[15 July 2014]
Long an easy target for criticism, Morrissey seems to have amped up the absurdity of his perceived persona to cartoonish proportions, gleefully baiting naysayers with a series of songs and lyrics that seem to exist solely to provoke a visceral response from his detractors. The trouble with this approach is that, in the process, you often alienate those who’ve stuck with you through the ups and downs, supporting your artistic detours, ill-advised rants and downright diva-esque behavior. Even his most ardent supporters will have a tough time backing up many of the lyrical absurdities throughout World Peace Is None of Your Business following years of tour cancellations and curmudgeonly ridiculous rants in the press.
To be sure, there’s a fine line between baiting your audience and flat-out insulting them. With World Peace Is None of Your Business, Moz makes it clear where he stands, making no bones about being just fine all alone, indicating he wouldn’t miss anyone here on Earth were he to die and vice versa. His social and political views have long been front and center, but never have they been delivered as tritely or in as simplistically sloganeering a manner as they are here.
Starting with the garish cover, Morrissey makes it clear he is in control, keeping from us the listeners that which we want most from him. A quick analysis of the image of Morrissey withholding a reward/treat from an obedient, undoubtedly salivating dog at his feet, indicates we will not be finding it here and he knows that, making a game out of it. This image then functions as a defiant mission statement of sorts, spelling out the idea the sole purpose of World Peace Is None of Your Business’s existence, from the title, cover and songs on down, is predicated on pissing off as many people as possible.
Once known for his lyrical profundity, with much of World Peace Is None of Your Business he makes a case for a reevaluation of this notion with the tossed off, juvenile rhyming couplets scattered throughout. On the absurd “The Bullfighter Dies”, the titular bullfighter “dies / and nobody cries / because we all want the bull to survive.” Elsewhere, on “Kiss Me a Lot”, he intones with little to no emotion, “kiss me all over my face… kiss me all over the place.”
But it only takes a quick glance at the track listing to get an idea of what one can expect from this latest offering from the former Smiths’ frontman. Along with the title track, “Earth Is the Loneliest Planet”, “Kick the Bride Down the Aisle” and “Staircase at the University” all sound like a bad sketch comedy’s idea of possible Smiths’ B-sides, spit-balling ridiculous titles and upping the absurdity with each idea thrown out there. Of these, only “Staircase at the University” comes close to replicating anything resembling the more favorable sound for which he is primarily known.
A bittersweet pop confection detailing the suicide of a young coed who found herself unable to live up to the expectations put forth by her domineering family and boyfriend, “Staircase at the University” distills the best elements of the Smiths and Morrissey’s previous solo work into what is by far the best track on the album and a sad reminder of just how good Morrissey could and can be when he’s at his artistic best. Thematically and musically it carries a timeless quality that far outshines the dated sounds and failed experiments that dominate the remainder of the album. On both the title track and “I’m Not a Man”, Morrissey eschews standard song intros in favor of comical tribal drums on the former and a Caretaker-esque field recording on the latter. While these are certainly new ideas for Moz, they seem, like the rest of the album, more weak attempts at profundity and relevance than any sort of true artistic strides.
As if its lyrical atrocities weren’t enough, much of World Peace Is None of Your Business plays like a mid-‘90s hard rock revival act with huge guitars and even bigger production. It’s at times the aural equivalent of a Michael Bay film as the tracks often stretch well beyond the five-minute mark as guitarists Boz Boorer and Jesse Tobias find themselves afforded plenty of room for distorted wanking and unnecessarily noodle-y bits. While 2004’s You Are the Quarry often trolled similar sonic waters with big, bombastic production and instrumentation, the overwhelming difference between the two albums is that Quarry had actual songs whereas World Peace is filled with silly political screeds and laundry lists of all the things he hates or finds infuriating. Were there not a number of well-documented instances of Morrissey espousing similar sentiments, it would be easy to pass this off as parody. Unfortunately it’s very much the real thing and, whether or not he wants anyone else to be in on it, the joke simply isn’t funny anymore.