Low in High School – album review
Morrissey has always been one of the most controversial figures in the music industry since we met him during 1982 when he was the frontrunner of the band The Smiths. 35 years later, he’s back with his 11th solo album Low in High School. Mercifully, the title itself shows us that perhaps there will be a spark of the old, witty Morrissey that fans are familiar with. In true Morrissey fashion, this album has divided critics and caused controversy in the music world. Whilst it’s predicted the album will sell, the very nature of Morrissey’s contentious views means the album could not have been released at a worse time; particularly regarding his views on recent sexual assault allegations in the media. That being said, Morrissey’s music still remains popular amongst its consumers and he has stayed relevant for over 3 decades. His latest album presents us with a new twist on his familiar sound and unique voice.
It is a shame then, that this album is not the music that Morrissey once made. What had the potential to be great music is spoilt by unnecessary spite. Granted there are hints at the past and there is a sense of familiarity – for example, promotion of this album has been completely overshadowed by his inclination to state his rather controversial views in interviews. Recently he revealed in a podcast that he thought the UKIP leadership contest was rigged so that Anne Marie Waters – an openly anti-Islam candidate – couldn’t win. This attitude of supporting anti-Islam views is quite blatantly stated in the closing song of the album, Israel. With its questionable lyrics such as “And they who reign abuse upon you/They are jealous of you as well” It’s no wonder that Moz’s attempt to address the Israeli conflict has been met with some heavy criticism. If we all implied that the people who criticised Israel’s actions are simply “jealous” the world would be an even bigger mess than it already is. If nothing else, Morrissey may have managed to achieve the honour of saying the most ridiculous public statement on the Arab – Israeli conflict to date.
Elsewhere on the album, there is still this level of spite and controversy. For example, there is the 7 minute long I Bury the Living in which Morrissey mocks a soldier and then when he is shot sneers at his bereaving mother. Arguably the song could be read in a different way – some have argued that here Morrissey is trying to reiterate the ‘hate the war, support the troops’ mindset. Although, with lyrics such as “You can’t blame me, I’m just a sweet little soldier…give me an order, I’ll blow up yer daughter” it isn’t hard to see where the confusion has come in. It’s the way he sings it too – slowly, almost sneering – that has caused the confusion. Who is Moz sneering at? Is it the solider and his mother? Is it the government? Does he give any concern to the civilian victims of war? I guess only Morrissey himself would be able to tell us that.
Unlike Low in High School, I do not want to end on a wholly negative note. Dotted around the album there are lyrics which give a flash of what Morrissey’s early music used to stand for – “I’m not my type” in I Wish You Lonely shows evidence of self-reflection and perhaps even self-criticism. In fact, the whole song could easily be a nod towards Moz trying to work out what his real problem is. In My Love, I’d do anything for you the lyrics “We all go our own ways/Separately in the same direction/And here am I every night of my life always missing someone” offer a bittersweet outlook on what it means to grow up. It shows that although we all progress through life we leave our friends behind in the hopes of a good career or a better life. Ultimately though we always look to the past and still end up missing someone we once held close.
Morrissey’s 11th solo album, Low in High School is out now.