Album: Morrissey, Years of Refusal (Polydor)

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The Independent Culture

On 2006's Ringleader of the Tormentors, the confirmed celibate Morrissey seemed smitten with a rare giddy thrill of romance, offering a peek into the soul behind the carapace of sarcasm and irony.

With Years of Refusal, he's back to asserting the impossibility of mutually rewarding love in tracks such as "Black Cloud", "That's How People Grow Up" and "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris", in which he proclaims that "only stone and steel accept my love". Instead the prospect of death, in particular suicide, dominates the album, through the brutally candid epitaph "When I Last Spoke to Carol" and the credit-crunch tragedy "Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed", which finds a bewildered, bereaved child searching for a scapegoat on whom to lay the blame, be they "uncivil servants", "priggish money-men" or "bailiffs with bad breath". The thing that comes across most strongly, though, is the way Morrissey's expressions reflect the casual brutality of the attitudes they evince – as in the hopelessness of numbing addiction in "Something Is Squeezing My Skull". If only the music – a lumbering prog-rock with occasional mariachi horns – were as inventive and expressive.

Pick of the album:'Something Is Squeezing My Skull', 'Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed'

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