It would be wrong, and a little lazy, to say that Steven Morrissey is a bit like Marmite, because he’s surely a lot more more divisive and strong-flavoured than that. Even people who consider themselves admirers, fans and possibly even friends of the Mancunian mouthpiece must wince at the controversial things he’s quoted as saying from time to time, usually when speaking about animal welfare issues. Naturally, it is his unique view of the world, combative mind and razor sharp tongue which all combine to make an artist who is capable of writing some of the best lyrics of his generation and very seldom produces anything that could be labelled as uninteresting. A new Morrissey album is always an event and “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”, Moz’s tenth solo album since The Smiths broke up and his first on the iconic Harvest label, is one of the strongest records he has made. The material on the album was co-written by Morrissey and stalwart co-songwriter Boz Boorer, as well as half a dozen songs with guitarist Jesse Tobias, a collaborator since “Ringleader Of The Tormentors”, and a handful with piano, organ and keys player Gustavo Manzur, so this record is quite the team effort.
Pleasingly, there are quite a few excellent compositions on this album, which begins with the musically dramatic title track, a scathing assessment of world politics and the control exerted over the people by those who hold the power. The lyrics subscribe to the viewpoint recently expressed by Russell Brand; “Each time you vote/you support the process”. It’s an excellent piece to listen to if you want to get angry about the disenfranchisement of the electorate by stealth, but offers no solution, just a talking point. The brash “Neal Cassady Drops Dead” features the kind of lyrics, referencing people from the sixties beat generation, which could easily have come from a Smiths album. “I’m Not A Man” challenges the stereotypes of being a ‘real man’ and ends up being a defiant statement of Morrissey’s own uncompromising individuality, not being able to resist including an anti-meat-eating jibe. The instrumental ending seems to veer into Suede’s “New Generation” at one point, although it’s not clear whether that was at all intentional, as the entire song seems to have the feel of that particular band. “Istanbul” is a startlingly good composition too, lyrically hard-hitting with an excellent vocal performance. One of the stand-out tracks for me is “Staircase At The University”, a classic Morrissey composition of melodrama, failed expectations and a deliciously delivered punchline (a joke as old as time itself, but wholly brilliant as part of this song) together with a lush, upbeat soundtrack; this is a Smiths-quality piece.
Even those who aren’t perhaps as fervent as Steven about animal issues can cheer along with “The Bullfighter Dies”, something most people will be able to agree with him about. Slightly more controversial is “Kick The Bride Down The Aisle” which borders on misogyny, warning the potential groom against the person who wishes to “lazy and graze” on his “living wage”. I’m not entirely convinced these sentiments reflect the society we’re living in right now and it is a pity that the message of the song appears to be more than a little dated. The bonus disc on the deluxe edition has a few songs which are easily good enough to have been included on the main album, especially “Drag The River” and the fantastic “Forgive Someone”, so it’s well worth paying that little extra for that little more Morrissey. Although not everything on the album is gold, it is, on the whole, an excellent, creative, highly listenable piece of work. My reservations about “Kick The Bride Down The Aisle” aside, the only serious misfire on the album is “Earth Is The Loneliest Planet”, which is musically pedestrian and lyrically veering towards self-parody; it is the least inspired track on offer here. The vast majority of “World Peace Is None Of Your Business”, however, is inspired, and is the work of an artist who has plenty left to say, whist still managing to find interesting, intelligent and witty ways to say it.
Morrissey’s “World Peace Is None Of Your Business” was produced by Joe Chiccarelli and is out now on multiple formats, including a deluxe edition, on Harvest Records.
Andy Sweeney, 17th July, 2014.