Morrissey Ringleader of the Tormentors

[Sanctuary; 2006]

Rating: 3.5/5

Styles: brit pop, pop-rock
Others: The Smiths, The Cure, The Fall

With a Morrissey release, it is as though Moz is approaching a podium ”” suited and with an agenda prepared (and perhaps a Tommy gun). He grips the sides of the lectern, with gladioli in his back pocket. His hair is winged with gray and the sideburns too, but that only makes us want to trust his opinions more. Pillars may frame him (the album was recorded in Rome)””like columns of NME speculatory articles. He is presenting himself as the Ringleader, no longer the Quarry. He is in control now ”” with a bullwhip, a chair, and a top hat ”” keeping the world's tormentors at bay. And he speaks to them in an Italian tongue ”” split down the middle, a Morton's fork (ah””this world's affairs, these world affairs, what's a boy to do?).

"I see the world/ It makes me puke." And Morrissey sings it with such distaste ”” he's revolted. He's hopeless, but not quite yet nihilistic.

The politics are apparent, though sometimes difficult to pinpoint. Morrissey, the master of ambiguities, walks a tightrope between vague and specific ”” with no safety net, obviously. When taken as a whole, the album is concerned with life in the face of present day's dire circumstances. It's hard to function. You end up writing letters to God (like Morrissey does on more than one song). You kick the muck from your toes and realize life is a pigsty populated with vulgarians with explosive kegs lodged up near their groins.

The production on each song is a little too repetitive, with only slight variances between them ””the military drumming of "At Last I Am Born," the key dependency of "Dear God Please Help Me," and the choir of children's voices, which appear more than once (most effective with the bounce-back harmonies on "The Father Who Must Be Killed"). One can get lost in the similarities, turning the album into a single document rather than hearing each song as a separate entity, a separate point. That said, these points, like mile markers on a map, aren't too difficult to follow. This is a Morrissey album.

1. I Will See You In Far-Off Places
2. Dear God Please Help Me
3. You Have Killed Me
4. The Youngest Was the Most Loved
5. In the Future When All's Well
6. The Father Who Must Be Killed
7. Life Is a Pigsty
8. I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero Now
9. On the Streets I Ran
10. To Me You Are a Work of Art
11. I Just Want to See the Boy Happy
12. At Last I Am Born