California Son – Morrissey | Just Go And Listen To The Smiths Again… It’s For Your Own Good! | Album Review

California Son - Morrissey | Official Album Artwork (2019)

I vaguely remember a time where a new Morrissey album was something to look forward to. Yes, he
created some of the most wonderful music of the eighties and as a solo artist, there is no doubt how
influential he was also able to maintain.However the Morrissey of 2019 is absolutely nothing other than a world of overwhelming confusion.

Over the course of his solo albums, releases have gone from being strong from beginning to end with great songs (see ‘Vauxhall And I‘) to the late nineties/early two-thousands albums which seem to have some really good songs but as a whole were not quite as good (such as ‘Malajusted‘ and ‘You Are The Quarry‘), however it seems to be a steady decline ever since.

If you couple this decline in music with an increase in what some call eccentricity (and others call
sheer insanity) then you end up with the Mozza of 2019, which is, shall we say, disappointing.
After the mixed response to 2017‘s ‘Low In High School‘ (which I have to say I actually quite liked)
Morrissey is back with an odd collection of covers. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are some
amazing covers albums out there. Johnny Cash’sAmerican Recordings‘, Nick Cave’s ‘Kicking Against The P****s‘, Rage Against The Machine’s ‘Rengades‘ and Cat Power’sCovers Record‘ to name just a few) and with the right choice of song combined with a clear sense of why and you can make a great record.

This album however seems to have lost the plot and is largely c**p. The song choice is bad, the
guests are weird, the musical stylings throughout are lazy and as a result, Morrissey has made an
album that on one level should have cemented his status as a Radio Two playlist star but which I am  actually convinced is even worse than Radio Two.

The album opens with ‘Morning Starship‘, originally by Jobriath. The song is a fairly upbeat, radio
friendly tune, however Morrissey’s lyrical phrasing does not quite seem to fit properly and at points
(especially the ‘la la la’ bit) the singing just doesn’t fit the song. On his version of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Don’t Interrupt The Sorrow‘, there is a lot of saxophone. Now don’t get me wrong, there is some inspired use of brass on alternative records (ultimately anything that Terry Edwards has played on, such as records by Tindersticks and PJ Harvey), but this however may as well be Elevator Jazz in how it’s played. By this point in the record unequivocal rage is beginning to set in.

Next up is a cover of an early Bob Dylan song, during which at times Morrissey tries to sound like Dylan in the verses (almost rambling) and then tries to be very Morrissey over the chorus. By the end of the next song it is clear that this is just not getting any better. There is nothing wrong with the cover of ‘Suffer Little Children‘ but there is ultimately also nothing right about it either.

Days of Decision‘ is just boring, so let’s move on.

A rendition of Roy Orbison’s ‘It’s Over‘ actually does seem to work as it’s a pretty faithful reading in
terms of stylistically similar to Orbison and, as such, fits in with a very well trodden musical path for
Morrissey. His voice sounds far more suited to the range and actually this works slightly better (let
me be clear when I say that by ‘slightly better’, I mean that I have stopped swearing for first time since pressing play).

Lead single ‘Wedding Bell Blues‘ is a cover of a Laura Nyro track, which here is performed as a duet with Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day. Ultimately the song is a fairly upbeat number musically and fleetingly I was having redemption… Then Billie Joe starts singing. In my head, certain vocals styles just don’t work together and the call and response section would have been so much better if performed with an unknown backing chorus (go and listen to the 5th Dimension cover. Its brilliant!)
The ‘best’ song on the album (translation: The song I hated the least) is’ Lady Willpower‘ which sounds akin to a big Elvis style show tune. However, it’s then followed by ‘When You Close Your Eyes‘ and rapidly we return to the now expected bland nonsense that is this album as a whole. The last two tracks are just completely forgettable. I’ve heard this album four times now, just to make sure I am not completely insane. That’s one-hundred and sixty minutes of my life Ive given to it and heaven knows I am miserable now! (Excellent use of a pun here Mark. See me for a gold star! – Very Proud Editor).

As a singer, Morrissey pushes his audience. He always has. When he sings his own lyrics whether they
are good or not there is always a passion and he stands by what he believes, no matter how
sometimes insane that is. He is a singer who, when on form, has a greater use of passion in his singing
than most and ultimately that is what is missing from this whole album. Overall, I just don’t
believe him. I have no idea his reasons for the song choices but assume they resonate with him on
some level but none of that comes through and as a result you end up just wondering why.
There have have been covers recorded throughout his career and usually they work quite well
(‘That’s Entertainment‘ and ‘Satellite of Love‘ spring to mind), yet this album leaves me feeling like I did when I heard his version of Patti Smith’sRedondo Beach‘, which is just an overwhelming
sense of “What the hell have you done!?

When I went to see Morrissey on his last tour he played a sublime version of ‘Judy Is A
Punk Rocker‘ by The Ramones. That two and a half minutes had more energy, vibrancy and soul than this whole album.

Go and listen to The Smiths instead.

If you aren’t a Morrissey fan, then the score below applies, but if you are, take one star off the score and don’t put yourself through this.

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