Morrissey – World Peace is None of Your Business
Despite a chequered solo career, World Peace is None of Your Business is something genuinely amazing: the objectively worst thing Morrissey has ever done, writes ANDREW P STREET.
You know that old adage that you can’t judge a book by its cover? I’ve been looking at books for four decades now and I’ve learned that the cover is actually a consistently excellent predictor of the quality of the book inside. Albums are like that too. I’ve bought many records on the basis of the artwork alone. Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche 85, Death Cab For Cuties’ We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes, Aimee Mann’s Lost in Space, Absentee’s Schmotime, Okkervil River’s Black Sheep Boy and the Weakerthans’ Reconstruction Site are all discs that I would have initially have missed had I not gone, “Hey, that looks interesting, I should give this a listen.”
So World Peace is None of Your Business immediately gives one pause because the cover is – and I’ll use a technical term here – shit.
And not just in the sense that it looks indifferently slapped together, which it does, but that the colour palate is principally based around shades of brown. As a design tip, if you’re looking to entice the casual eye it’s best not to go with an art scheme that evokes feces and vomit.
And it’s not just casual Moz-comers who are right to pause at first sight. If you’re the sort of person that’s spent far too much money collecting Morrissey records the drab cover evokes the artwork from the Southpaw Grammar era (specifically, the 7” sleeve of ‘The Boy Racer’). You know how when people talk about classic Morrissey solo albums no-one ever mentions Southpaw Grammar? That’s not an oversight.
Yet it may as well have been Pet Sounds, because World Peace is None of Your Business is one of those rare terrible albums whose awfulness is so epic that makes all the artists’ previous work worse purely by association.
Ninety seconds into the title track and already Moz is crooning about how the police will “Stun you with their stun guns/Or they’ll disable you with tasers/That’s what government’s for/Oh, you poor little fools.” That comes after railing against paying tax, complaining about how the rich get richer (a problem that’s only ever been successfully addressed by the redistributive power of tax, incidentally) and then sneering “Each time you vote, you support the process.” And look, lots of us went to Socialist Alternative poetry slams when we were 15, but this is clumsy, even by late period Morrissey standards.
He’s had similar hissy fits about how terribly unfair things are in the past – a lot of the same targets cropped up in ‘The World is Full of Crashing Bores’, for example – but the music has never been this limp. Amazingly, it’s also the album’s best tune. Many of the other songs sound as though a title was knocked up and then the rest of the lyrics were hastily improvised on the spot – ‘Earth is the Loneliest Planet’, ‘Smiler with Knife’, ‘Neal Cassady Drops Dead’ – without a sharp line or memorable melody between them.
“An album with exactly zero memorable songs.”
Not that it’s much better elsewhere. ‘I’m Not A Man’ is the sort of damp fart of a song that in better times wouldn’t have passed muster as a b-side. “Wolf down, wolf down T-bone steak/Wolf down, wolf down cancer of the prostate” is briefly amusing, but the rest of it is charmless hectoring over indifferent chords – a theme he returns to in the clumsy, scansion-free ‘The Bullfighter Dies’ (”…and nobody cries.” Zing!). Elsewhere ‘Kiss Me A Lot’ asks the subject to “kiss me all over my face”, which he promptly rhymes with “kiss me all over the place”. Remember, this is the same person who wrote ‘Hand in Glove’.
Women have an especially bad time of it on this album. ‘Staircase at the University’ has a girl failing to get “three As” to please her father and boyfriend and therefore commits suicide (“She threw herself down/And her head split three ways”). However, it’s a positively uplifting message compared with the odious ‘Kick the Bride Down the Aisle’, the latest in Morrissey’s career-long exploration of how women are all lazy, grasping harpies looking to tie a man down. “She just wants a slave” he sneers, “to break his back in pursuit of a living wage/So that she can laze and graze for the rest of her days.” At least ‘William, It Was Really Nothing’ had a sweet chorus.
But the biggest difference this time around is that Moz has never been this lyrically and musically dull. Kill Uncle and Maladjusted are train wrecks, certainly, but at least they had ‘Sing Your Life’ and ‘Alma Matters’, respectively. World Peace is None of Your Business is a unique entry into the Morrissey canon: an album with exactly zero memorable songs.
Morrissey’s World Peace is None of Your Business is out now through Harvest Records/EMI.