The Smiths broke up in 1987, but people are still clinging to the hope 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 insisting “Morrissey’s solo stuff is okay, but what I really like is the Smiths.”
Years of Refusal is Morrissey’s ninth solo album ands the most compelling argument 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.
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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 those tracks 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 has matured past the mopey pleas he’s famous for—instead of dreaming that somebody loves him, he lets us know “I’m OK By Myself.”