Morrissey - Ringleader of The Tormentors feature

If the hills are alive with celibate cries no longer, it might be because Morrissey has gone and got himself laid

Feature by Milo McLaughlin | 16 Apr 2006
Whilst he was never realistically going to match his Smiths back catalogue or even the great solo singles such as Suedehead or Last of the International Playboys, 2004's 'You Are the Quarry' was as good a return to form as Morrissey's many worshippers could hope for. An album as politically relevant as it was fiercely personal, it contained barbed asides against Labour, Tory and American arrogance, and first single Irish Blood, English Heart reasserted his talent for a three minute guitar pop anthem.

By now, if you are even slightly interested, you will have heard You Have Killed Me, the lead track from his follow up, 'Ringleader of the Tormentors'. And you may well have been slightly disappointed. Yes, it has a growling, throbbing riff, but where are the witty couplets, the angry ripostes at, well, everyone? The track contains many highbrow references to the cultural heritage of his chosen setting for this album, Rome, but the lyrics themselves seem unusually inane. Morrissey just doesn't seem as angry.

If the hills are alive with celibate cries no longer, it might be because Morrissey has gone and got himself laid. Second track on the album Dear God, Please Help Me is a languorous hymn to the pleasures of the flesh alongside church organs and an orchestra, on which Mozza croons "there are explosive kegs between my legs". The song concludes "And now I am walking through Rome, and there is no room to move, but the heart feels free" - the last line is repeated to fade, and it's a rare pleasure to hear him express such unguarded happiness.

Again, appropriate to the romantic location, the themes of sex, love and death are omnipresent on the album. If an orgasm is known as "le petit mort" then it's no surprise that being lucky in love has brought our Moz face to face with his own mortality. Opener I Will See You in Far Off Places suggests that along with the sexual and emotional awakening, there has also been a spiritual one, hinting at a belief in some kind of afterlife. On I Just Want to See the Boy Happy he claims "I will soon be dead" but then in On The Streets I Ran From he protests "take anyone, the still born, the new born, the infirm, people from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, just spare me."

Other tracks don't fit these overarching themes so well. The Youngest Was the Most Loved is momentarily thrilling when a children's choir join Morrissey on the chorus to announce "There is no such thing in life as normal" but other than that it seems a throwaway track, little better than any one of the b-sides from '...Quarry'. Life is a Pigsty is an epic piano led lament reminiscent of Southpaw Grammar's Teachers are Afraid of the Pupils in scale, but producer Tony Visconti's multi-textured instrumentation takes precedence over any lyrical development.

Majestic and frustrating in equal parts, the album is not unlike the man himself.
Ringleader of the Tormentors' is released through Attack Records on April 3rd.

Morrissey plays Carling Academy, Glasgow on April 27, tickets are unsurprisingly sold out.