Morrissey – Low in High School (Album Review)

Morrissey – Low in High School (Album Review)

The equally loved and loathed vocalist and lyricist of the long-defunct The Smiths who had shown astounding proficiency and prolificacy in his time with the seminal English band, in the 1980s, and during the ’90s phase of his solo career, is on a bulldozer roll once again.

Just two years’ fresh from the success of his well-crafted tenth oeuvre, 2015’s World Peace Is None of Your Business, Morrissey is all ready to axe again the Monarchy and other issues that disgust him, with another impressive set of provocative proclamations draped in golden red and brilliant blue tin foils of catchy melodies and choruses as well as intricate arrangements and instrumentation.

Released on November 17, 2017, on Etienne Records/ BMG, and produced by Joe Chiccarelli, Morrissey’s eleventh offering, titled Low in High School, exhibits the singer’s unending, scathing sarcasm and irony that immediately surfaced as early as The Smiths’ first single of 1983, “Hand in Glove,” and in his own first solo song, 1988’s “Suedehead.” Music-wise, many of the new songs sound like remnants of the last album – melodic and textured – but are drenched more in heavier guitar grates, drum shots, and bass punches.

Low in High School opens with “My Love, I’d Do Anything for You,” whose intro recalls the same sinister sound of the title track of The Smiths’ second album and which then explodes into a coda of guitar-and-horn-section interplay in a seeming bull-versus-matador fighting festivity. Following next in fuzzy subtlety is “I Wish You Lonely,” which treats the listener to the quirky singer’s jangly Guitar Pop predisposition, as heard best in his earlier songs like “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and “November Spawned a Monster.” A heavy, jangly, sonic juxtaposition then ensues in the form of the lavishly orchestrated and beautifully titled “Jacky’s Only Happy when She’s Up on the Stage.” The dirge-like guitar plucks and the poignant cynicism flow seamlessly to “Home Is a Question Mark,” ending in a dramatic backdrop of marching beats, lush strings, and Morrissey’s soaring, velvety vocal laments.

The album’s first single, “Spent the Day in Bed,” is a change of atmosphere, owing to its spacey, funky, bouncy, and sprinkle of light Reggae elements. Then there is the momentous, Progressive/Art Rock–inspired epic “I Bury the Living,” which may be regarded as the album’s highlight because of its length as well as Vaudeville and cinematic appeal. Morrissey turns Classical and sentimental in the piano-dominated “In Your Lap.”

“The Girl from Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel” is another piano-oriented track whose Mediterranean and Klezmer flourishes fit well its lyrical theme. The ensuing, almost acoustic “All the Young People Must Fall in Love” builds up on the carrier melody of Morrissey’s “Interesting Drug” and then dips its heart and fingers in light Jazz and ’60s Baroque Pop, reminiscent of David Bowie’s debut album of 1967, particularly the tuba-led “Rubber Band.”

The risqué throwback “When You Open Your Legs” is Morrissey the provocateur at his usual best, expressed in lively Spanish/Portuguese Paso Doble style, which was last heard in World Peace’s “The Bullfighter Dies.” Its choppy and percussive rhythm carries over onto the more upbeat and faintly Shoegaze-influenced “Who Will Protect Us from the Police?” Finally, Morrissey, with current bandmates and collaborators Boz Boorer (guitar, clarinet, sax), Jesse Tobias (guitars), Mando Lopez (bass), Matt Walker (drums, tubular bells, percussion), and Gustavo Manzur (keyboards, piano, organ, synths, trumpet, accordion, Flamenco guitar) – finishes off Low in High School with the mystical allure of the somber piano ballad “Israel.”

Overall, the aural aesthetics of Low in High School is a delectable mélange of the crunchy guitar heaviness of 2004’s You Are the Quarry; the intricate, Flamenco-flavored finesse of 2015’s World Peace Is None of Your Business; and the Indie Pop guitar jangle of his early works. Lyrically, it paints yet another ship of thousand razor-sharp and romantic words of the same literarily witty, linguistically eloquent, politically polarizing, and cultural activist Morrissey. Yes, the adorable and belligerent bigmouth strikes again! Furthermore, he deserves an equally vocabularily elaborate artistic assessment of his latest masterpiece. This is why CrypticRock gives Low in High School 5 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Low in High School:

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aLfie vera mella
aLfie vera mella
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Born in 1971, in Metro Manila, Philippines, aLfie vera mella is a healthcare worker, singer/songwriter, and editor/writer. He was the frontman of the ’90s-peaking Philippine Alternative Rock / New Wave band Half Life Half Death, which released a full-length album and several singles on Viva Records. aLfie worked at Diwa Scholastic Press as an editor/writer of academic textbooks and supplementary magazines, focusing on Science & Technology and English Grammar & Literature. In 2003, aLfie migrated to Canada; he has since been living in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He works full-time at a healthcare institution, while serving as the associate contributing editor of Filipino Journal—a local community newspaper in Winnipeg—tackling Literature, Languages, Cultures, Lifestyles, and Music. As a means to further his passion for music, he formed the band haLf man haLf eLf. He now performs with another band, The Psychedelics. aLfie has been a music journalist since the mid-’90s for various print magazines as well as websites. He began writing album reviews for CrypticRock in 2015. In 2016, aLfie published Part One (Literature & Languages and Their Cultural Significance) of his Essay Series, Can You Hear the Sound of a Falling Leaf? His next planned literary endeavor is to publish the remaining parts of the anthology and his works on Poetry, Fantasy Fiction, and Mythology. In his spare time, he enjoys reading books and listening to music. He participates at various community events; and he explores the diverse cultural beauty of Canada whenever his schedule permits it. aLfie is a doting and dedicated father to his now ten-year-old son, Evawwen.

  • Avatar
    wilson park
    Posted at 11:53h, 18 November Reply

    The most linguistically intricate album review I’ve come across for quite some time- LOW IN HIGH SCHOOL– It certainly appreciates both the instrumental arrangements and lyrical content- Morrissey is an articulate songwriter/vocalist and his musical collaborators have always been very well-chosen.

    Intelligent, provocative songs are in short suppy these days (with some notable exceptions) and this review also proves that entertaining, well-written critical analysis in short revews is equally rare..
    Thank you for this…………………………

  • aLfie vera mella
    aLfie vera mella
    Posted at 02:17h, 19 November Reply

    Thank you very much for your appreciation. The love for the music itself, as always, is what primarily motivates me in coming up with a well-thought-of assessment.


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