It’s the Music, Stupid

By: José Manuel Simián

The most obvious way to get into any Morrissey album is through his lyrics. And from that perspective, World Peace Is None of Your Business, is a mixed bag. Moz takes a turn for blunter verses, which sometimes can come off as too obvious (“She just wants a slave/ To break his back in pursuit of a living wage” he sings in the marriage-bashing “Kick the Bride Down the Aisle”). And yes, it’s easy to make fun of the weaker corners of Morrissey’s work (or his persona, for that matter), but putting a magnifying glass on such details seems terribly myopic. For many years now, it’s clear that the man is on a larger artistic quest, and that he’s started producing albums the way painters keep adding new layers to their style with each work. For all his diva moments, beyond his famous hair and beneath the surface of his lyrics, his message has always been about not really caring what anyone else thinks—about doing it his way.

And this time around, his way has more to do with creating an album that is more musically vibrant than any of his recent efforts—one in which the whole world is his canvas. And after the classic roaring guitars of the opening title track, he is off: the staccato-like guitars of the ode to the Beats “Neal Cassady Drops Dead” are a brilliant match to his virulent deliverance (“Everyone has babies / Babies full of rabies / Rabies full of scabies / Scarlet has a fever”), and then, when you least expect it, a Spanish guitar kicks in for an mellow interlude.

From then on, World Peace... keeps rolling as a thoroughly enjoyable ride, one in which the weight of the songs seem to be carried equally by the music and the verses. Take for instance “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet”: the title may promise the kind of complains you expect from Morrissey on a gray day, but the Mediterranean drums, the Euro-disco organ and the accordion break give it an unexpected weight, one that can stand up to some of his best compositions. The same thing goes for “Kiss Me a Lot,” an otherwise forgettable composition (“Kiss me a lot, kiss me a lot / Kiss me all over my face”) that gains a playful life thanks to some faux-flamenco flourishes (Spanish guitar, handclaps, castanets).

It is a triumph, but not in the way some people expect. If you’re wondering if it’s better than Viva Hate, you’re asking the wrong question. And if you think “The Bullfighter Dies” is just a song about animal rights, then you haven’t been paying attention. We want the bull to survive so he can keep on not giving a damn.

LOGISTICS: World Peace Is None of Your Business by Morrissey, available now

José Manuel Simián is the Executive Editor of Manero. He used to be a lawyer and is probably listening to Bob Dylan as you read this.