Morrissey looked at me once. Chippenham Golddiggers, February 1985. Midway through one of The Smiths' faster songs – it might have been "Shakespeare's sister" – I couldn't move. All around me were whirling limbs, but I was rooted to the spot, staring at my idol with mute awe. He noticed me and cocked a quizzical eyebrow, as if to ask, "Are you all right?", then carried on. (Alternatively, he might have wondered whether I had a pistol in my pocket, and he had a Mark Chapman situation on his hands.)
I was fine, thanks. And to the extent that I was fine, in my late teens, Morrissey was the major reason: a fairy godmother figure, somebody out there whose worldview was 85-90 per cent the same as mine (I forced myself to make up the remaining 10-15 per cent).
The only funny thing that Sean Hughes has ever said was on this subject: "Everyone grows out of their Morrissey phase... except Morrissey". In my case, I didn't grow out of Morrissey; Morrissey shrank. After the initial promise of Viva Hate and a scattering of subsequent singles, the quality of his solo material entered a decade-long slump. However, with his two excellent albums this century, his popularity has revived to the extent that, when he had a(nother) falling out with NME over immigration, it was a tornado in a teacup. It wasn't the first time Morrissey had made questionable pronouncements about race, and these ones – crass as they may have been – hardly amounted to Mein Kampf.
Nevertheless, there were rumours that the first night of his Roundhouse residency would be picketed. In the event, the only stall outside is promoting vegan food. The man himself makes no mention of the furore, although his pre-gig filmshow tacitly does. In between vintage clips of Shane Fenton, Brigitte Bardot and James Dean, there's a scene from The Untouchables in which Eliot Ness says to his sidekick, "I'm afraid Morrissey's in real trouble". The rafters echo with knowing laughter.
The curtain comes down, the laddish "Morriss-ey!, Morriss-ey!" football chant goes up, the man himself comes out, and his band, led by Boz Boorer and featuring a pair of suedehead twin brothers on bass and drums, shudder into a monstrously powerful "How Soon is Now?", and immediately you're reeling: woah, that's how you start a show.
Followed by the perversely joyous "First of the Gang to Die", it seems like a statement of intent: "I've got a greatest hits album in the offing." Instead, it's a show which sags in the middle, much like the 48-year-old himself. (His ritual shirtless finale of "Last of the Famous International Playboys" is psychologically fascinating: Morrissey Mansions must have mirrors, he must know what he looks like.)
He reclaims "Stop Me if You Think You've Heard This One Before" from the Moby-ish Mark Ronson cover, which is a high point, along with "Sister I'm a poet" and a double-header of "National Front Disco" and "Death of a Disco Dancer". However, the ballads from the recent albums drag. A handful of songs from his forthcoming album (being recorded with Tony Visconti "in between bloodbaths") sound promising, signalling a return to the rockabilly rawness of the early Smiths.
"It's the Same Old SOS", he sings at the start of "Life Is a Pigsty", an acknowledgement that what Morrissey craves is stasis: he doesn't want to move on, and he doesn't want the world to either. In fact, the only thing he craves more is our enduring affection. "I have a frog in my throat – and I don't mean a small French person," he jokes, which may be why he stops singing "Stop Me" just long enough to hear us yell "I still love you, oh I still love you!" back. But I wouldn't put money on it.
There's only one thing more satisfying than finding out that the hype is wrong. And that's finding out the hype is right. Such is the case with The Ting Tings, the duo from Salford comprising Jules De Martino (drums/ vocals) and Katie White (vocals/ guitar). Their sound is a smart, sassy, danceable mix which thieves the best bits of Blondie, The Go! Team, and Franz Ferdinand. Jules and Katie both have murky pasts in failed teen pop acts, but those days are behind them: their first headlining London show is so crammed that Hoxton hipsters and music biz liggers are literally hanging from the fixtures and fittings.
White, working her huge guitar like she's digging for gold, is an assured frontwoman, and with songs like "I Don't Wanna Be The One", such confidence is understandable. Their one slow song, "Traffic Light", built on a hesitant 5/4 tempo, has the room in silence. They end with the single "That's Not My Name", and the fuss, for once, seems justified.Reuse content