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Morrissey - Greatest Hits

Morrissey

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3 out of 5

TWENTY one years after splitting with The Smiths to pursue a solo career, Morrissey releases a 2CD Greatest Hits compilation that’s sure to have the fans queuing to buy it – but which also demonstrates why the singer has occasionally struggled to remain as influential as he was as the figurehead of that band.

Every song on the album is a UK Top 20 single and nine of these are Top 10 hits. Both of the two new songs – current single That’s How People Grow Up and All You Need Is Me – were recorded with Jerry Finn, producer of 2004’s widely acclaimed No.2 album You Are The Quarry.

And it’s no surprise to find that most of the album highlights come from that album, with the emotive and passionately delivered First Of The Gang To Die kicking things off in impressive fashion. At the time it was written, the track reflected Morrissey’s interest in California’s Mexican youth culture and contains some typically insightful lyrics, as well as some excellent guitar work from long-time collaborators, Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte.

From the same album, Irish Blood, English Heart finds Morrissey at his most brooding and typically outspoken, with everything and everyone from Blair and Labour to Oliver Cromwell coming under fire.

And I Have Forgiven Jesus is a prime example of the way in which Morrissey can confront hot topics (in this case, religion) and deliver them in radio-friendly form so as to appeal to the masses.

Further highlights come from signature tunes Everyday Is Like Sunday, courtesy of its catchy, sing-along chorus, and The Last of The Famous International Playboys, which never fails to raise a smirk thanks to its playful lyricism.

But some of the songs to be taken from Ringleader of the Tormentors find Morrissey in curiously disappointing form – The Youngest Was The Most Loved, in particular, emerging as a typically downbeat (lyrically) tale of under-achievers and downbeats that’s built around the central theme of “there is no such thing in life as normal” – in this case, the early years of a psychopath.

Musically, the track is slightly more upbeat than some of Morrissey’s material but the presence of a child’s chorus is clearly designed to layer on the emotion and threatens to stretch the point a little uncomfortably. It’s also too generic for an artist who has consistently proved himself capable of much better. Likewise, In The Future When All’s Well.

Fortunately, I Just Want To See The Boy Happy offers a lively mini-rock opera that features some gutsy guitar work and a brass section finale that adds an extra dimension to proceedings. It’s inspiring in a way that’s not usually associated with some of the singer’s more downbeat tendencies and finds the artist, vocally, sounding really determined to bring a little happiness to an otherwise sad life.

Of the new songs, That’s How People Grow Up finds the singer on defiant form and once again shows that he’s at his best with Finn. But it is a Greatest Hits kind of new song, rather than anything that really blows you away.

A second CD is comprised of tracks recorded live at the Hollywood Bowl and is notable for including a handful of selections not on the main greatest hits CD, most notably Life Is A Pigsty and The National Front Disco. It helps to ensure the Greatest Hits collection becomes more of a collectors’ piece.

But as influential as Morrissey undoubtedly remains as both a songwriter and artist in his own right, this Greatest Hits collection shows that he doesn’t always get things right. His willingness to be bold and to confront real issues remains admirable, but sometimes the music lets him down.

Nevertheless, it’s an album that’s worth hearing, if only to understand what the fuss is all about whenever Morrissey opens his mouth.

Download picks: I Just Want To See The Boy Happy, The Last Of The Famous International Playboys, Everyday Is Like Sunday, First Of The Gang To Die, You Have Killed Me

Track listing:
Greatest Hits track listing:

  1. First Of The Gang To Die (from You Are The Quarry. UK no.6)
  2. In The Future When All’s Well (from Ringleader of the Tormentors. UK no.17)
  3. I Just Want To See The Boy Happy (from Ringleader Of The Tormentors. UK no. 16)
  4. Irish Blood, English Heart (from You Are The Quarry. UK no. 3)
  5. You Have Killed Me (from Ringleader Of The Tormentors. UK no.3)
  6. That’s How People Grow Up (new)
  7. Everyday Is Like Sunday (from Viva Hate. UK no.9)
  8. Redondo Beach (from Live From Earls Court. UK no. 11)
  9. Suedehead (from Viva Hate. UK no.5)
  10. The Youngest Was The Most Loved (from Ringleader of the Tormentors. UK no.14)
  11. The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (from Bona Drag. UK no.6)
  12. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get (from Vauxhall & I. UK no.8)
  13. All You Need Is Me (new)
  14. Let Me Kiss You (from You Are The Quarry. UK no.8)
  15. I Have Forgiven Jesus (from You Are The Quarry. UK no.10)

Live At The Hollywood Bowl bonus CD:

  1. The Last of the Famous International Playboys
  2. The National Front Disco
  3. Let Me Kiss You
  4. Irish Blood, English Heart
  5. I Will See You in Far-off Places
  6. First of the Gang to Die
  7. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
  8. Life is a Pigsty