in the way they had hoped.
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‘Vauxhall & I (1994)’
Morrissey had always seemed hostile to the States. The Smiths rarely toured there, starving his Stateside fans of his physical presence in their lives. His decision to mount a full-scale solo tour was met with deranged excitement and a flurry of ticket sales, breaking records at the Madison Square Gardens amongst others. With fans falling at his feet, Morrissey recruited glam hero Mick Ronson to record ‘Your Arsenal’. The result was inspiring yet confused, as the one-time Bowie axeman tried to get to grips with Morrissey’s utterly distinctive working methods. Having played to packed crowds and released an album with his boyhood hero, it seemed as if the only way was up for our Mancunian hero. But then tragedy struck robbing Morrissey of some dear friends, as well as producer Mick Ronson.
Engulfed in grief, the singer tore away to the studio, subsequently writing some of the most impassioned music in a frequently impassioned career. ‘Vauxhall & I’ stands as one of the greatest achievements in Morrissey’s solo canon thus far, a wonderful indictment of those who leave life unfulfilled. ‘I Am Hated For Loving’ sees Morrissey address his own career, while ‘Hold On To Your Friends’ will leave a lump in the stiffest of throats. Boz Boorer remains the hidden hero throughout – crafting exceptionally subtle music around Morrissey’s increasingly personal lyrics, supplying light against encroaching darkness. The singer would later state that he believed the album would be the last he would ever make – it is certainly among his best.
In the years after ‘Vauxhall & I’ Morrissey seems to go adrift. Follow-up ‘Southpaw Grammar’ is a frequently misunderstood affair, joining prog influences to the artist’s distinctive sweeping sound. Not that anyone cared – it came out in 1995 when the musical world seemed to be obsessed with Kappa, Kickers and whatever Liam Gallagher was picking out of his navel. Follow up ‘Maladjusted’ fared badly on the critical front, and even now seems tired. Its one moment of controversy was on the final track – a bizarre ditty called ‘Sorrow Will Come In The End’. An explicit attack on Mike Joyce and Andy Rourke for suing him in 1996, it would mark seven years of silence from the Bard.
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‘You Are The Quarry’ (2004)
Well glory be. Just when he was beginning to fill ‘Where are they now?’ columns, Morrissey mounts the greatest comeback of a generation. Ensconced with fading Hollywood royalty in Los Angeles, communicating only by fax, the Manchester singer seemed to be further adrift than ever – yet somehow he prevailed. With acts such as Franz Ferdinand making literate pop fashionable, and others including The Killers rooting through his garbage, Morrissey suddenly became a fashionable name to drop. Hell, even NME seemed to have forgiven him, after previously falling out with the singer over allegations of racism. Morrissey, that is, not the NME. They always cover black music.
‘You Are The Quarry’ is by turns lush and stripped down, the lyrics both obtuse and exact. ‘The First Of The Gang To Die’ opens with the unforgettable lines ‘You have never been in love / until you’ve seen the stars reflect in the reservoir.’ The aging idol reflects on his youth, and finds the wisdom of age much preferable. Re-energised, the album features rants against religion – ‘I Have Forgiven Jesus’ – as well as lighter pieces such as ‘All The Lazy Dykes’. The expanded edition of the album demonstrates just how on form Morrissey was, gathering together B-sides such as ‘Never Played Symphonies’ and the celebrated ‘Munich Air Disaster 1958’. Witty and erudite when interviewed, the album gained a flurry of positive press sending it racing up the charts at home and abroad. Morrissey, it seemed, was back.
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‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ (2006)
Working quickly, Morrissey filled a busy touring schedule before heading back into the studio. Guitarist Jesse Tobias was recruited for a thinner, rockier sound while Bowie cohort Tony Visconti took care of production duties. ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ was more commercially successful than its predecessor, but in many ways it’s actually inferior to ‘You Are The Quarry’. Often confused, it includes moments of rage such as ‘The Father Who Must Be Killed’, which seem ill thought through. In fact, Morrissey’s childhood memories seem to be troubling him throughout the album with ‘The Youngest Was The Most Loved’ just one of a string of songs relating to family strife. But the album does contain some true nuggets from the master of melancholy, such as the vocal performance on ‘You Have Killed Me’ and the tender lyricism of ‘To Me You Are A Work of Art’.
However, trouble was brewing. A reckless way with words led to a controversial interview too far. Questioned on his attitude to immigration, Morrissey’s response put the singer in the dock once more on charges of racism. Court cases were held and Morrissey emerged triumphant, but at considerable cost to his reputation. History is on his side, however – Morrissey produces his best work when battling adversity. From the legacy of The Smiths, to the death of close friends and ultimate obscurity, Morrissey seems to require something to kick against. ‘Ringleader Of The Tormentors’ contained the track ‘I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now’. For some, he will always remain the velvet voice who called out to them during a lonely adolescence, during a heart-rending break up or simply when they felt low. For others, he drifted into irrelevance a long time ago. How the singer responds to this split is anyone’s guess, but Morrissey has never resisted the temptation to rage against the dying of the light.
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‘Years Of Refusal’ is released on February 16 and is reviewed HERE.
Wu Tang legend Ghostface Killah is set to hit the UK for three shows this May.
The Staten Island MC will play three dates in the summer, stopping off in London, Manchester and Bristol .
As a founding member of hip hop collective Wu-Tang Clan throughout the ’90’s, Ghostface broke through to a solo career like many of his clan founders such as ODB and Raekwon .
From their days splicing Wendy Rene with Kung-Fu samples and rugged beats on benchmark release ’36 Chambers’ to their million selling third LP ‘W’, The Wu are still considered one of the best hip hop collective ever, with live shows in the UK scarce.
Ghostface released his last album ‘The Big Doe Rehab’ last year, which featured appearances from various members of the Staten Island outfit.
Eel Pie Island’s finest bunch of indie renegades Mystery Jets have put pen to paper and signed a new deal with Rough Trade.
Beginning as young prog-poppers who even let their dad join in the fun, Mystery Jets signed a deal with 679 Recordings. Debut album ‘Making Dens’ was acclaimed on its release, before the group ditched their old man and went in for some serious 80s fun.
The resulting record was ‘Twenty One’. Released last year it spawned the almost hits ‘Two Doors Down’ and ‘Half In Love With Elizabeth’. It seems that ‘almost’ isn’t close enough for 679 Recordings who parted ways with the band.
Mystery Jets have bounced back almost immediately however, and have signed to legendary indie Rough Trade.
Rough Trade co-founder Geoff Travis: “The Mystery Jets are in my opinion the best British group since the Libertines and I have been wanting to work with them for a very long time, so I am delighted they have chosen to join the roster.”
The band are apparently hard at work on their new album.
Sebastien Grainger of Canadian dance-punk duo Death From Above 1979 is set to make his live comeback in February , as well as releasing his solo rock album ‘Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains’.
Grainger is best known for cutting his teeth as the drummer and vocalist for DFA1979, however recently his departure led to a deal with Saddle Creek Records, who will release the album on the 16th March .
The visceral rawk blast of forthcoming single ‘Who Do We Care For?’ sees Grainger in full-blown amp-shredding mode. Luckily it featured in our Track Of The Day feature today (30th Jan), so to get a taste for just what these live shows will deliver, simply click here.
Sebastien Grainger Tour Dates
6th London Islington Academy
7th London Water Rats Buy tickets here
8th Nottingham Bodega
10th London Hoxton Bar & Kitchen
11th London The Lexington
With news reaching Clash in the last week or so that EMI are to re-issue Radiohead’s first three albums – ‘Pablo Honey’ (1993), ‘The Bends’ (1995) and ‘OK Computer’ (1997) – in expanded, deluxe form (NEWS), this writer had something of a flashback to days when a thrill was still felt from sneaking into local village boozers.
Your teenage years are vitally important in the formation of your music taste, and Radiohead made more of an impression on the teenage me than any other band. Sure, I’d been exposed to Nirvana, Soundgarden, R.E.M. and more via friends’ older siblings when still in primary school (taped copies of taped copies – you know the drill), but the first act I actively felt a desire to support was this five-piece from Oxford – now one of the biggest bands in the world, but then just the guys who wrote ‘Creep’.
That single’s success – the first time Radiohead broke the top ten, as it peaked at seven on re-issue following a good reception in the States – propelled ‘Pablo Honey’, its parent album, to number 22 on the UK albums chart. ‘The Bends’ went better still upon its release in March 1995, rocketing to number four, but it was ‘OK Computer’ that would prove to be both the band’s first number one album and their definitive long-play release.
I bought ‘OK Computer’ the day it came out, June 16 1997, from Our Price in Eastleigh. That shop’s not there now, Our Price having gone the way of the dodo long before the current credit crunch closures of chains like Zavvi, and Eastleigh doesn’t even have a record store nowadays (there were three in 1997) – but the record’s resonance hasn’t faded at all. It struck me deeply from the first play, and continues to delight to this day.
Listening again today, for all the twists and turns the industry’s trends have taken over the past decade-plus, what’s striking is how original – how completely out of step with the pack, of any era – ‘OK Computer’ feels. It has an unconventional cohesion – it flows well at a tonal, or textural, level; but styles are hugely disparate, pace switching from song to song. If it was released today it would seem exactly as beguiling as it was in 1997, something that certainly cannot be said for its two predecessors.
It’s with ‘OK Computer’ that Radiohead secured their legacy – what followed could have represented dramatic falls in form (it didn’t – ‘Kid A’ copped its share of criticism, but has aged brilliantly well and is now a vital part of the band’s story), but that would be forgiven as they’d already delivered a genuine classic album. From day one, it was clear that ‘OK Computer’ would be written about, at length, for many a year to come. And that fans would flock to read reflection pieces such as this one – its impact was that broad, the many it affected still moved by its touch.
While the opening trio of ‘Airbag’, ‘Paranoid Android’ – the album’s lead single, peaking at three on the singles chart in May 1997 – and ‘Subterranean Homesick Alien’ set something of a tone, each rich of layers but rippling in the same direction, it’s track four ‘Exit Music (For A Film)’ that stops you in your tracks. This is the first blindsiding blow ‘OK Computer’ offers, and the contrast between it and what comes immediately before is still remarkable. Thom Yorke transforms from angst-riddled fidget-imp into a heartbroken hopeless romantic, in the blink of an eye; the pent-up frustrations of ‘The Bends’ are gone, replaced by a nakedness that stirs the listener to the depths of their soul. There’s no percussion until nearly three minutes in – here, the song shifts, soars, but the sentiments remain the same: if I’m not getting mine, you will get yours. “We hope that you choke… that you choke”: not exactly the friendliest sing-along lyric, but a brilliantly effective one.
The first time I heard ‘Karma Police’ I immediately played it again – twice through on the album’s debut run. I remember doing that quite clearly. Today, the song’s perfection is even clearer – listen to how the instruments duck and weave while Yorke’s plaintive vocal guides the undulating arrangement to the silence-has-broken “This is what you’ll get… When you mess with us” lyric. It’s the threat of violence at the heart of a delicate piece, where the slightest swing could shatter everything; but it’s misguided, accidental – “for a minute there I lost myself”. The video that accompanied the track upon its single release seemed unimpressive at the time, but watching it now it seems to be in perfect harmony with what’s said, what’s played, and what’s implied. The song takes conflict in miniature and lets it expand of its own volition, ‘til what was understood has flown out of control.
The brash swagger of ‘Electioneering’ equals something of an echo of ‘The Bends’-era boisterousness, but its place on ‘OK Computer’ is well earned. With New Labour making their move, the song’s political overtones tied in perfectly with the mood of a nation, and its demands for change. The background howls imply the wolf’s at the door alright – but are his intentions honourable or are we to be stiffed all over again? Jonny Greenwood’s guitar-swinging reaches frenetic levels here, too – the whole song sounds as if it could fall apart at any second, its necessarily nuts and bolts shaken incessantly. And then, another massive leap in sound – from a comparatively-by-numbers indie-rocker to a piece dripping such paranoia and dread it’s a wonder Portishead didn’t sue. ‘Climbing Up The Walls’, even twelve years after its release, chills to the bone marrow. “It’s always best when the light is off” – it’s as if Radiohead’s attention-grabbing exploits throughout the first eight tracks of ‘OK Computer’ have left them over-exposed, and fearful of what comes next. The monsters in the closet it refers to could well be breaking free.
The only track that didn’t completely click with me in 1997 was ‘OK Computer’’s gentle closer, ‘The Tourist’ – I remember thinking the band had run out of steam at the worst time, when the ideal climax was one replete with fireworks and fury. But Yorke made the band’s move clear when he spoke to Yahoo LAUNCH: “A lot of the album was about background noise and everything moving too fast and not being able to keep up. It was really obvious to have ‘The Tourist’ as the last song. That song was written to me from me, saying, “Idiot, slow down.” Because at that point I needed to. So that was the only resolution there could be: to slow down.”
Now, the album’s parting shot sounds more majestic than ever, Greenwood’s striking guitar lines running roughshod over Phil Selway’s precisely, purposefully skittering percussion. The whole exceeds constituent-part potential – something that’s true of ‘OK Computer’ in its entirety. Come it’s final ‘ding’ – a perfectly simple way to close an album of epic complexities – the record’s taken the listener on a journey of realised ambition – everything that Radiohead refined on ‘The Bends’ they completely reinvented on its follow-up.
EMI’s re-issuing of ‘OK Computer’ – and its preceding albums – coincides with no anniversary, nor with any promotional activity; they are merely looking to make money on material they possess the rights to now that Radiohead have moved on (their last album, ‘In Rainbows’, found a home at XL). But we shouldn’t criticise this move, as what these albums have to offer is something incredible, particularly in the case of ‘OK Computer’ – with them, you can trace the beginnings of probably the most important band in the world today right up until what remains their magnum opus.
And what remains my favourite album of all time. If you’ve never had the pleasure, make the effort when it’s back on the shelves in March. Nothing else out that week will stay with you for as long, I promise.
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Read our Fan’s Eye View piece on U2 HERE
Monochrome indie-electro newcomers Rosie And The Goldbug are set to hit the road in the coming months, as well as taking their spiky pop to London and Falmouth for two alternative Valentines shows on the 13th and 14th of February .
Having featured in a recent issue of Clash (more here), the trio look set to have an exciting opening year, having released their self-titled debut late last year and now playing a forthcoming tour.
Blending the dark disco synths of Gary Numan and the pop sheen of Gwen Stefanni and Tori Amos, Rosie And The Goldbug will also release their next single ‘Heartbreak’ on the 9th February .
6th London Barbequtie
13th London Bloomsbury Bowling Lane : Alternative Valentine
14th Falmouth Princess Pavilions : Alternative Valentine Buy tickets here
18th Lancaster Library Buy tickets here
14th Huddersfield University
23rd Southport Red Rose Festival
30th Plymouth University
After the first death there is no other.
Bit of a deep beginning to a news item, but there you go. Get Physical are set too deliver a stunning new compilation titled ‘Final Song’. The concept is simple – pick a song you would like to be played before your funeral or (and this is even darker) as you are actually dying.
Gathering some top DJ talent, Get Physical posed the question to Gilles Peterson, Kevin Saunderson, David Holmes, Coldcut and many more. The answers were gathered on a new mix that is eclectic and frequently moving.
The reasons given for each song’s inclusion reveal something of the person in question. Whether it’s their reasons for becoming a DJ, their love for music or even the occasional philosophical insights the tracks are always enlightening.
Featuring music by Brian Eno, The Stranglers, disco great Cerronne and many more, ‘Final Song’ is well worth seeking out.
To celebrate the release of the album, Get Physical have launched a new competition. All you have to do is make your way to their homepage and enter YOUR final song. The track with the best reason will be declared the winner, and will receive the album as well as a range of Get Physical goodies.
‘Final Song’ is released on February 9th.
Coldplay fans may not seem like the most lively of people, but the group are taking no precautions and have banned stage invasions at their gigs.
Coldplay singer Chris Martin played a short solo set for XFM yesterday (January 29th) to an audience of just 30 people. A sedate affair, Martin revealed that stage invasions aren’t welcome at Coldplay gigs.
“We asked our tour manager if we could have a stage invasion at the end of (our December tour). He went away looking away very serious, but we could see them in a room, giggling. He came back and said, ‘This is the stupidest idea you’ve ever had’. I’d love a stage invasion, it’s not very Coldplay, but it would be great. And I’ve always liked to leave the stage in a hot air balloon… but it’s not possible.”
Mind you, after Noel Gallagher found out recently in Canada stage invasions do have their drawbacks, most prominently weeks left on the sidelines suffering from bruised ribs.
Martin also revealed he has a celebrity look-alike recently. Apparently a woman who works next door to the band’s studio is convinced he is a travelling salesman. “She asked me the other day if I was in insurance,” he told XFM. “And if it’s not insurance or a lawyer, it’s another singer.
“The other ones I get are James Morrison and James Blunt and I always say, ‘Yep!’ because you should never disappoint somebody.”
Maxïmo Park have sold out numerous UK shows in less than an hour of going on sale, and have now added two live shows for May .
Tickets for the bands upcoming tour went on sale this morning (30th Jan) and their homecoming show at the Liverpool Academy sold out rapidly. The band then announce a second show at the venue, after which their London Brixton Academy and Leeds Academy dates also sold out.
Speaking of the demand, singer Paul Smith added, “Now we’re raring to go, especially since we’ve just crafted a record that’s imbued with the kind of uplifting spirit that Britain’s crying out for in these troubled economic times. ”
Maxïmo Park have now added the following live dates onto their tour :
13th Newcastle Academy Buy tickets here
26th Brixton Academy London
14th Newcastle 02 Academy Sold Out
15th Glasgow Academy Buy tickets here
16th Liverpool University Academy Buy tickets here
18thSouthampton Guildhall University Academy Buy tickets here
19th Birmingham Academy University Academy Buy tickets here
20th Nottingham Rock City University Academy Buy tickets here
22nd Leeds Academy Sold Out
23rd Manchester University Academy Sold Out
24th Norwich U.E.A Academy Buy tickets here
Manchester group I Am Kloot are set to celebrate their 10th anniversary with a new album.
Cult favourites I Am Kloot are set to return. Formed in Manchester in the late 90s, the band’s twisted lyrics and skewed melodies resulted in the success of their 2001 album ‘Natural History’.
Produced by members of Elbow, the two groups have been close friends ever since. I Am Kloot entered the studio again recently with Guy Garvey and Craig Potter to recreate some of the magic that propelled their early career.
The group’s first since ‘I Am Kloot Play Moolah Rouge’ in 2007, the album has the tentative title of ‘The Sky At Night’. Elbow are riding the crest of a wave just now, with their mantelpiece buckling under from the weight of the awards lavished upon their last album ‘The Seldom Seen Kid’.
Guy Garvey said of the new project: “Producing Natural History (I Am Kloot’s 1st album) was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. So when they invited us to produce this record I was overjoyed. Craig (Potter – elbow keyboard player and producer) being involved is perfect because he actually knows what he is doing.”
“Moolah Rouge (Stockport recording studio) is a perfect space to make a record. It is a state of the art studio but well worn and authentic – it’s just my kind of toy shop. As for the songs; they are Johns’ best. Listening to the demos was like being jostled by gentlemen thieves. I looked down and my heart was gone; and my fucking wallet!”
I Am Kloot’s new album will be released later this year.