What got us reaching for blouses and bunches of chrysanthemums in the first place was Morrissey’s disdain. Disdain for the world he found himself cursed to be in, disdain in himself for his loneliness and his inabilities. He stood apart, singing down those who wronged him and defiantly presenting himself to the world that he so loathed. But 11 albums in this disdain has taken a wrong turn. Journeying past his familiar observances of cultural hypocrisy to the unchartered territories of world affairs. The destination that Low in High School arrives at, reveals a cruel side to Morrissey, one that even the biggest devotees might find difficult to negotiate.
It’s clear that the song-writing on Low in High School is a vehicle for Morrissey’s new focus of disdain, the world. The only problem is that his opinions of world-affairs are as black-and-white as they come; the military are evil, the news is “fake”, the police are dangerous, oil is the cause of all wars in the Middle East and critics of Israel are just jealous. These views are plopped into songs as he staggers through complex and sensitive issues without any form of explanation or any insight into their complexity. Nowhere is this reductive reading of political problems more apparent than in ‘The Girl From Tel-Aviv Who Wouldn’t Kneel’ where lines like “And the land weeps oil / The land weeps oil / What do you think all these conflicts are for?” jar like hell. While Morrissey’s take on the Arab-Israeli conflict in the song ‘Israel’ sound like the mumbled misinformed discussions that occur at the end of every night out.
But the worst of his venomous disdain can be found in ‘I Wish You Lonely’. While taking a long armed swipe at the powers-that-be the singer shockingly refers to dead soldiers killed in the line of duty as “fools”. Many might object to the lines, “Tombs are full of fools/ who gave their lives/ upon command of monarchy! oligarch! head of state! Potentate!”. While ‘I Bury The Living’ adds another log to the pyre by scorning the death of a soldier killed in the line of duty. Though cinematic and brilliant in parts it is altogether undone by the cruelty of refrains like “I’m honor, mad, cannon fodder/I’m honor, mad, cannon fodder”.
All traces of Morrissey’s former vulnerability and self-doubt have departed and have been replaced by something much uglier, a smug inflation of his self-belief. The irritating ‘Spent The Day in Bed’ urges listeners to barricade themselves in bed with, “no bus/ no rain/ no train/ no bus/ no boss/ no rain/ no train” to reckon with. Quite easy for a Millionaire to do such a thing, “I spent the day in bed, while the workers stay enslaved”.
Sadly there’s little of the Morrissey romance and wit left, though there are flashes of his old brilliance. ‘Home is a Question Mark’ is classic Morrissey, as he melancholically looks back over his quest for love overlooking his success and career. Amidst a broody soundscape he wonders out loud, “If I get there, would you meet me?/ Wrap your legs around my face just to greet me?”. While the glam rock glaze that covers ‘Love, I’d Do Anything For You’ is a showstopper. But the self-proclaimed Mayor of Manchester is a devil for a theme, the ceremonial horns and military drums serve to wake the listener up to the dangers of “FAKE” sensationalist journalism.
Low in High School sees Morrissey pontificate his view of the world to his fans (which as any interview with him will tell you this is not exceptional). He sees the world as he sees it and has branded and scorned those wrong‘uns as such. Long gone are his maudlin lamentations about loneliness and isolation, instead listeners are treated to an endless stream of political treatises. He plonks his views on the ears of his listener, without any attempt at truly expressing himself. In doing this he appears as believable as the child bearing an axe on the front of his album cover, you can’t really take him seriously because he doesn’t seem to know what he is at.