Morrissey Years of Refusal Review

Released 2009.  

BBC Review

This is one more step to ensuring a lasting legacy.

Tom Byford 2009

This time it's true: to these ears, this really is Morrissey's best album since 1994's Vauxhall And I. Years Of Refusal – another rollercoaster journey of wit and despair – follows three years after the much-vaunted UK No.1, Ringleader Of The Tormentors. It is succinct, punchy and stinging, a 12-track 43-minute palate cleanser.

The fullness of Morrissey's years has given his voice gravitas. Whereas once he seemed to be aspiring to a world of imaginary hurt, now he's living right in the centre of it. The unrequited love of Black Cloud seems to fit a man in his late 40s much better than the poet in his 20s; when he intones, "there is nothing I can do to make you mine," it packs appropriate hopelessness.

Morrissey's band, who have seemed a tad quorn 'n' potatoes in the past, are here completely on the money; turning their hand to mariachi, marching, glam. It may not have the subtlety of Ringleaders, but what it lacks in nuance is more than compensated for in grit. It's a fitting tribute to the production skills of Jerry Finn – who tragically died a month after completing recording.

Two of the tracks appeared on last years' Greatest Hits album, That's How People Grow Up and the rollicking All You Need Is Me, the maturation of the same gags he used in the Smiths ("there's a naked man standing laughing in your dreams/ You know who it is but you don't like what it means"). Like opener Something Is Squeezing My Skull, closer I'm OK by Myself is a fury of noise and blast, meaning that Years Of Refusal both comes in and goes out like a lion.

The album has already attracted detractors – which permanently come with his turf – but ultimately, Years Of Refusal will be seen as Morrissey's great 00s album. This is not a writer giddy with his hero – in many respects, I can take or leave him – this is the mature work one expects from an elder statesman. If there is any truth in what he has recently said, that he doesn't want to go on much longer, then this is one more step to ensuring a lasting legacy. Play Very Loud it says.

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