Trompé Setsuled (setsuled) wrote,
Trompé Setsuled

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Moz and Chainlessness

I wouldn't say I am Not a Dog on a Chain, Morrissey's new album, is his best though, oddly, looking over the lyrics to-day, I'm liking it better than I did listening to it. An essential part of Morrissey's music has always been a rumination on his own unattractiveness coexisting with unrequited longing. The paradox for much of his career has been that, as much as he sings about how unappealing he is, he's always had legions of fans wanting to fuck him. Now that many of his fans (though far less than certain media outlets insist) have been coaxed away by the increasingly clique-ish pressures of Internet politics, in a sense, Morrissey's message agrees with his reality for the first time. To some extent, I think the politics is the pretext for the inevitable abandonment of an aging star by its fandom, something Morrissey cannily presaged in his lyrics many times, going all the way back to The Smiths' "Rubber Ring". The final track on I am Not a Dog on a Chain, "My Hurling Days Are Done", finds its singer alone as usual only now, as he draws closer to the end of his life, he finds the additional sorrow of having no-one to share his experiences with:

But now my hurling days are done
And there is no one to tell and there's nowhere to run

I don't think Morrissey's had a really strong album since 2009's Years of Refusal largely because his expressions of need for physical love have become increasingly awkward--yet, I suspect this is a deliberate point. I'm often reminded of one of my favourite lyrics from "Seasick, Yet Still Docked", a song from his 1992 album Your Arsenal:

My love is as sharp as a needle in your eye
You must be such a fool to pass me by

In these two lines he shows how his apparent great need is exactly what makes him so repellent. So on I am Not a Dog on a Chain we have "Darling, I Hug a Pillow" with this supremely awkward chorus:

Why can't you give me some physical love?
Why can't you give me some physical love?
Everything else is in place, except physical love

Oou, la la. This is sure to woo a Cyberman. The song also involves, as the title suggests, the singer hugging a pillow in futile effort to subdue his loneliness. I wonder if Morrissey is referencing or is aware of the body pillows popular in Asian countries typically featuring prints of popular anime characters.

Otaku culture is certainly an appropriate subject for Morrissey especially as we have moved into an era where people are far less conflicted about the instinctive disdain they feel for unattractive men.

Given Morrissey's controversial political stances from the past few years, such as supporting For Britain, one would expect more pointedly political lyrics. For Britain, called "far right" by its detractors, is really more liberal given its position on civil and animal rights--the "far right" comes in only for its stance on Muslim immigrants to Britain (it's against) and general isolationism. I'm not intellectually lazy enough to say that cautioning against Islamic values entering British law is inherently Islamophobic but I don't agree with Morrissey's support of the group. Another annoying thing about modern Internet politics is the persistent need to remind people that just because I like someone's music doesn't mean I like everything about them. I've known there were things I didn't like about Morrissey as a person for decades, ever since I heard how he insulted Tori Amos back stage at a show--when she complimented his music, he'd replied saying essentially, how would you know what good music is? I'm a long time fan of Tori Amos though, it's true, her creative spark seems to have been extinguished for a very long time, it's still not a very nice thing to say to her. But, then, I like Richard Wagner, who was an anti-Semite. I like artists for their art, which is the only thing I can truly know about them. WHICH SHOULD BE FUCKING OBVIOUS.

But in terms of politics, mostly I am Not a Dog on a Chain paints with a very broad brush, with songs like "Knockabout World", which seems to be about the general pettiness of the media without taking any particular side or stance. "The Truth about Ruth" seems to be an oddly banal song about transgenderism--then as I looked at the lyrics to-day I started to think this is another one where what seemed a flaw is kind of the point. The song concludes:

Ruth is John
Ruth is John
And sooner or later
We are all calmed down

"Ruth is John", the chorus, is a plodding chant, as though the point of this is, "We'd all hoped there'd be something more exciting about being trans."

The reason the pointed awkwardness of the lyrics is a little hard to catch is that there's nothing remotely awkward about Morrissey's voice or the music arrangement. Maybe this stuff made more sense in the 80s and 90s when The Smiths and Morrissey's early solo work deliberately paired insightful, credible lyrical portraits of youthful awkwardness with strange, experimental music and vocals. The strongest track on I am Not a Dog on a Chain is a smooth duet with Thelma Houston with enigmatic lyrics, "Bobby, Don't You Think They Know?"

Tags: morrissey, music, politics
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