Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Album Review: Morrissey - Swords

Swords is an album of B-sides from 2004 onwards. Morrissey has a long history of rounding up his harder to find tracks into a neat package and this is a welcome one.

In my view, Morrissey’s voice has never sounded better than his most recent work, though his songwriting can be a little hit and miss at times. It starts out with the uptempo Good Looking Man About Town, which is a very Morrissey title. Indeed a lot of it can be described as Morrissey-by-numbers, ie not remarkable, but generally very, very good.

It’s a nicely produced collection of songs. Only Sweetie-Pie is a misstep, quite an odd sounding song dominated by Morrissey’s blurred sounding voice. Some tracks suffer from the ‘kitchen sink’ production that marred Years of Refusal (If You Don’t Like Me, Don’t Look At Me). Others are like a not so good revisiting of former glories (Ganglord echoes How Soon Is Now). Yet some of the slower tracks (The Never-Played Symphonies, Christian Dior) see Morrissey in fine voice, aided by the fact that the music on these tracks gives his voice a chance to breathe.

Shame Is The Name features Chrissie Hynde on backing vocals and reminds me for some reason of November Spawned a Monster, while Teenage Dad On His Estate and Children in Pieces handle challenging subject matter (children out of wedlock and clerical abuse respectively) in an engaging way. My Life Is A Succession of People Saying Goodbye is another quintessential Morrissey title, as is the performance. Here Morrissey ruefully sings about the aforementioned subject matter with a soaring melody. He also covers Bowie’s Drive In Saturday which is a decent version, though not dramatically reinvented.

So not quite A-list Morrissey, but quality tunes nonetheless.