Monday, January 09, 2006

To die by your side is such a heavenly way to die

Morrissey is a bit of an easy target for mockery, being unabashedly effeminate and seemingly eternally sad, and I can't help but think of an episode of Mystery Science Theatre 3000 where he emerges from a giant Tupperware container (to lock in pop star freshness) and says, "This is a song I wrote at a time of my life when I was...very, very sad. Breakfast, actually." He is, however, a fascinating songwriter, often channeling Oscar Wilde, who can tap into adolescent despair and loneliness like few others can, and his voice, high and pleasant, can deftly carry any melody he takes a stab at.

It's often mentioned that Morrissey attended the legendary Lesser Free Trade Hall show by the Sex Pistols in 1976 (recreated in the film 24 Hour Party People), but as documented in letters to various music mags, he wasn't really impressed with them. He much preferred the proto-punk New York Dolls and glam singer Jobriath. In 1982, he formed the Smiths with Johnny Marr, who gave the band its distinctive jangly guitar sound, and the group had an incredible five-year run of singles and albums on Rough Trade Records. There was a bit of friction between Morrissey and Marr, and's band bio says that Marr "...was frustrated with Morrissey's devotion to 60s pop and his hesitancy to explore new musical directions." After Marr left in 1987, Morrissey disbanded the Smiths and promptly started his solo career. Starting off with the pop-friendly Viva Hate, certainly easy on the ears of Smiths fans, he drifted into guitar rock territory (Your Arsenal) and even into prog rock for later releases.

In a review of Morrissey's album You Are the Quarry for the New York Times (alternate link here), Merritt called Morrissey "the best lyricist in rock," and there are obviously similarities between Merritt's "how utterly over-the-top depressing can I get?" songs and Morrissey's "nobody loves me and I want to die" songs. At one performance by the Magnetic Fields, Stephin and Claudia discussed how someone referred to one of their songs as being Morrissey-esque, and then one of them responded that "Summer Lies" had to be their most Morrissey-esque song, particularly the lyrics "hiding in my room, wasting away, cutting myself." And so this week, we feature Morrissey at his most Morrissey-esque, with two of his classics: the majestic, wistful "Everyday Is Like Sunday" (do notice, as that site's commentary points out, that it's "everyday" and not "every day") and one of the ultimate morbid pop songs, "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out."

Morrissey - "Everyday Is Like Sunday"
The Smiths - "There Is a Light That Never Goes Out"


Blogger Greycats said...

weird, my co-worker and I were just talking about Morrissey. I actually like him but some of his fans can be a little much. You are the Quarry was really good (to my surprise.)

12:05 AM  
Blogger Ernest said...

I've kind of lost track of his solo stuff, but maybe I'll give Quarry a try...thanks for writing.

1:06 AM  

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