Unexpectedly satisfying addition to the singer's canon
Well now, here's a difficult one. In times of easy, internet-assuaged polarisation of debate, the story of Morrissey appears to be a simple one. With his unselfconscious and relentless contrarianism, his bullish Brexiteering and his ill-judged public joke (was it a joke?) which fused the UKIP leadership race and a conspiracy theory looking for a home, the 58-year-old has gleefully waded into the role of elderly, out of touch pariah. Whether his core fans believe this to be the case, we'll discover when the album arrives later this month, but millennials appear largely unmoved by his words.
The trouble is, this follow-up to 2014's World Peace is None of Your Business bears many powerful, personal moments, each further complicated and enlivened by the singer's well-developed sense of the ambiguous. 'Society's hell / you need me just like I need you', he declares on the flagrant, brassy opener 'My Love I'd Do Anything For You', setting out his stall as the imperfect arbiter of ugly times; 'I Wish You Lonely' fires off a full volley at the rich and those who serve them; the increasingly catchy 'Spent the Day in Bed' rails against the news media, a narrow target for a commendable don't-believe-everything-you-read message.
The ambiguity isn't always the case, yet those who recoil at Morrissey's increasingly fervent politicisation will find few reasons to be put off by obtuse tub-thumping here. 'They say presidents come, presidents go / but all the young people, they must fall in love', he swoons over a folksy rhythm on 'All the Young People Must Fall in Love', a devil-may-care exhortation to ignore Trump, while the foreboding, brass and synth-driven 'Who Will Protect Us From the Police?' is an unlikely Black Lives Matter anthem.
Most controversially, his views on the Israel/Palestine conflict are an open book, yet still he and his band manage to veil 'The Girl From Tel Aviv Who Wouldn't Kneel' behind a pretty, piano-led arabesque in which he glides over heavy-handed moral accusations to lament the fate of a region where 'the land weeps oil'; and if 'Israel's patronising lyrical tone (it's musically gorgeous, however) seems ill-judged, it arrives in the context of his keeping himself admirably in check elsewhere. Almost despite itself – and its creator – this is an intriguing and often satisfying addition to Morrissey's canon.
Out Fri 17 Nov on BMG/Etienne.