It doesn’t matter what you call Morrissey, a dickhead or a visionary- he’s already been knighted every name in the book. The Smiths frontman’s departure from his first project saw him rise to musical prowess and descend into the controversies he’s found himself buried in. While some would call lead single Spent the Day in Bed the former, the fact that this album features songs titled Who Will Protect Us from the Police? And The Girl from Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel would suggest the latter. Moz truly is an enigma, and this is reflected massively in his new effort Low In High School.
Opening track My Love, I’d Do Anything For You reflects Morrissey’s personality right down to a tee- roaring guitars accompanied with trumpets to level the playing field to one of searing emotion and bold floatiness. The instrumentation on this track is enough to suggest that the band utilised on this album are underappreciated simply by not being included in the project’s name- the highlights of this album are definitely the instrumentals, and whether the ideas came from the main man himself, he does a disservice to his comrades by not allowing the project to fall under a name similar to Morrissey and the ______s (might “sadness” be suggested). While this song maintains a powerful melody and impactful punch throughout the majority of the runtime (safe for a guitar solo that can only be described as “shambles”) Morrissey’s vocals seem almost plastered on, and whether that be a mixing issue or just out of place melodies, it really does seem as though the backing band take the reigns here, not combatted by the lyrics on this track being a soft embrace, which completely defeats the aura of the song.
Morrissey is definitely regarded for his great lyricism throughout his career (particularly his earliest solo efforts) but he really falls away from this on Low In High School. While there are a few lines that make you think “I think I might actually be agreeing with this man”, the lyrics on this album can really be pitiful. He picks on deceased soldiers (“Tombs are full of fools who gave their lives upon command”), blowing up his own ego (“I rescued you in so many ways”) and gives his intensely uncomfortable sexual desires among death and destruction-riddled landscapes to his audience (“they tried to wipe us clean off the map/ and I just want my face in your lap”), and he really truly fails to make an impression, both to long-lasting fans who have supported his brilliant subtlety and to new young fans, who would love nothing more than to stop listening to a fifty-something-year-old rave about his sexual desires. It’s a shame that Morrissey has seemed to have lost his mojo, as his previous work, even as late as Years of Refusal has been a far step up in terms of intelligent writing. Despite this, a lyrical high point of Low in High School is hidden in the finale track Israel, in which Moz confesses his contempt for the restrictions Christianity gives to its following. Alongside his well-versed chimes, a harrowing piano plays amongst large bassy hits. As an album closer, it brings pure melancholy to an album that served as something of a disappointment to a dramatic head.
Some tracks like lead single Spent the Day In Bed and Home is a Question Mark (safe for uncomfortable wording) stand out as pretty good tracks for very different reasons, which lets on that Moz still has some flair left in him. Yet unfortunately, the album itself trips and falls over itself to such a degree that Low in High School may stand as a pretty big low point in Morrissey’s career (ironically). It cannot be said enough that the man still has some vocal prowess to show off, but his songwriting truly has taken a nosedive. And while I wouldn’t like to see the man throw in the towel just yet, as he still has more to show, he really hasn’t proven himself this time around, which really is a shame. Here’s hoping it doesn’t take him another century to release another album, hopefully in which he can better prove his worth.
A couple of good tracks hidden away here but for the most part a little messy. Sad times for the sad man :(