Morrissey's World Peace is None of Your Business: for fans only
Moz has always had a tongue like a rapier, and he wields it with the flourishing wrist of a champion fencer. On his latest record World Peace is None of Your Business, that sharp tongue is used like his back’s to the wall, and he’s sadly not such a charming man anymore.
For some Morrissey’s never been charming, with good reason (I guess). His languid vocal style, literary lyrics and overall foppishness really enrages people, and conflated with his vocal vegetarianism, contrarian beliefs and animal ‘protectionism’, he’s a figure ladled with hate from many, many people, even those who adore the music and the bands he essentially opened the gates for. Those who do like the man will be the only ones to find anything of interest in the record, obviously I guess. But even then, they may want to stick to The Smiths.
The Smiths’ The Queen is Dead is one of my favourite records ever, not just for the vignettes of tragic/comic life, but also for the simple joy of hearing a great lyricist play with the Queen’s language. Those tragic vignettes make an appearance on WPINOYB, but the comic ones are sorely missed. Morrissey is clearly angry, and out to get everyone; take the opener, and title track, where he accuses everyone who votes of contributing to the totalitarian regime that is 21st century democracy. He attacks men on “I Am Not a Man”, from those who “wolf down T-bone steak / wolf down cancer of the prostate” to workaholics, Cassanovas, and “big, fat, locker-room, hockey-jocks”. If these are men, he says, then he’s not a man. But he doesn’t stop there. No, if he’s not a man, then Morrissey is “something much bigger and better”. That arrogant proclamation is sort of funny at first, because it seems like an exaggeratedly indignant character, but he talks of never hurting animals, not destroying the planet and it becomes unmuddyingly clear that this is no character but the character that Morrissey has become; the perpetually indignant, self-assured and self-aggrandising Brit.
The only other character pieces are the depressing “Staircase at the University” and hooray “The Bullfighter Dies”. The former is oddly the tale of a female student who throws herself down the stairs after the pressure from her blindly upper-class father drives her to suicide, a story that seemingly could not be further from Morrissey’s lived experience. Then the latter, clearly an animal rights anthem, is light-hearted enough to bring you into its fold, before you realise you’re slipping to his solitary island of political (in)correctness. I mean, I’m not for the slaughter of animals for entertainment, and I like that he’s making light of the tables turning on the matador, but it feels uneven laughing at human death via animal victory.
Musically, WPINOYB is interesting, and actually a bit exciting. Opening with the drone of a didgeridoo before the strings of an acoustic guitar and the low thump of a floor tom flesh the sound out, it trots around the globe with the merry acceptance of a musical tourist. These instruments and sounds range from flamenco guitar (which is seriously in more places than you expect to find it, including the random solo in “Staircase at the University”), Arabic oud, synthesisers, American electric guitar style kicks, accordion, orchestral flourishes and even ambient noisescapes. It’s an impressive, expansive and inclusive acceptance of world music into the quintessentially British icon’s musical oeuvre, and it does work to bring bombast and interest to what essentially are songs Morrissey could have put out at any point in his solo career.
If you’re not already a fan of Morrissey, then World Peace is None of Your Business is none of your business. Really you’ll just hate him a whole lot more than you already do. If you are a fan of the man with one name, then do listen, but for me, I’ll stick with The Smiths thanks.