The appearance of a new Morrissey record is always cause for a good degree of celebration. He’s the perfect indie-rock icon, a superstar who can sell out LA’s Staples Center while still maintaining a sense of underground street cred. His distinctive take on life remains characterized by a literacy in his lyricism and musicality as influenced by old standards as it is by the subversive punk he came of age listening to. With a title like World Peace is None of Your Business, you know before even diving in this will be Moz in top form.
It seems Morrissey’s Latin American fanbase influenced a fair amount of the instrumentation on this record. His recent autobiography indicates his fans are some of the only people he’s ever tried to please. A long list of rock critics, bandmates, even his own influences have all fallen under his misanthropic ire and distaste. But this album proves even further how dedicated he is to giving his people what they want. Indeed, it’s the inclusion of elegant Spanish guitar finger-plucking which sets World Peace apart from most other Morrissey projects. “Earth is the Loneliest Planet” may have a traditionally weepy track title, but its guitar work harkens more to the streets of Spain than it does to the roads paving Manchester.
Along with his new flamenco flourishes, this record revisits plenty of the territory Moz made his name with. “Istanbul” lays claim to the same brooding rock and roll quality which makes Smiths songs like “London” and “How Soon is Now?” so distinctive and powerful. “I’m Not A Man” is a seven-minute excursion into the ways he has never fit into traditional masculine categories and remains very glad he doesn’t, even making a pitstop to rep vegetarianism once again. “Neil Cassady Drops Dead” does for the Beats what “Cemetry Gates” did for Wilde, Yeats and Keats. “Staircase at the University” is another dig at the demands of education, this time leading to a darkly comic suicide, backed by optimistic horns. All the old and pleasant discrepancies between the darkness of his lyrics and the happiness of his instrumentation are here for us to enjoy again.
There are chinks in his new armor here and there, moments which verge on the bland and unnecessary. “Smiler with Knife” and “Kick the Bride Down the Aisle” may be the best track titles here, but they sound pretty under par when you consider the bar he’s set for himself with other songs even on this album alone. “Mountjoy” is a wonderful song but also one which never delivers on its hints of building to one of his most memorable crescendo. He lingers just a bit too much for comfort. Still, nothing here prevents this from being another worthy addition to his already amazing catalogue.
World Peace is None of Your Business may not pack the same jangly punch as Bona Drag, Your Arsenal or even You are the Quarry on first listen but its slight idiosyncrasies within the Morrissey catalog end up being very rewarding on repeated listens. It’s a bit jarring to hear him incorporating foreign elements into his familiar and very British sound at first, but this key difference is probably what will make it stand out most as time goes by. On album closer “Oboe Concerto,” he sings “There’s a song I can’t stand / And / It’s stuck in my head.” Luckily, World Peace gives us another set of songs anyone in their right mind would hope to have coursing through their heads for years.