Sunday, February 7, 2010

Album Review: Morrissey – Southpaw Grammar


This review relates to the original pressing of Morrissey’s 1995 album. The album was re-released with additional tracks and with the order changed around. I don’t approve of this, I don’t like messing with the past. This album was not received particularly well by the critics or the fans, though I have a soft spot for it. It’s another example of his fascination with pugilists (also evidenced on his single Boxers).

It opens with the epic, 11 minute The Teachers Are Afraid of the Pupils. It’s built around a Shostakovich sample, accompanied by the band. There’s high drama on this one with Morrissey singing at the top of his voice lines like “somebody here will not be here next year”, and finally “to be finished would be a relief” in a highly foreboding fashion. The sentiment in the song is a bit of an about-turn from classic Smiths tune The Headmaster Ritual, this time empathising with the teachers. For a previous master of the 3 minute classic, it’s a brave departure.

After this, the album reverts to standard-issue Morrissey. Reader Meet Author is a return to what he does best, a strong 3 minute track, and Boy Racer, is a classic coy Morrissey track, about his fascination with pretty boys (“he’s just too good-looking”). The Operation is an odd track, opening with a drum solo which lasts more than 2 minutes, and the song that follows has more fighting references, though is generally unremarkable. Dagenham Dave is another track detailing Morrissey’s interest in laddish types, over a stomping beat.

Do Your Best And Don’t Worry and Best Friend On The Payroll, two very Morrissey titles, are reasonably strong songs, though the final track Southpaw is another long track at ten minutes. It’s a more downbeat ending for the album than the rest of it, all of which are quite uptempo songs. Despite some impassioned verses, the melody thereafter is moodier and the song fades out with Morrissey repeating the line “there is something that you should know”, leaving the album feeling curiously unresolved.