Album: Morrissey - I Am Not a Dog on a Chain
Bigmouth alternates between petty indignation and true artistry
The best place to start with Morrissey's new LP is the title track, which begins as a petty dig at the media. "I do not read newspapers/ they are troublemakers", the singer croons indignantly. But then, as the music builds and his anger mounts, Moz loosens up and his emotions flood out. The same dynamic is repeated throughout the entire album, with songs that alternate between mannered electro-pop and stirring, experimental rock.
Opener "Jim Jim Falls", falls into the latter category, with pulsating, twitchy electronic noises that lead into sweeping melodies and dark lyrics about committing suicide. But the words aren't meant to be taken too literally. They're more a kind of freeform exploration into the dark corners of Morrissey’s controversial mind.
This self-analysis by proxy continues for a couple of tracks until self-consciousness takes over and things go downhill. New Wave synths can't save "Knockabout World", from sounding paranoid and peevish. Nor can a Smiths-y melody give "Who Lives in These Houses?" any real direction. The album's low-water mark is "Darling, I Hug a Pillow" which mopes around like a bad Marc Almond cover.
But, by the album's end, he is back on form. The three tracks that close the album are as emotive as anything he's recorded. "The Truth About Ruth" rolls along with exotic piano lines, while "My Hurling Days are Done" reflects on the passing of time with a sweet, pastoral melody. Best of all is "The Secret of Music", a languid, tortured eight-minutes where Mozza moans "I'm out of tune" at the top of his register.
Partly, the song is simply about the power of melody. But, intentionally or not, the words also seem to be a comment on the singer's increasingly problematic views. Such moments of (indirect) self-awareness are where I Am Not A Dog on a Chain really shines.