Sunday, May 7, 2006

Morrissey-Ringleader Of The Tormentors

Who would have thought that by moving to Los Angeles, as in Los Angeles California, Morrissey would have found some kind of prolific inspiration that has enabled him to produce some of his best work of this solo career. “You Are The Quarry” sparked the return of Morrissey to relevance. So what happens when he moves from Los Angeles to Italy? Listen, if he can return to relevance in Los Angeles, then a move to Italy probably won’t detract from his progression. What’s of deeper concern is that Morrissey has reportedly found love in Italy, and as we all know, Morrissey is seldom happy about anything. At least on record.
“Ringleader of the Tormentors” finds Moz teamed up with Tony Visconti and the results are magnificent. Whereas his work with the late Mick Ronson found Morrissey channeling Mick’s glam heritage, this effort with Visconti, the mastermind of some of glam’s most important albums by Bowie and Bolan, finds the team going beyond the genre’s narrow scope. They get a little help with some great orchestration from Ennion Morricone, who is best known as the man who helped score many of Sergio Leone’s spaghetti western movies.
Happiness hasn’t affected Morrissey’s outlook much; he’s still as miserable as ever but he’s delivering the morose with lyrics that are more to the point. And the point is this: he has found that in this world of shit, there’s nothing sweeter than love.
“I once was a mess/of guilt because of the flesh” he admits on “At Last I Am Born.” And it’s love that has suppressed his Catholic guilt (to an extent) and it’s love that has finally, metaphorically, transformed him into a….middle aged gay man. Is his sexuality really relevant? I suppose not, but it does explain a lot of things and when you take this into consideration you’ll see that “Ringleader of the Tormentors” is Morrissey at his most honest, his most randy, and his most flamboyant album in his career.
“There are explosive kegs/between my legs” he admits on “Dear God Please Help Me,” one of the album’s most talked about tracks. Whereas on previous Morrissey songs where he sang about restraint, it seems that now he’s ready to let his proverbial load go and is contending with years of religious teachings that made him ashamed of his sexuality. It’s refreshing to hear him backpedaled from the “celibate” tag (which placed him as more of a deity than rock star) and demonstrate that he is, like we knew all along, human like the rest of us.
“Ringleader of the Tormentors” does have a few distractions: “In The Future When All’s Well,” “I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero Now” and “To Me You Are A Work Of Art” sound like standard-issue solo Morrissey. They’re the type of songs that make people continue to wish for that never-gonna-happen Morrissey/Marr reunion; there the type of songs that make you wish Morrissey would have tried just a little bit harder to make “R.O.T.T.” into that landmark album that actually rivals the worst of The Smiths catalog.
There are moments when it gets close: “Life Is A Pigsty,” the album’s epic, starts with a subtle groove until finally giving way to a wash of orchestration and bombastic timpani. While repeating the song title over and over, Moz states “In the final hour of my life/I’m falling in love again.” And if this righteous fellow can admit that and continue to challenge his own muse in the process, then all we can do is rejoice in the fact that he finally popped his cherry. Or “kegs” as the song goes.

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