Album Review: Morrissey, 'World Peace Is None of Your Business'

by Steve Seel

Morrissey's 2014 album, 'World Peace Is None of Your Business'
Morrissey's 2014 album, 'World Peace Is None of Your Business' (© 2014 Harvest Records.)

By the time I got to the end of "I'm Not A Man," the track on Morrissey's World Peace Is None of Your Business that concludes with nothing less than bloodcurdling screams of terror run through a distorted amplifier (I kid you not), I was trying to come up with the right label for the Mozzer's artistic sensibility. "Grand Guignol", I wondered? The French theatre of the macabre certainly had all of the operatic excess and in-your-face horror as this song, but it was merely confrontation for confrontation's sake. Morrissey is a man with high purpose, albeit one with the darkest of gallows humor.

Morrissey has always been in-your-face and then some with regards to his politics, from his early days with The Smiths and songs like "Meat Is Murder" (which concluded with its own sound effects of squealing pigs in a sty; to call this "ham-fisted" would be as appropriate as it would be ironic). His sexuality has always been another matter, of course — he wears his sexual coyness as a badge, a ritual of no-I'm-not-just-going-to-come-out-and-say-it which is itself a part of his personal trademark as his overt political stances. On Morrissey's latest, his familiar misanthropic utopianism surfaces in such songs as the title track, where there's about as much room for subtlety as the title suggests ("each time you vote, you support the process" — the kind of reductionism that is as apocalyptically paranoid as the stuff practiced by the far-right nutcases Morrissey himself detests). As for those bloodcurdling screams at the end of "I'm Not A Man," who's doing the screaming, and why? The implication is that they represent the sum total horror of all that the male-ness of the world has wrought — the maleness exhibited by the wolfing down of t-bone steaks, posing with one's dukes raised, and sitting (and standing) in appropriately male-like fashion. Morrissey is right, of course, about the destruction that eons of male domination has brought to the planet. It's just that his choice of bludgeoningly reductionist images is just as brutish as the wife-beater t-shirts he uses to paint his pictures of ugliness.

But, maybe that's okay. The world needs Morrissey. The cartoonishness of The Smith's "Vicar In A Tutu" or "Bigmouth Strikes Again" or "The Headmaster Ritual" or, for Pete's sake, every Smiths and Morrissey song ever, get their point across specifically because they are so luridly over-the-top. "Neal Cassady Drops Dead", you see, because the breeders, apparently, have won (where is there room in the world for venturing out on the road with Kerouac when that road is now clogged with mini-vans jammed with "babies with rabies" — and scabies, as if that weren't enough?). In "Staircase At the University", a co-ed hurls herself down three flights of stairs to her death because her parents, a pair of characteristically grotesque Morrissey-esque ghouls who threaten to declare her soul devoid of value unless she gets three A's. As usual in Morrissey's world, we get a real problem (parental abuse, conservative definitions of self-worth) answered with melodrama. But wait. Isn't high art often just as melodramatic? Aren't the titular lovers of Romeo and Juliet just as stupidly overreactive and melodramatic as a couple of doofuses on reality TV, solving their dilemma with, in essence, a fatal temper tantrum?

In this sense, Morrissey is indeed in league with the likes of operatic masters such as Puccini, and his damsels who collapse of consumption in their lovers' arms in filthy garrets while the orchestra's strings explode into symphonic ecstasy. That's just the stuff of sanctioned high-art melodrama. Morrissey will ascend to the pantheon soon enough.

What do you think of the album? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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