Issue:  Vol. 48 / No. 3 / 18 January 2018

From the jaws of the Moz

Out There

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Liner notes to the new Morrissey album "Low in High School" (Etienne) tell us it's "dedicated to Dick Gregory (1932-2017)." The African-American comedian and civil rights activist seems a worthy dedicatee, though his connection to the Moz remains obscure.

In an unkind remark, Magnetic Fields frontman Stephin Merritt once opined of Morrissey's solo work something to the effect that (and we're paraphrasing here), "His lyrics are so good, it's a shame they're set to music that's such shite." True, there's usually nothing very inspired in the songs' generic bar-band accompaniment. But there are always gems hidden in the lyric sheet, and in this new album they include:

"Exit, exit, everybody's heading for the exit." – from "Jacky's Only Happy When She's Up on the Stage."

An interior monologue from the point of a soldier: "If you wonder what's in my head,/ It's just a hatred for all human life./ When I lose mine, my mother will say:/ 'He died doing the job he loved.'/ But I died with a bullet to the forehead! That wasn't the job I loved!" – from "I Bury the Living."

"All of my friends are in trouble,/ they're sorry, they're sick and they know/ All of my friends are in trouble,/ but there's no need to go into that now." And: "The American way/ displayed proudly/ is to show lots of teeth/and talk loudly." – from "The Girl from Tel Aviv Who Wouldn't Kneel."

Meantime the hills are no longer alive with celibate cries. The Moz finally seems to have embraced his erotic nature. "They tried to wipe us clean off the map/ and I just want my face in your lap." – from "In Your Lap." "Everything I know deserts me now/ When you open your legs." – from "When You Open Your Legs."

Still, the old, obstinate Morrissey hasn't left us. The very first line in the album's very first song is, "Teach your kids to recognize and despise all the propaganda/ filtered down by the dead echelons mainstream media." – from "My Love, I'd Do Anything for You." Really? Be skeptical of the media, sure. But despise? In favor of what, Breitbart? And what exactly are "dead echelons?"

Again, he's always happy to blame the media: "Stop watching the news!/ Because the news contrives to frighten you." – from "Spent the Day in Bed." So, do what? Exist in your own private bubble? Perhaps that works for the Moz, but the citizenship needs access to verifiable information on current affairs, presented with some sort of authority, aka "the news."

We're so sick and tired of unenlightened people, including our grotesque, atrocious president, blaming the media, blaming news organizations, blaming journalists for the bad news around us every day. We've heard people who work for mainstream Bay Area news organizations lament that there is so much "bad news" being reported. They want less negativity, more "happy news." Okay, most of these precious flowers work in TV news, but still, our point prevails.

"The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist." – Hannah Arendt, from "The Origins of Totalitarianism."

If we might quote a lyric from that great, late lamented rock band The Smiths, once fronted by Moz, "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate,/ It takes strength to be gentle and kind." – from "I Know It's Over" on The Queen Is Dead (1986).

The new album's players are Jesse Tobias (guitars), Gustavo Manzur (keyboards), Boz Boorer (guitars), Matthew Ira Walker (drums) and Mando Lopez (bass), "all of whom played many other instruments apart from the above." There's always something great on a Morrissey album, and in this case it's Max Joaquin Lopez , the boy pictured on the cover and back, holding signs that read, "My Parents Are a Handful" and, "Axe the Monarchy." Queen Moz isn't dead yet.

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