Album Review: Morrissey, 'Years of Refusal'

Happy Morrissey day, everyone! I review the album in this week's Weekly, but here it is a few days early. You Are the Quarry, Ringleader of the Tormentors and Years of Refusal are the Mozzer's Time Out of Mind, Love and Theft and Modern Times. Believe it!

The Smiths broke up in 1987, but people are still clinging onto hope that they'll eventually reunite. The rumor comes up every year as the announcement of a Coachella lineup looms, and every year, it turns out to be bunk. Routinely, you'll encounter people who may not have even been alive during the Smiths existence, who insist "Morrissey's solo stuff is OK, but what I really like is the Smiths."

Years of Refusal is Morrissey's ninth solo album, and the most compelling argument yet for fans to finally move on from his former life. Punctuating a career resurgence that started with 2004's You Are the Quarry and continued with 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors, Morrissey's music has never quite rocked so hard, thanks to the youthful energy of his current band (guided by Moz veteran and "musical director" Boz Boorer). Lead track "Something is Squeezing My Skull" makes this quite clear, harkening back to the similarly raucous opener of the singer's excellent 1992 release, Your Arsenal ("You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side"), but with an energy all its own.

Hardcore fans (of which Morrissey has many) may bemoan the inclusion of "All You Need Is Me" and "That's How People Grow Up"--from his 2008 Greatest Hits and performed live since 2007--but they don't feel out of place, and merit wider recognition. Only first single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" is reminiscent of earlier material; the rest explores new territory, like the spaghetti western flair of "When Last I Spoke To Carol." Lyrically, he remains biting ("Did you really think we meant all of those syrupy, sentimental things that we said," he asks on "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore"), but he's wisely matured past the mopey pleas that he's famous for--instead of dreaming that somebody loves him, he lets us know, "I'm OK By Myself."

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