I have tried to only post positive, or moderately positive, reviews here over the course of the last decade in an attempt to encourage enthusiasm (mostly mine) about music rather than foster negativity. And, it's worth noting that one of this site's very first posts was my review of Morrissey's concert in Washington, D.C., way back in November 2007. So I'm a fan. All that being said, let what follows be seen as less a screed about the abysmal new album from Morrissey but, rather, a corrective gesture meant to highlight some of the many, many missteps on Low in High School. Ultimately, I am writing here in the perhaps vain hope that Morrissey will, at some point in the very near-future, return to even the moderate successes found on his records of just a decade ago.
Over the course of 12 tunes, Morrissey offers up his weakest batch of music since 1991's Kill Uncle. And yet, to say that is to malign the record that gave us "Sing Your Life" and "Our Frank", 2 of the best Moz singles from the early Nineties. In 20 years, I doubt that many people will be looking at this record and using a similar argument, as the apparent singles here -- the jaunty "Spent The Day In Bed", for example, or the almost-catchy "Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up On The Stage" -- fail to do much more than generate a sense of bemusement in a listener. And while I can applaud Morrissey's risk-taking here on stuff like the epic "Israel", I can also say that it is a song I need never hear again. The cut is lugubrious piddle, as is "Home is a Question Mark", a selection that, like so many numbers here, can be imagined as a far better song given its title. Morrissey has perhaps finally lived down to that famous Elvis Costello quote: "Morrissey writes wonderful song titles, but sadly he often forgets to write the song."
"I Wish You Lonely" is moderately successful and spry, but it remains more like a B-side from the days when Moz was vainly fighting the good fight amid waves of Britpop ruling the airwaves, while "The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn't Kneel" earns points for at least fully committing to its vaguely rhumba-like hook. "I Bury The Living" gets credit for its apparent anti-war stance but it's frankly excruciating, toddling along for more than 7 minutes in a haze. Risky? Yes. Brave? Yes. Wise? Not in the least.
Morrissey has spent his career making choices that would have felled other, lesser performers, and even at his absolute worst, he at least provides grist for the mental mill. That said, the cuts here on Low in High School arrive in a cloud of controversial statements, and a string of odd actions from the man himself that have prejudiced a listener from the start, even before the record can begin. And I tried to love this one in some small way, but I simply cannot find much to recommend here on Low in High School. Stream this legally on Spotify and save your money. Heck, simply read the titles and imagine what kind of songs Morrissey would have made out of these back in 1992 or so, when Morrissey seemed to want to please as much as he wanted to provoke. Messy, muddled, and boringly unhinged in many spots, Low In High School is out now.