Morrissey, World Peace Is None of Your Business, album review: 'Brutal, surprising, exploratory'

 

“The older generation have tried, sighed and died, which pushes me to their place in the queue,” notes Morrissey with customary wry mordancy in “Oboe Concerto”, the concluding track of World Peace Is None of Your Business.

But ageing though he may be, his barbs remain unblunted in songs like the title track and “Kick the Bride Down the Aisle”, a vicious denigration of a grasping leech who “just wants a slave to break his back in pursuit of a living wage/ so that she can laze and graze for the rest of her days”. Draped in harmonium, organ, Spanish and electric guitars, tolling bells and backing choir, it’s a dense, cloying production whose suffocating tone is surely allegorical.

The familiar Morrissey tropes and themes are lined up and shot down, albeit in some style: “Smiler with a Knife” is another celebration of rough boys, “The Bullfighter Dies” a brutal animal-rights anthem, and “Staircase at the University” an equally brutal tale of exam-cram stress and suicide, with finger pointed firmly at parental expectations.

The ponderous “I’m Not a Man”, meanwhile, disdains “big fat locker-room hockey-jock” masculinity. And the acid sarcasm of the title track, with its reference to police-state stun-guns and Tasers smothering dissent, gives both barrels to the establishment.

The most surprising thing about World Peace Is None of Your Business, in fact, is the unusually exploratory nature of the music, which takes in ambient noisescaping, woodwind, mellotron, mariachi trumpet, Tex-Mex accordion, Arabic oud (on the cross-cultural metaphor “Istanbul”), Aussie didgeridoo, fizzing slashes of synthesiser, castanets and, seemingly everywhere, Spanish guitar, with flamenco riffing even lending “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet” the manner of a Rodrigo y Gabriela tune.

It’s a far cry from the usual meat’n’spuds rock that has characterised most Morrissey albums; and a welcome change, suggesting perhaps that this most British of pop bards is renegotiating his own boundaries.

 

Other albums this week:

Richard Thompson: Acoustic Classics

Following last year’s Electric,  the aptly titled Acoustic Classics features new versions of Richard Thompson’s most celebrated songs, including several normally performed in electric band settings. With songs stripped  to their essence, it’s a potent reminder of what a towering songwriter Thompson is. Without its angsty guitar, “Shoot Out the Lights” has a brooding presence, while the empathy for the lost in “From Galway to Graceland” touches deep places. The absence of amplification doesn’t hinder the momentum of songs such as “Wall of Death”, and Thompson’s fingerstyle flurries on “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” sound like several guitarists playing at once. Acoustic, but unnatural.

Anna Calvi: Strange Weather

Anna Calvi seems to have located her spiritual home in New York, where this EP of five covers was recorded with pianist/producer Thomas Bartlett. It’s an odd selection, including Bowie’s “Lady Grinning Soul” as a pallid piano ballad, and Keren Ann’s “Strange Weather” as a desolate but oddly comforting duet with David Byrne. Byrne also appears on Connan Mockasin’s “I’m  the Man That Will Find You”,  a vehicle for the eerie sensuality of Calvi’s ringing guitar and backing vocals. The standouts are a throbbing version of Suicide’s “Ghost Rider”, with shards of guitar cutting across a keyboard pulse, and FKA Twigs’ “Papi Pacify”, with Calvi’s croon and tremolo twang cleverly abetted  in creating the ghostly noir  mood by Nico Muhly’s strings.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young CSNY 1974

The fastest-selling tour in rock history, CSNY’s 1974 jaunt represented the high-water-mark of hippie excess. Even the hotel pillowcases bore a customised print by Joni Mitchell. This box set is suitably luxurious, with  a 188-page booklet and DVD accompanying 40 tracks on three CDs programmed to follow the tour’s electric/acoustic/electric set sequence. The harmonies are sleek and smooth, and the guitar work of Stills and Young speaks of the synergy that drove their long association. The determination to include generous dollops of each member’s solo output means that the acoustic set sags badly. But the obscure material is welcome, especially unreleased Neil Young numbers such as “Goodbye Dick”, a farewell to a resigned President.

John Fullbright: Songs

Set to arrangements as spartan  as the album title, Songs finds John Fullbright more concerned with the act of writing than with illuminating a subject. “Write  a song about the very song you sing, pen a line about a line within a line,” as he puts it in “Write  a Song”: it rolls nicely off the tongue, but where to? Songs is full of this kind of smooth locution,  as in: “If you never knew what never was, you’d never cry again.” The effect is to apply a veneer  of glibness which disguises any depth that might lurk in a song. The trick worked for Hank Williams, but only intermittently does so here, notably in the aching “Until You Were Gone” and in “Happy”, another rumination on songwriting that finds Fullbright whistling as he wonders, “What’s so bad about happy?”

Jungle: Jungle

West London synth duo Jungle claim to “bring the heat” on their debut album, but it’s more the languid haze of a holiday beach than the intensity of a dancefloor. “The Heat” uses shoreline sounds and children’s chatter behind its organ groove, recalling a less self-conscious Metronomy. The light propulsion and interlocking elements of “Time” suggest the missing link between Chic and Depeche Mode, while the appeal of “Accelerate”, “Busy Earnin’” and “Platoon” resides in the easy manner of their itchy shuffles and unobtrusive falsetto harmonies; though as the album proceeds, the appeal grows thinner. “Smoking Pixels” suggests routes for exploration, through its Morricone-esque blend of organ, whistling and dulcimer over an “O Superman” vocal pulse.

Bingham Quartet: Do Not Go Gentle...

A label dedicated to new British composition, Prima Facie here offers precise but spirited interpretations by The Bingham Quartet of five works demonstrating the breadth and intensity of contemporary classical music, ranging from Michael Parkin’s title-track lamentation – if such a frantic wailing of violins can be so described – to Anthony Gilbert’s “String Quartet No 3”, which uses the see-sawing double-hocket mode in a manner evocative of the hurdy-gurdy. Simon Speare’s “Crowding In”, which opens the album with shrill violins, draws on the microtonal fluctuations  of Balkan folk music. Elsewhere, David Stoll’s King Lear-inspired “Fools by Heavenly Compulsion” employs feverish momentum in  a meditation on madness.

Arts and Entertainment
Call The Midwife: Miranda Hart as Chummy

tv Review: Miranda Hart and co deliver the festive goods

Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special

tvReview: Older generation get hot under the collar this Christmas

Arts and Entertainment
Dapper Laughs found success through the video app Vine

comedy Erm...he seems to be back

Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)

tvReview: No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Arts and Entertainment
Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly flanking 'Strictly' winners Flavia Cacace and Louis Smith

tv Gymnast Louis Smith triumphed in the Christmas special

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all