Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Morrissey 8: Southpaw Grammar

Morrissey never hid his love of glam rock from his own work, so it should be no surprise that art-rock wasn’t far behind. Southpaw Grammar lets the band—the same as the last few albums, except a rotating rhythm section—bash through eight songs, with a big Steve Lillywhite production.

Based around a sample from a Shostakovich symphony, “The Teachers Are Afraid Of The Pupils” is very much a dirge that at least gets some energy once the drums kick in, and runs a total of eleven minutes. “Reader Meet Author” is a tightly packed rock tune that skewers critics, not noticing for a second that he’s calling the kettle black. “The Boy Racer” is even louder and angrier, and seems to resent the new brand of Britpop bands taking his place in people’s ears, but we could we be reading way too much into it. “The Operation” begins with a two-minute drum solo that’s more rhythmic than virtuostic, until the song itself takes over, another nasty kiss-off. (It goes into a completely different rave-up for the last two minutes.)

“Dagenham Dave” is seemingly a portrait of a typical working-class lout, but it’s hard to tell since the verses are spare and the chorus merely repeats the title ad infinitum. “Do Your Best And Don’t Worry” is the closest thing yet to a Morrissey pep talk, whereas “Best Friend On The Payroll” is even more minimalist in its lyrics, which is a shame since the melody is so catchy. (And quite honestly, who among his fans could relate to the struggles of employing a personal servant?) Finally, “Southpaw” is another lengthy one, mostly a showcase for guitar effects and pyrotechnics, coming to strange halt after ten minutes.

Southpaw Grammar is edgy and angry, perhaps too much. It’s not an album to get lost in, but it certainly rocks. He always defended it, of course. (Some 14 years later he saw fit to reissue the album in a dramatically revised format, with a completely different sequence, Bowie-inspired cover art, and four extra tracks.)

Morrissey Southpaw Grammar (1995)—3
2009 Expanded Edition: “same” as 1995, plus 4 extra tracks

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