Like Polishing A Turd
Right. Let's get this out of the way. Is this an entirely awful album? No. Is this a good album? Definitely not. Morrissey is a twat, but him being a twat isn't the reason to dislike this newest effort from the apathetic apple of The Smith's eye. In truth, there isn't truly much of anything to have an opinion about with this record, save from a distinctly boring effort from Morrissey himself.
I don't really enjoy reviewing albums I didn't enjoy, so I will try and be brief. I Am Not A Dog On A Chain kicks off with 'Jim Jim Falls' and in a remarkably on-brand move from the UK's magnanimous prizéd ass, culminates with the exceptionally edgy lyric "If you're gonna kill yourself, then for god's sake, just kill yourself." How wonderfully nuanced.
In truth, the lyrics on show here in this latest LP are demonstrative of a man that has not progressed at all as a songwriter since his 1980's heyday. He's still the dark haired, too-cool-for-you kid that's making incredibly clever jokes about death from the back of the classroom. For god's sake mate you're 60 years old, singing
did you see the nerve-gassed children crying?
in a shallow attempt at shocking your listeners isn't impressing anyone. The songwriting is repeatedly vapid and worst-of-all, boring. Not a single political punch lands with this LP. Every time Morrissey says something vaguely pointed it's like he's looking you in the eye, waiting to see if you react, but all it comes across as is irritating. That could well be what he's going for, but even if it is, the songwriting is intensely devoid of personality.
Morrissey is perhaps the one songwriter who can sound completely in the wrong, even when he's on the right side of the argument. A well-documented vegetarian and opponent to animal cruelty, even lines that deal with this side of his activism end up feeling unconvincing.
Much of this album simply sounds like an old man looking for something to complain about, and even a somewhat clever tidbits like
"well maybe I'll be skinned alive by Canada Goose, because of my views, because of my fleece, because of my niece"
from title track 'I Am Not A Dog On A Chain' end up feeling completely unsatisfying from the hollow, emotionless expression of the singer. The album isn't a slog to get through, but it is frequently uninteresting. Every inch of the music that surrounds Morrissey's dull, pitch-corrected tone has clearly had a great deal of love poured into it, and rescues this album from being an unlistenable shopping list of Steven's minor societal gripes. The industrial beat that underscores opener 'Jim Jim Falls' has the mark of a very enticing track, before the vocals start that is, and similarly the pulsating synths of 'Once I Saw the River Clean' are promising, but let down by an underwhelming performance from Mr. Morrissey.
There's not much more to say. I don't recommend this album. The music itself does nothing wrong, but it all sounds remarkably safe. Morrissey's edginess is simply a re-hashing of his previous work, but rendered stale and ineffectual by the passage of time. Luckily the project is saved from being truly bad by a well produced musical surroundings, but for all the admirable musicianship and masterful audio engineering that was clearly invested into the LP, it does not change the fact that it's main star doesn't do anything interesting.
- 3.5 -
Ben Wheadon is editor and founder of Slow Motion Panic Masters. He is a Welsh musician and English Literature student at King's College, London and he should be writing a dissertation instead of creating a blog.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based in London, England.
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