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Is the End of Morrissey’s Career Nigh?
THERE are some well-known figures who you can…
PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/@officialmoz
always rely on to put their foot firmly in the mouth! Music is full of characters and those who are a bit outspoken but, when it comes to stirring real controversy and debate, Morrissey is pretty high on the list! It is not a particular good time in his camp right now. His covers album, California Son, has not received terrific reviews. There have been some scathing reviews but, among the less-venomous, this is what Pitchfork had to say:
“The choice between listening to a misanthropic relative telling you old stories they love or hearing them grouch at the news is a no-brainer, but that doesn’t make some of the sugariness easier to swallow: As hard as Morrissey tries, it’s difficult to enjoy a celebratory gambol with him down memory lane when it’s full of potholes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the gloomiest moments that come closest to winning you over, like when he turns Tim Hardin’s “Lenny’s Tune” into an exquisite elegy at a doomy cabaret bar, or when he makes Melanie’s “Some Say (I Got Devil)” sound like the darkly dramatic last stand of a vengeful titan. When you hear them, you could almost pretend it was the old days again, even though you know it can never be the same”.
It is not the most fertile and successful time of Morrissey’s solo career but, as he has been in the game for a long time, there are other albums ahead. It is not necessarily the quality of the music and his direction that is putting people off: it is his latest in a string of ill-judged moves that has courted a lot of reaction.
The Guardian take up the story:
“These days, however, Morrissey prefers a different kind of onstage provocation. During a recent performance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (and at a number of live shows in New York), the former Smiths singer sported a For Britain badge. For those unfamiliar with it, For Britain is a far-right political party. Even Nigel Farage believes it is made up of “Nazis and racists”.
Last year, his thoughts on #MeToo were no less inflammatory. Of Anthony Rapp, who accused Kevin Spacey of making sexual advances towards him when Rapp was 14 years old, he said: “One wonders if the boy did not know what would happen … When you are in somebody’s bedroom, you have to be aware of where that can lead.” Of the many female accusers of Harvey Weinstein, he said: “They play along. Afterwards, they feel embarrassed or disliked.” In today’s culture wars, Morrissey has clearly chosen his side – and there have been consequences. Posters for his new album, California Son, have been taken down by the train network Merseyrail. A guest vocalist on the record, Broken Social Scene’s Ariel Engle, told the Guardian she felt like she’d “been had” by the singer. A record store in Cardiff decided not to stockthe album, with its owner saying sales of his music had nosedived because “customers are saying they can no longer buy into his increasingly divisive politics, not even for ‘old times’ sake’”.
There is no denying that Morrissey knew what he was doing and was making a statement: that the country in which he lives is divided and, when people are choosing sides, his allegiance is with a far-right organisation.
Morrissey has never been afraid to speak his mind on a range of subjects; whether it is vegetarianism, politicians or the state of the nation. His latest move is not a wise or popular one and, when it comes to record stores around the U.K., our oldest has taken a stand. Stereogum reports how Spillers has stopped stocking Morrissey records:
“Spillers’ owner Ashli Todd told Wales Online, “I’m saddened but ultimately not surprised that Spillers is unable to stock Morrissey’s releases any longer. I only wished I’d done it sooner”.
That single quote is all you need to know: Morrissey is no longer welcome at Spillers and I would not be surprised to see other record stores doing the same – and boycotting his records in the future. We are getting used to Morrissey letting his mouth run away with him but I think you tolerate and accept a certain sense of outrage so long as he does not cross a line. That is a subjective measure but I think his ongoing support for the far-right is hard to come back from.
I know everyone is entitled to their political views but Morrissey’s defence of the far-right is not something that will give his fans heart. I have heard of people who once loved Morrissey soured by his continued controversy. It seems that, for many, he has pushed things too far and there is no real way back. One can also claim that, so long as the music is great, we can balance a bit of the bad into the equation. Even from the earliest days, Morrissey has provoked a certain fire but it seems, with age, there is no real limit to his ignorance and lack of judgement. It is surely very disheartening for his die-hard fans to see their hero tarred once more. One can hardly say Morrissey has been pressured and made a stupid comment he has since apologised for. His support of the far-right and figures like Tommy Robinson is something he believes in and has not apologised for. It has put his fans in a bad position. Do they continue to listen to his music or is it now too awkward and uncomfortable? It raises an argument regarding separating the musician from the music. I am a big fan of The Smiths and love Morrissey albums like Your Arsenal and Vauxhall and I. I can listen to his music but I would be reluctant to buy anything new from him. Also, regarding the man himself, I have lost an awful lot of respect and feel like Morrissey has tarnished his genius and brilliance.
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The Guardian piece I quoted earlier states that Morrissey is due for some criticism and investigation:
“It is hard not to agree that proper, forceful criticism of Morrissey is overdue. Yet perhaps it’s not surprising that many were hoping he was just, misguidedly, playing provocateur. In a piece for the Guardian in 2011, the author Sukhdev Sandhu wrote beautifully about how, as an “ordinary Asian” fan of the Smiths, the singer seemed to speak directly to him: “No one had ever come as close as Morrissey, the child of Irish Catholics, to expressing a poetics of second-generation migration. He sang about shame and unlovability; I had bloodied myself as a 12-year-old using a kitchen knife to scrape away what I saw as the tainting brownness of my skin – a brownness that made me only half a person, half the Englishman I wanted to be. He sang about loneliness and isolation; I was rarely invited to the homes of schoolfriends, and certainly never invited them to my mine, for fear that they would snigger at the photographs of turbaned relatives that lined its walls”.
His latest album shows that, for now at least, he does not hold a lot of sway and momentum. I do think it will take a lot of time before he is in the good books of fans and the media. Even if Morrissey does follow with an incredible album, are people going to disassociate his public persona with the man’s music? It does open up a debate but I think there is no denying that Morrissey’s popularity and appeal is waning.
I pose that question at the top of this article regarding Morrissey’s career and whether the end is coming. His loyal fanbase will always be behind him and it will take a nuclear bomb of controversy before they turn away. I think, for the rest of us, we cannot really overlook and forgive a man who supports division, racism and discrimination. His music will never go out of circulation but I think, now, he has lost the ear and respect of so many out there. I think all iconic songwriters should set a good example to the new generation but, with Morrissey backing right-wing politicians, should musicians aspire to be like the northern star? One cannot deny the strength of Morrissey as a lyricist but his ever-increasing sense of self-destruction and irresponsibility leads me to feel that he is not the sort of artist we should be proffering and putting on a platform right now. I do think that there is a sense that things have changed. Even if Morrissey produces a cracking album next, I think there is still that bad taste in the mouth that means fewer people will listen to and support his music. How many young fans will go and see him in concert – knowing his political allegiance – and, for those who do, will they be subjected to Morrissey’s unpredictable and often-erratic remarks?! One could and should never ban a musician and silence them but I do not think we can overlook Morrissey and what he is throwing out into the world right now.
If some long-time Morrissey fans are scrapping their membership, it seems that his former Smiths bandmate, Johnny Marr, is not concerned the music they left behind is going to be tainted. Metro report the news:
“But his former bandmate Johnny Marr isn’t worried about the affect Morrissey’s political leanings will have on The Smiths’ legacy. The guitarist and songwriter told NME: ‘I don’t think you can change history. I’ve said that before. I’m not worried. It’s got nothing to do with my world or my life. The songs are out there for people to judge, relate to and hear. I think that’s all going to be forgotten in a few weeks, as these things inevitably are – for better or worse. It’s always been that way”.
After comments regarding Kevin Spacey and Harvey Weinstein, Liverpool Rail removed posters promoting Morrissey’s latest album – something that the man himself was disappointed about:
“This led to Liverpool’s public transport network removing posters for Morrissey’s new album California Son, following complaints. Morrissey told Music News: ‘It’s very Third Reich, isn’t it? And it proves how only the feelings of the most narrow-minded can be considered within the British Arts. We are not free to debate, and this in itself is the ultimate rejection of diversity … I am afraid we are living through The Age of Stupid, and we must pray that it passes soon”.
Morrissey does not make things easy for himself but one can say that he has always been this way. Personally, I think Morrissey will always have a place in music – one cannot discount his legacy and what he has provided over the past three-and-a-bit-decades. I do think that, with a lot of former supporters looking elsewhere, many are fed up and have lost patience. I used to hold a lot of love for Morrissey but I feel, with every passing year, he is backing himself into a corner – one he will struggle to come out from. One wonders just what Morrissey will say next and what problem will arise. When an artist is in the press more for their remarks and bad sides – and less for their music – it does suggest that people’s patience is…
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STARTING to wear thin.