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Album Review: Morrissey – Low in High School

By on Monday, 18th December 2017 at 12:00 pm

Morrissey Low in High School album coverSteven Patrick Morrissey is a lightning rod when it comes to bad publicity. In the vein of those groan-worthy Maybelline adverts, maybe he’s born with it? I think the answer to that would be a resounding yes. Morrissey wouldn’t be Morrissey if he wasn’t courting controversy, whether it be regarding his pretty militant attitude towards veganism and those who don’t agree with him, his searing attacks on politicians after the Manchester attack or his most recent divisive comments on sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, defending disgraced actor Kevin Spacey. The more cynical detractors of Moz say he does this on purpose, to bump up the attention paid to his current artistic pursuits.

This TGTF post is not about giving credence to or debunking that myth. If anything, this review of Morrissey’s latest album, his eleventh studio album ‘Low in High School’, proves he follows the beat of a different drummer. The drummer just happens to be the beats that are inside his own head. As we’ve seen countless times in popular music, a good dose of self-editing would have made for a much more cohesive album, if only thematically. But, as we’ve already established, no-one tells the Mozfather what to do. So what do we have her in the follow-up to 2014’s ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’? The album’s first impression in ‘Spent the Day in Bed’ heralded the uncomfortable, repeated and prominent appearance of the synthesiser, seemingly at odds with the almost 60-year old Morrissey. ‘I Wish You Lonely’ is another awkward, synth-led listen. If you examine the liner notes, things make more sense. Live keyboardist Gustavo Manzur shares songwriting credits on a third of the songs here.

The notoriously cantankerous Mancunian star shows again he isn’t shy in diving into the current political fracas. The LP begins with ‘My Love, I’d Do Anything for You’. With any other garden variety pop star, this would be a trite love song, but not with Morrissey. It’s a minor key rocker, beginning with the words “teach your kids to recognize and to despise all the propaganda”. As if an extension of his Smiths’ odes to the futility of work, he moans, “weren’t we all born to mourn and to yawn at the occupations / that control every day of our lives / we can’t live as we wish”. With a bombastic guitar line and a horn flourish, this isn’t any old pop song.

There is a storm of debate around ‘Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up on the Stage’, Morrissey vehemently denying it’s about Brexit. Regardless of what it’s about, there’s no denying it’s quite catchy and you’ll want to sing along. ‘The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel’ sympathises with those in the midst of the conflicts in the Middle East, concluding, “it’s just because the land weeps oil,” with another infectious tune with a Latin beat. In grave contrast, at over 7 minutes, ‘I Bury the Living’ is an overindulgent examination inside the mind of a suicide bomber. As one might imagine, a song with the words “give me an order / I’ll blow up your daughter” isn’t exactly a comfortable listen. Album closer ‘Israel’, a lighter piano number, appears to be sung directly to the Israelis and well, the word ‘polarising’ only begins to describe where this might go.

To the pleasure and possibly relief of his longtime fans, there is one light in the darkness. On ‘Home is a Question Mark’, Morrissey can’t help himself but to indulge in his favourite mode: being the lovelorn Pope of Mope. Revisiting the theme of trying to find love in cities instead of people in the eloquent ‘Throwing My Arms Around Paris’, like its predecessor, it’s a revelation, a sweeping ballad that only Morrissey can write and sing to. It’s just too bad there isn’t more on the LP like this. Something quite astonishing throughout, no matter what subject matter he’s broaching, is his voice. Despite major medical treatment and age, his vocal tone is beautiful and his delivery is sheer perfection.

Over the last few years, Morrissey has undergone treatment for cancer and been forced to cancel or cut short numerous concerts. In the context of cancer, his seemingly cavalier attitude to dying I suppose in hindsight in unsurprising, given his career-long referencing to death. Facing his own mortality may have fueled the desire to experiment, to do something different and off the wall, no matter who it offends, and that’s what ‘Low in High School’ is. Awkwardly paced and unapologetic in content, Morrissey as elder statesman of indie rock is making exactly the kind of music he wants to make. And that’s all that matters to him.


‘Low in High School’, Morrissey’s eleventh studio album, is out now on BMG. TGTF’s previous coverage on the Smiths frontman’s solo work is through here.


Video of the Moment #2455: Morrissey

By on Thursday, 19th October 2017 at 6:00 pm

To call Morrissey polarising is oversimplifying his enduring influence and image. However, it is also a single word that seems to fit the famous Mancunian curmudgeon all too well. On the 17th of November next month, the so-called ‘Pope of Mope’ will be releasing ‘Low in High School’, his newest long player, on BMG. Naturally, the video for ‘Spent the Day in Bed’ sees him sneering, oddly from the comfort (er…) of a pushchair. It was filmed at the 142-year old Peckham Liberal Club and directed by famed music video director Sophie Muller, and it ends on an ominous note. Stay tuned for ‘Low in High School’; a limited edition clear 7″ vinyl of the ‘Spent the Day in Bed’ will also be available from October 27 on. To catch more of our past coverage on Morrissey here on TGTF, go here.


Morrissey / September 2015 English Tour

By on Monday, 6th July 2015 at 9:00 am

Everyone’s favourite curmudgeon from Manchester, Morrissey, has announced a trio of live dates for September 2015. He’ll be stopping at Hull Arena for one show, followed by two at London Hammersmith Apollo and will no doubt be playing old favourites along with new tracks from his most recent album released last year, the appropriately cynically-titled ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’. Tickets will be on sale this Friday, the 10th of July, at 9 AM.

Friday 18th September 2015 – Hull Arena
Sunday 20th September 2015 – London Hammersmith Apollo
Monday 21st September 2015 – London Hammersmith Apollo


WIN / Tickets to see Morrissey in Cardiff -OR- Birmingham, March 2015

By on Thursday, 12th March 2015 at 7:00 pm

The living legend that is Morrissey begins a UK tour tonight in Nottingham (full list of dates listed below). Yesterday we gave away tickets to a lucky Andy C. off Twitter. Today we’re going old school through the TGTF Web site, giving away 2 pairs each to the Cardiff Motorpoint Arena (Wednesday 18th March) and Birmingham Barclaycard Arena (Friday 27th March) shows taking place this month. We’re really like to give them to TGTF readers! I bet you want to know how to win, don’t you?

You’ll need to fill out the form below, including your full name, your email address (so we can contact you if you win) and you telling us which show you want to attend. Then to make sure you serious about going, you’ll need to tell us the name of Morrissey’s latest album. Figure you must know this, surely? We will then choose two winners for each date out of all the correct entries received.

Get your entries in by noon British time Friday, the 13th of March (this’ll be a quick one). We’ll contact the winners by email. Good luck! Please note: this contest is open to UK residents only who can get him/herself to Cardiff or Birmingham for the show they’ve won tickets to and are subject to any age requirements the venue may have (TGTF won’t be held responsible if you’re turned away at the door for being underage and not meeting the individual venue’s requirement). All duplicate entries will be discarded.

Friday 13th Mar 2015 – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Saturday 14th Mar 2015 – Bournemouth International Centre
Wednesday 18th Mar 2015 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Friday 20th Mar 2015 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Saturday 21st Mar 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Friday 27th Mar 2015 – Birmingham Barclaycard Arena

This contest is now closed. The winners will be contacted by email soon.


Morrissey / March 2015 UK Tour

By on Tuesday, 13th January 2015 at 9:00 am

Following on from last year’s release of his latest album ‘World Peace is None of Your Business’, ex-Smiths frontman and musical legend Morrissey is set to embark on a new UK tour in March. Tickets go on sale this Friday, the 16th of January, at 10 AM.

Friday 13th Mar 2015 – Nottingham Capital FM Arena
Saturday 14th Mar 2015 – Bournemouth International Centre
Wednesday 18th Mar 2015 – Cardiff Motorpoint Arena
Friday 20th Mar 2015 – Leeds First Direct Arena
Saturday 21st Mar 2015 – Glasgow SSE Hydro
Friday 27th Mar 2015 – Birmingham Barclaycard Arena


To Glee or not to Glee? – The Permission and Use of Indie Music in Mainstream TV

By on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 11:00 am

‘You Are the Quarry’ had been called Morrissey‘s comeback album in May 2004 after the much-maligned ‘Maladjusted’ released in 1997. Things were looking good for the Mozzer; the album was his highest charting album ever in America. Fast forward a couple months and I’m flipping through cable channels to find something interesting to watch and I hear a couple bars of something familiar. I look more closely at the television. It’s the new MTV teen reality show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, and during what I’m guessing was supposed to be a tender moment, what do I hear in the background but ‘First of the Gang to Die’.


Sadly, I don’t have a YouTube video to go along with this; the video above is taken from the film for Who Put the M in Manchester?, filmed live at the MEN in 2004 (I’ve played my DVD of this so many times, my DVD skips, I think I broke it). But in my research for this piece, I also learned it was used in an episode of Date My Mom, such that a boy and the coed his mother chose as his date can disappear into the sunset. By limo. We have no way of knowing if Steven Patrick Morrissey himself approved the usage of this song, but it’s hard to believe he would allow the song, about a kid in a Latino gang who becomes a martyr by being the first in his group of friends to die, to be used in either context. While it is a pop song, it’s not really a song about sunny days and going out on dates.

It seems not surprising that the E4 reality drama Made in Chelsea, essentially the UK’s answer to Laguna Beach with well-heeled rich kids from a posh area of London, also uses current ‘hot’ songs in their shows. I won’t list every artist, but a quick glance at the tracklisting for the first episode of the first series for Made in Chelsea lists tunes form some pretty impressive stars that we’ve written about before: Adele, Dragonette, Morning Parade, Muse, the Script, Tinie Tempah (erroneously credited as ‘Tinie T’) and Two Door Cinema Club (twice!). Either the producers have been reading up on the music blogosphere or consulting with people in the know on ‘what’s hot’ (more likely the latter).

That said, what role – or what rights – do artists have in permitting (or not permitting) the use of their songs on television. The use of Noz’s ‘First of the Gang to Die’ and the Made in Chelsea soundtracks came into my mind when I read that Australian singer/songwriter Gotye, recent Saturday Night Live performer and pretty much world pop sensation, was complaining that his mega hit ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ was no longer his. Specifically, this had to do with its usage in the American pop tv sensation Glee. You know, that show where famous songs are redone by teen actors and generally speaking, the original versions of the song gain quite a lot of publicity, while the young people of the world get confused about music history. Goyte’s quandary? “I wasn’t sure whether something so mainstream was right for my music and whether it reflected on my music in my bad way. But I think I realised that the song’s so popular, it’s kind of out of my hands, so when something like Glee comes along, why would I say no?”


The man subsequently whinged on the success of the song, saying, “sometimes I feel like I’m a bit sick of it. My inbox, on any given day, has at least five covers or parodies or remixes of it and there’s only so many times you can listen to the one song.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t even begin to count on both hands how many bands I’ve met over the last 3 years that would love to be a similar position of ‘discomfort’. I guess success – and the happiness you get from success – is a fickle thing; maybe when you have it and realise it’s not so great, you want to bash it and everything that comes with it. Careful though: Goyte had to give his permission to the producers of Glee to use ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ in one of their episodes. He could have easily put the kibosh on the matter entirely by blocking its use on the popular American tv show; there are probably others, but most notably Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters have refused the Fox tv programme permission. Dave Grohl’s response to the invitation: “It’s every band’s right, you shouldn’t have to do fucking Glee. And then the guy who created Glee is so offended that we’re not, like, begging to be on his f**king show… f**k that guy for thinking anybody and everybody should want to do Glee.”

While I agree with Grohl on this – I personally can’t stand the show and how it repurposes already great music, only to redo them in charmless, overblown, unworthy imitations – there seems to be no right or wrong answer for an artist or band considering allowing commercial use of their songs. Some bands still and will always feel that allowing such permission debases the artistic value of their hard work and inspiration. However, maybe the gold standard yet groan worthy rule of PR applies here: “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” As much as Goyte might complain that the song he wrote no longer belongs to him, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ is still #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the third week running. Suffering for one’s art? Maybe not so much.


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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