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Barry Egan: Barking Mozzer hasn't lost his bite


Steven Patrick Morrissey

Steven Patrick Morrissey

Steven Patrick Morrissey

In 1984, The Special AKA sang, "If you have a racist friend, now is the time for your friendship to end." Discuss in relation to the godlike genius that once was Steven Patrick Morrissey...

Last year, provocatively, during a performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in front of 10 million people watching at home on US primetime TV, Morrissey wore a badge that proclaimed "For Britain", promoting the far-right political party which even that gentle egalitarian Nigel Farage said was made of "Nazis and racists".

The former lead singer of The Smiths then made a moronic and clearly racist statement about Sadiq Khan, London's first Muslim mayor, to the effect that he "cannot talk properly", as well as also saying just as moronically that "Even Tesco wouldn't employ Diane Abbott", in reference to the shadow home secretary.

So, should I feel profound self-disgust by enjoying Morrissey's new album, I Am Not a Dog On a Chain? Possibly. I know the man is barking (pun intented.) Despising Moz for his barf-making, poisonous views yet being drawn to his wordsmithery and vocal guile is a weird schizophrenia. Maybe it is nostalgia for the man we remember yet know is long gone that is warping our critical faculties?

Whatever it is, the Mancunian Enoch Powell is getting his best reviews in decades. "As great as anything he has ever written," declares the Telegraph; "best album in years (if you can tune out his opinions)", professes NME.

His 13th solo album is not remotely a patch on 1992's Your Arsenal or 1994's Vauxhall and I, two classics of their time. But it is streets ahead of anything he has done over the last decade or so. The title track has echoes of Vicar In A Tutu, the indie music hall masterpiece about a cross-dressing clergyman from The Queen Is Dead album. What Kind of People Live in These Houses? sounds like his old mucker Johnny Marr wrote the music (sadly, he didn't.) Once I Saw The River Clean has echoes of Stop Me If You Think You've Heard This One Before (from The Smiths' final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come). On the indie jangle rock of Jim Jim Falls, Morrissey is at his most dark, singing: "If you're going to jump then jump… If you're going to run home and cry then don't waste my time."

In his 2013 memoir Autobiography, Morrissey wrote abut his "Dickensian" childhood in Manchester, teenage clinical depression, wishing himself dead. "Yet there comes a point when the suicidalist must shut it down if only in order to save face," he wrote in the book.

"I could only tolerate an afternoon if I took a triple amount of the stated dose of valium prescribed by my GP (who would soon take his own life)."

On the album's closing track, the beautifully titled My Hurling Days Are Done, he sings: "Time, no friend of mine." Does Morrissey have any friends left?

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