You Are The Quarry


t does seem that anyone expecting a balanced, accurate, impartial review of a Morrissey album, from a UK resident in 2004 at least, is going to be sorely disappointed. Two generations of British music listeners have invested far too much time, energy, and emotion onto The Smiths and their music, be it positive or negative, and as such we expect a return on our investments. A such, You Are The Quarry can be seen as some sort of musical Rorschach that people can project onto whatever views of the man they’ve held over these past twenty years or so. As a result, critical reaction to this album will probably be split between those who are going to pretend that this comes on like a 12-track The Queen Is Dead redux, and those who’ll hallucinate that the inlay art features Morrissey wearing a white hood lynching mute Bengalis.

Problem being, Morrissey himself hasn’t helped matters much by giving us an album so… bland. Bland may be the wrong word, for what You Are The Quarry can be said to be is an album that has a great quantity of gaping holes in it. Cynics may well claim that all Morrissey albums contain a hole in them, and that hole is in the shape of a Mr. J Marr, but, witticisms aside, there was a definite buzz around the campfire that this album would be “it”, the comeback, the return to form. We hate it when our friends are unsuccessful, and, as such, Morrissey’s new label home of Sanctuary have been trading in on the anticipation this album has received, surely the biggest pre-publicity for any of his entire career. Thus, Steven Patrick has had his mug all over the place these past 28 days: the NME, Esquire, Mojo, Time Out, Radios 1, 2, 6, Virgin, XFM… they’ve all been getting their pound of bequiffed flesh to plug this album. His cachet is so high at the moment than only the potty mouthed bickering of Eamon and his missus could keep “Irish Blood, English Heart” off of the number one spot. We all took a great intake of breath, laid the red carpet down for the man… and he responded by taking a large shit at the bottom of it.

Let’s look at the positives on this album. All two of them. Firstly, the single, “Irish Blood, English Heart” has at its very core a kind of St. Patrick’s Day promotion on Jamieson mentality, a variant of patriotism that seemingly only manifests itself in people when England have been safely knocked out of the World Cup. Standout lyrical confuddlement about Oliver Cromwell and royalism aside, this is where new Moz producer Jerry Finn continues his maturation of sound that’s been evident on Blink 182’s recent work, a radio friendly approach to the grandiose, indeed, this can be looked at as an elder, gaunter brother of “I Miss You”, with The Nightmare Before Christmas replaced by Andy Capp. That’s one thing to get excited about.

The other thing is pinnacle OMGWTFLOL track “First of the Gang To Die”. Beginning as it does with a beautiful reference to Starship’s “We Built This City On Rock and Roll”, it pairs one of those kitchen sink epistolaries that the man is so beloved of to a 1997 style indie backing—all high ass frets and weird keyboard sweeps. His voice manages to hold up to the task as well, no mean feat considering, as he verily swoops all over the track, hitting all areas required. Indeed, if this is the second single, he’s looking at another couple of weeks in the top 10.

And then… the rest of the album. Opener “America Is Not The World” kicks it on some hopelessly ignorant sixth form political tip, as the Americans get cussed down hard for being overweight (oh, the irony), and because the “president is never female, black, or gay” (as long as he’s not Pakistani, hey Moz?). The intense ineptitude of it is enough to make you wonder who Morrissey’s spiritual antecedents in modern music actually are, because, listening to these lyrics (the backing isn’t going to hold your attention at all, so there’s no need to worry about that), all you can think of is that fucking Travis tune about the war.

Oh god, I’ve just realised: he’s the English Beastie Boys.

The biggest problem is that, despite how lacklustre a group of session musicians he’s surrounded himself with, he appears to be writing music for virtuosos, which his new bandmates are clearly unable to play. So, whereas back in the day if he dropped the lyrical ball for a few seconds it could be disguised by Johnny playing some riff he nicked from the 70s on a capo, here we get… well, The Thrills. Or Keane. Or Starsailor. Anodyne, “real music for real people”.

What the man, and his fans (as in a fan of him, not his music) have is a massive desire to be popular combined with an inordinate fear of being pop. Here, he’s somehow managed to combine both preposterousness and anonymity—he’s a man who doesn’t live in the real world commenting on it. Particular nadir, “The World Is Full of Crashing Bores”, with its lazy LA Rock 101 chordery, is a prime example. He bemoans “Lock-jawed pop stars / Thicker than pig shit who are/ So scared to show intelligence lest it smear their lovely career”, seemingly unaware that Britain’s current biggest pop star is a gay left-leaning politics graduate, or that the biggest hit of last year equated American governmental institutions with the Ku Klux Klan. Combined with the strain of misogyny that runs through it (“policewomen/ uniformed whores”), it just makes the man… well, as the legendary Viz headline wisely put it: “IT’S OFFICIAL: MORRISSEY IS A TWAT!”.

Twat he may be, but in the past that wasn’t any barrier to his music, indeed, one can forgive the lyrics to “November Spawned A Monster” because of how simply great it is. Nowadays, though, we’re being sold a package, as cynical and staged as the Cowell-acolytes that Morrissey seems to be bashing in every interview he does nowadays. Personality has overtaken the music, which is no problem when the personality is an engaging one, but here all that happens is that Morrissey builds walls between himself and the listener, and then, on traditional “me and me against the world” finisher “You Know I Couldn’t Last”, throws water bombs over it at us. But, of course, people will allow themselves to be taken for a ride with this, Morrissey’s public want what Morrissey’s public get.

Of course, anyone expecting a new Smiths album from this was always going to be disappointed. However, anyone expecting a good album from it is going to be disappointed as well. What we have is a man entering middle age, motivated solely by vengeance, and no desire to make good music any more. Yep, we hate it when our friends are AOR.

Reviewed by: Dom Passantino

Reviewed on: 2004-05-18

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Posted 05/18/2004 - 02:02:51 AM by edwardo:
 Great review - exactly my thoughts as I listen to it, although not being an enormous Smiths fan, it's pretty much of the expected quality. Ah well, one assumes the NEXT one will be "it", whatever this nebulous "it" may be.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 08:09:31 AM by bubster:
 His name's "Steven Patrick", not "Stephen Patrick". Although it's not his best album, your assumption that Moz "is a man entering middle age, motivated solely by vengeance, and no desire to make good music any more" is pure stupidity. He is still full of passion and desire.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 08:29:36 AM by Kareem_Estefan:
 I wasn't interested in the album at all, but this is a great review.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 08:31:27 AM by hometapes:
 "irish blood, english heart"...not "english blood, irish heart"... not a big deal, i suppose......... i wish blink 182 wrote songs like shreds.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 10:02:38 AM by todd_burns:
 the above mentioned factual errors have been corrected. apologies.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 12:48:52 PM by fac51x:
 Nothing like an unbiased review, is there? I don't think this reviewer has a problem with the record so much as he has a problem with the man. It's rather clear in jabs like "as long as he’s not Pakistani, hey Moz." That racist tag is so old and unfounded. Hell, even the NME gave up on it. The reviewer is completely missing the point by reminding us that "Britain’s current biggest pop star is a gay left-leaning politics graduate, or that the biggest hit of last year equated American governmental institutions with the Ku Klux Klan." Two artists does not an enlightened pop landscape make. The point is that the vast majority of pop stars around now are vapid, industry-created crap. And how convenient it is to omit lyrics to support a mysoginy claim. The line is "policewomen, policemen, silly women, taxmen - uniformed whores." If my math is correct, he's implicated men and women equally. It's not a perfect record, but I'd suggest it's a fine return to form (at least of his solo career).
Posted 05/18/2004 - 01:05:03 PM by DomPassantino:
 "I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely" Morrissey.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 03:02:03 PM by d.a.boyfriend:
 I think his point was that you are reviewing the person not the record. The fact that you pulled that quote only further illustrates Fac51x's point. It's totally fine in my book to be biased, but at least admit to it.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 04:10:09 PM by yoshi4:
 the person and the record should be the same thing, besides look at the quote... The issue of bias doesn't even come into it, shit music is shit music, especially old twats who think they're relevant writing corny lyrics to protest at some shit theyre not even sure if they believe in whilst living equally hypocritical lifestyles in numerous other ways. didnt u guys in the UK see him on jonathan ross actin like hes the greatest moral human alive cos hes a "vegetarian!!" im guessing that shitty arrogance comes thru in the music which from what ive heard is cheesy, clumsy and careless. morrisey- prick- end of discussion.
Posted 05/18/2004 - 04:47:14 PM by NickSouthall:
 While I don't believe that art and artist are inseperable (nor should they be), Steven Patrick Morrissey's entire artistic career has been about who he is and what he thinks and how he feels, and thus it's not only incredibly difficult but also rather pointless to try and review his work without considering your opinion of the man as well.
Posted 05/19/2004 - 05:15:11 AM by jroarty:
 read dom passantino's other piece (also on stylus) "2003 year end thoughts - the smiths disco," for priceless idiocies such as "morrisey's gay and hates blacks." dear reviewer, it is you, and not morrissey, who is the twat. i could twist what you've written around to smear you as homophobic and anti-british, but that would be idiotic and unfair, about as idiotic and unfair as what you've written about morrissey. it's upsetting that some of this site's readers will no doubt slurp up whatever slanderous shit you spew, but your lack of credibility and integrity is transparent and shines through here and elsewhere. did andy rourke and mike joyce pay you well for this?
Posted 05/19/2004 - 08:01:02 AM by spankyczp:
 I was looking forward to this CD, hoping for lyrical wit and charm that I know Moz is capable of writing, songs full of beautiful tunes that I know Moz is capable of singing, backed with captivating musical compositions that I know Moz is capable of selecting and producing, but instead, I got some of the worst lyrics Morrissey has ever written, typical of something a bi-polar 15 year old with a bad attitude could ink. The tunes are mundane and repetitive; made worse by the awful lyrics. Probably the only thing I actually enjoy about the CD is the instrumentation and the production. It is such a shame that Moz had to go and ruin it all!
Posted 05/20/2004 - 10:40:33 AM by sup_sonic:
 Well, it takes a twat to review one. Nice job though. Also, glad to see Stylus’s unyielding commitment to sloppy journalism isn't going anywhere fast. It's particularly difficult to misspell the last name of a key member of the band you are actually reviewing, so bonus slop points to Dom's partner in bombastic writing, Ms Clem Bastow, for her Who piece.
Posted 05/21/2004 - 08:13:58 AM by NickSouthall:
 You can always not read us if you don't like us, sup_sonic.
Posted 05/21/2004 - 11:52:20 PM by jrothman:
 Well, I agree with this review inasmuch as I agree that the record is not an '8.9' or whatever Pitchfork gave it. But I think they have the right tack -- you're taking Morrissey too seriously if you're getting offended by his lyrics and expecting real political commentary. Morrisssey is not Radiohead; he's not supposed to be serious. He's always been intentionally fey, irritating, unpitiable, and amazing at the same time. His schtick is over-the-top absurdity coupled with beautiful tunes. It all depends on how smart you think Morrissey is. If you think he's a dumbass -- as you obviously do -- then you hear "America Is Not The World" and you think, what an ass. If you think he's smart -- which he obviously is -- you see that the song is ironic. It's about the usual contradiction in Morrissey's lyrics, which is that you hate and you love at the same time. You hate America and love it, you hate your lovers and you love them, you hate England but you love it, you hate yourself but you love yourself. You love pop music and popularity but you hate other people and hate yourself for hating. This has always been obvious, it's always been his theme, and if you're not seeing that in the record then you're not seeing the record. You can quote Morrissey's crazy comments left and right, but the man's life is about performance and he's always performing. The reason his songs have always struck a chord is that he's such a poser -- and then you hear the melody and you know he's sincere. If you're remembering a 'sincere' Smiths than you're misremembering what that band and that decade were about in music. They were about glamour and nastiness combined. See "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out." In short: that was a pretty off-the-mark review. If you're going to review someone based on your broader perception of their career and personality, you ought to be sympathetic to that personality in the first place.
Posted 05/21/2004 - 11:54:03 PM by jrothman:
 Love your magazine, though - just not this review. Kesto is the business.
Posted 05/25/2004 - 11:27:44 PM by ManPacksEagle:
 Why are you talking about The Smiths? Morrissey has been a solo artist for SIXTEEN years. Are you still talking about the pound note? Those of us who are familiar with Morrissey's solo career know that he is a very dark pleasure. When he sings 'I've not been feeling myself tonight' it's a joke. When he sings 'You're the one for me, fatty - please say if I ever get in your way' -It's a joke. I know you know what a joke is because you talk about people missing Johnny marr. Morrissey is a class act – skewed, sardonic, opinionated, intelligent – there is no 'confuddlement' over Oliver Cromwell and 'royalism' as you claim, Cromwell is a reference to his army's vicious suppression of catholics in Ireland, something that someone with 'Irish blood' might well take issue with.
Posted 06/02/2004 - 06:43:28 AM by petebf2000:
 This is one of the worst reviews I've ever read. The reviewer is at least honest, conceding that writing a "balanced, accurate, impartial review of a Morrissey album" is not his intention. The reviewer seems to have an axe to grind with Morrissey's political views, and that's fine, but it's quite sad when it compromises your ability to write a review of an excellent album. "You are the Quarry" is a beautiful album, definitely one of his finest albums and fit to grace anyone's shelf of favourite albums - alongside the entire Smiths back catalogue, "Viva Hate" and "Vauxhall and I." Morrissey's solo career has been punctuated by lapses of concentration and inexplicable musical and lyrical failings from the great man, but "Quarry" is certainly not one of them: eclectic, adventurous and melodically soaring, this could easily be his finest album. Camp melodrama ("You Know I Couldn't Last" "How Can Anybody") sits alongside tender, distanced reflection on his lost home in Camden, poetic pop frivolity ("First of the gang") and a Smithsian impenetrable paean to oddly imagined lust "Let me kiss you" and the result is electrifying. I challenge anyone to listen to it a few times and not adore at least a few songs on here. I think one reason why journalists fail to get this album is, as well as the obvious lack of integrity shown by this particular journalist, they tend to listen to the album while "switched off" perhaps a couple fo tiems at most. "The Darkness" are critically acclaimed and so they'll listen to it once and hate it, twice and wish they were listening to aerosmith, thrice and want to bin it, four times and they start to tap their toes, five times and they quite like it you know, and so on and so forth. With Morrissey, however, it's fashionable to write him a right nasty review, which is, as we all know, the most enjoyable thing a music journalist could possibly do with a sunny May afternoon. They don't listen with open minds, they don't give the record a chance. That's why reviews like this are pointless.
Posted 06/02/2004 - 07:09:14 AM by petebf2000:
 Posted 05/18/2004 - 01:05:03 PM by DomPassantino: "I don't hate Pakistanis, but I dislike them immensely" Morrissey. According to Johnny Rogan, yes. Is it true? I don't know. According to somebody on this thread you used Morrissey's sexuality (like you know what he is) against him to ridicule his alleged political views (you claim he's anti-black). He alleges you are homophobic. Dom, you are henceforth to be considered a malicious little homophobic bigot. See how it works? Johnny Rogan's woefully inept book also claimed Morrissey had seen extraterrestrials and believed the government had covered this up, if I remember correctly. His evidence? Apparently in the 1990s, someone he interviewed, who barely knew Morrissey, told him Morrissey once said this in the 70s!
Posted 06/04/2004 - 02:13:44 AM by DiscoDove:
 Good to see old Moz is still creating debate... the only thing worse than being talked about is NOT being talked about, right? By the way - I love the album - Moz is back to his tongue-in-cheek best, and while the sound is not my favourite, his lyrics are on the mark, and his voice is as strong as ever. It's actually okay reading a bad review - I've read all the good ones I think, and it just makes me want to listen to the album even more. Cheers Dom!
Posted 06/04/2004 - 06:20:55 AM by fullofsmith:
 Morrissey's an artist. That's what you never ever may be capable to understand. You live of and you live for information. You're a 'burocrata' of life, an observer of what was done, a speaker of what was said. You're nothing. You and your comment are completely irrelevant, maybe not less than sh... but 'what difference does it make?' You exist because of those who build. Save yourself man, do something. Go to church (No, you better don't...) Do something with your hands, keep yourself busy! Just... don't know! Sh... I think you're lost. Maybe Morrissey have had written more poems than you reviews. Open your heart. Open your mind. Write something to us. Share. Say something, anything from you heart. Have an error. Would you? (Of course, i'm ashamed of my english. Sorry). Harry.
Posted 06/04/2004 - 02:26:55 PM by beastieboys:
 It's a very good album. I don't think it's the best solo work he's done, but it's a solid release. Up there with the best half a dozen albums of the year so far. Unfortunately your judgement seems to have been clouded by a personal dislike for Morrissey. PS: Kareem_ & edwardo wouldn't happen to be your alter egos would they?
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