'You Are The Quarry'
May 17 2004
Attack Records / Sanctuary
'You Are The Quarry,' the seventh solo studio album from Morrissey, will be released on the singer's own Attack imprint via his new deal with Sanctuary Records on May 17.
Recorded with producer Jerry Finn in London and Los Angeles, 'You Are The Quarry' is the singer's first new work for seven years, and is hotly anticipated following airing of some of the material on his triumphant homecoming UK gigs late in 2002.
Songs such as 'Irish Blood, English Heart' and 'The First Of The Gang To Die' have taken on near mythic status since they were first performed at Royal Albert Hall shows, which drove many in the venue to tears, not least among them Steven Patrick Morrissey.
In the spirit of this enduring and, many might say, freshly burgeoning fever around all things Morrissey, the 15,000 tickets for his recently announced birthday show in Manchester on May 22 (the first in the city of his birth for 12 years) sold out in just 84 minutes. It is with this mind that we come to 'You Are The Quarry.'
'You Are The Quarry' is Morrissey's most essential work since, at least, 'Vauxhall & I,' if not his debut 'Viva Hate' (if not ever). It is his first (including The Smiths albums) to be recorded in the studio as a band. This change was wrought by Jerry Finn (Blink 182, Green Day and AFI), who says: "Instead of trying to create the music around Morrissey's vocals, which is how it used to be done, we had everyone in the studio at the same time, which made the creative process much easier."
'You Are The Quarry' is also the first Morrissey album to be written since the singer with the perennial sense of not-belonging fetched up in California. Inevitably, this crops up. The album opens with 'America Is Not The World,' and we start as we mean to go on...
In a conflicted love letter to his new home - using words only he could have written - Morrissey doles out four verses of hilarious and heartfelt character assassination to his new found home (directed at all-points West and taking in cultural imperialism, over-consumption and racial/sexual intolerance), before concluding touchingly and seemingly genuinely, "I love you."
Thereafter comes the bracing two-and-a-half minutes of 'Irish Blood, English Heart,' a steel-toed kicking directed at the powers that be this side of the water. Unrepentant and unafraid, Morrissey dreams of time when "To be English is not to be baneful / To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful / Racist or partial," before going on to berate politicians of every hue, as well as the man who started it all, O. Cromwell, and, of course, her indoors at the palace.
The power of the piece, both musically and lyrically, is ferocious. It is hard to think of another song that manages to make its point with such breathtaking economy (it is all over bar the shouting come the two-minute mark). And, as precipitous guitars spiral high into the dizzying outro, you realise just why the song as gained the reputation it has.
And while we're slaying sacred cows of the establishment.... 'I Have Forgiven Jesus,' third song on the album, is pretty much guaranteed to wind up any authority figure not yet already upset. Herein, Morrissey forgives JC "for all the desire he placed in me / When there's nothing I can do with this desire," while later relating a diary which reads, "Monday: humiliation / Tuesday: suffocation / Wednesday: condescension / Thursday: is pathetic / By Friday life has killed me."
It is both classic comedy and desperately moving. No-one knows these feelings better than Morrissey. This is Morrissey. He doesn't do performance. He only does himself. And the rest of us can only stand around amazed and dumbfounded as we see ourselves reflected back in a way we'd maybe never care to acknowledge even existed. This is (arguably) the crux of Morrissey, he has always - in his own words - sung his life, and fortunately for us, he does it so we don't have to. We all, however, know exactly what he's talking about.
"Come Back To Camden" (his previous home for many years) is evocative and beautiful and somewhat grandiose. Within its verses Morrissey seems to outline the simple and inescapable fact of the impossibility of ever communicating to another person what we really mean. He sings "Your leg came to rest against mine / Then you lounged with knees up and apart / And me and my heart / We just knew / Forevermore." It is a pure and significant moment of existential pleasure.
Throughout 'You Are The Quarry' the open-hearted Morrissey is cast in opposition to the "uniformed whores" who stalk his existence. These make their named appearance in the form of "policewomen, policemen, silly women, taxmen" in 'The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores,' but are also briefly and hatefully glimpsed in 'How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?' in their "smelly uniforms," as well as the "magistrates who spend their lives hiding their mistakes" in the otherwise upbeat 'I Like You.'
'...Crashing Bores' also manages to pose the philosophical question "What really lies / Beyond the constraints of my mind?," before concluding it is nothing but "lock-jawed pop stars / Thicker than pig sh--" who are "So scared to show intelligence" lest it "smear their lovely career." And they say you mellow with age.
'The First Of the Gang To Die' hides within its achingly pretty and insistent tune a tale highlighting Morrissey's two-way fascination with California's Mexican youth culture. An obvious single, it details the demise of its impetuous anti-hero Hector and contains the brilliant lines "He stole from the rich / And the poor / And the not very rich / And the very poor." Ah, genius intact, then?
'All The Lazy Dykes' meanwhile is the album's dark sleeper. Mordant, melancholy and strangely heartbreaking, showing only hints of the provocative humour of the title. It seems to be about the liberation offered by Sapphism as opposed to the domestic servitude of being "just somebody's wife." Crucial philosophical line: "And when you look at me / You actually see me."
Closer, 'You Know I Couldn't Last,'starts with a colossal Ronson-esque riff, before settling into the delicate and smoky, 3:4 piano plink of the verses. This, however, is the proverbial calm before the storm, giving little indication of the violence of the coming chorus and its merciless lambasting of the processes and machinations of the fame industry. Canute-like, Morrissey stands against the tide of "evil legal eagles, accountants rampant, and every 'ist and every 'ism thrown [his] way." Before concluding somewhat ambiguously "But oh! The squalor of the mind." His, theirs, yours or mine? Only one person knows for sure, and he ain't telling.
In the middle 1990's Morrissey released a compilation of his work entitled 'The World Of Morrissey,' in reference to the tawdry MOR collections pedaled in the Sixties and earlier. In fact, as 'You Are The Quarry' once again reinforces, no-one has more right to describe a record as being a window on their "world" than Morrissey.
Analysis is, at the end of the day, only so much use. The rules of physics and the societal mores that govern the planet at large seem to have no unifying theory with the world of Morrissey. The complexity of his various loathings and self-loathings, and loves both spoken and unspoken, remains, as ever, impossible to pick apart.
But, as he says here with impeccable logic, "How can anybody possibly know how I feel? / When they are they / And only I am I." Somehow though, in being true only to his-self, Morrissey manages to be true to us too.
'You Are The Quarry'
America Is Not The World
Irish Blood, English Heart
I Have Forgiven Jesus
Come Back To Camden
I'm Not Sorry
The World Is Full Of Crashing Bores
How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?
The First Of the Gang To Die
Let Me Kiss You
All The Lazy Dykes
I Like You
You Know I Couldn't Last
Morrissey is backed on 'You Are The Quarry' by longtime collaborators Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte on guitars, and newer recruits Gary Day and Dean Butterworth on bass and drums respectively.
Attack Records is a Seventies reggae imprint acquired by Sanctuary along with their purchase of Trojan. Says Morrissey: "I've been a fan of the Attack label for quite some time. I have a Gregory Isaacs seven-inch on my refrigerator. I told Sanctuary that I wanted to re-launch the label and have 'You Are The Quarry' released on Attack and they agreed." Morrissey will also recruit and sign new talent to Attack.
--- from the official Morrissey website