The Mozzer makes a preemptive strike against middle-age
Only a few months shy of his 50th birthday, Morrissey proved just how little he fears acknowledging his aging icon status by recently appearing in promotional shots completely naked, his manhood covered only by a well-placed 7” single. Whether a self-effacing gesture that insulates him against any suggestions that he takes himself too seriously or simply an attempt to prove that his staunch vegetarianism has paid some dividends for his body, that photo certainly fits the tone of Years of Refusal, an album loaded with the anger, lust and audacity of youth, fleeting or not. Reunited with Jerry Finn (the producer of 2004’s well-manicured You Are the Quarry), the Manchester Mope now pushes in the opposite direction, ratcheting up the distortion, muscling up on his vocals, and emphasizing live-in-the-studio energy over overdubbed perfection. In the process, he has rarely sounded so urgent.
But just as he seems to be fighting against middle-age by emphasizing unkempt edges and biting indictments of everything from former lovers (“When Last I Spoke to Carol”) to anti-depressants (“Something is Squeezing My Skull”), he also seems to be ruminating on his age. On “That’s How People Grow Up,” he offers the lived-in wisdom that his endless pining for true love has largely been in vain, leaving him regretful and bitter; on “You Were Good in Your Time,” he uses sighing balladry as a backdrop for an aging star who finds himself underappreciated and out of touch. But Morrissey appears to be in no such danger. Knowing self-obsession is a young man’s game, he has found the only way to pull his legendary persona along with him, allowing himself room to play with his myth while resolving not to change any time soon.