The furor over Morrissey's autobiography, fittingly titled "Autobiography," was deafening last Fall, even here in the US. The former frontman of The Smiths was suddenly joining the ranks of rock star writers. Then he wasn't. Then he was looking for a new publisher. Then he wasn't. Then he was insisting that it be a paperback from Penguin Classics, just like the books of his heroes from his childhood. And of course everyone wanted to know if he was naming names and dishing dirt. Of course he was! Or was he?
What was (mostly) lost in all the drama is that "Autobiography" is a darn good book. Like Bob Dylan's "Chronicles," it's got an artistic tone and sports a singular, thoroughly unique narrative perspective which sets it apart from more ho hum, if more accessible, tomes like Keith Richards' "Life." It's probably what Neil Young set out to do -- and failed miserably at -- with "Waging Heavy Peace."
Morrissey creates a time and place that is palpable right from the start. The style of his writing is a bit oddball, but it's also fresh and opinionated, and only sags when he gets bogged down in vendetta-ish cattiness, such as his lengthy (and I do mean lengthy) recounting of The Smiths post-breakup legal wrangling and court case.
I'm hardly a fan of Morrissey or The Smiths, but I frankly couldn't put "Autobiography" down. I was fascinated by the world Morrissey inhabits (mostly in his head) and by the frank, if sometimes inconsistent, way in which he recounts being a star and hobnobbing with his heroes and (even more entertaining) lesser beings.
On the heels of "Autobiography," Morrissey also released a concert film called "25 Live," also fittingly titled, as the DVD and Blu-ray celebrate his 25 years as a performer. While hardly great, "25 Live" is set in the intimate confines of Hollywood High, featuring a crack band and set of songs familiar to even a passing fan. Morrissey looks and sounds great, and the rapture of his audience is captured in full effect.