The last twelve months have proved to be quite a year for Steven Patrick Morrissey. In October 2013 his eponymously titled autobiography was released as a Penguin Classic in the U.K. and has so far racked up sales in excess of 140,000 copies. Now, LA’s favorite resident Mancunian steps back into the limelight with his tenth studio album and his first in five years. With “World Peace Is None of Your Business” Morrissey tackles themes beyond his default template of solemnity and introversion to reveal an album bearing witness to its writer's cosmopolitan life in the previous two decades.
The artist whom Chrissie Hynde once remarked was “too English for the English” is no stranger to controversy, of course, and the man is unafraid to court it here. His physical zip code these days may be a Californian one, but his mental coordinates are still firmly fixed in the beloved land of his birth. In “Staircase at the University” the target is the U.K. higher education system. Here, a young student, anxious to attend one of the elite universities, opts instead for suicide, the pressure to succeed so great that she hurls herself down the steps. Parental pressure, along with the emphasis to conform, prompts the stinging line “if you don’t get three As, you’re no child of mine”.
Filtering his prejudices and predilections through an Anglocentric prism produces surprising results. In “Earth Is The Loneliest Planet” the flamenco rhythms are evident as are the Latin influences in “The Bullfighter Dies”. Just as he has issued a paean of praise to California’s Latino community in the past, so here he namechecks several Spanish cities in “The Bullfighter Dies”. The man who was once so strongly anchored in the Salford of his youth - an intimate inner world of Shelagh Delaney, Albert Finney and L.S. Lowry - now has slightly wider horizons.
That being said, “Mozzer’s” interests in bullfighting, gangsters and hooliganism are more likely proof of a wider fascination with and exploration of machismo and, as a northern working-class man, a lament for a passing way of life and culture, itself a victim of deindustrialization and globalism. From around the time of “Your Arsenal” onwards Morrissey has flirted with such themes, even dedicating one track to the memory of London East End hitman-cum-actor, John Bindon.
In his 56th year, Morrissey is alive and well and, on this evidence, as willing as ever to plough his own furrow.