"I will not change and I will not be nice"
April 5, 2017 5:48 AM   Subscribe

Morrissey, We're Through. (slNoiseyVice)
posted by Kitteh (42 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Yes, this.

I address the Morrissey problem by pretending that The Smiths are a totally different band with a look-alike singer. (Although honestly, there's some misogyny in the Smiths that I find hard to deal with anyway.) Also I only listen to the Smiths in private, because I feel like I can't force them on others given Morrissey's political history.

Although that James Baldwin thing was fucked up. I've always disliked that particular lyric anyway and thought it clever-clumsy. James Baldwin was twenty times the person Morrissey is on Morrissey's best day.
posted by Frowner at 6:33 AM on April 5, 2017 [11 favorites]


My view has always been that Morrissey is a rather talented guy who is personally a huge asshole. Over the years, the asshole has come to eclipse the talent.
posted by Chrysostom at 6:33 AM on April 5, 2017 [14 favorites]


Chrysostom: "Over the years, the asshole has come to eclipse the talent."

Or, as Morrissey puts it: "the sun shines out of our behinds"
posted by chavenet at 6:40 AM on April 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


> My view has always been that Morrissey is a rather talented guy who is personally a huge asshole.

This dynamic is depressingly common. There are tons of musicians (and authors, and artists, and filmmakers, and...) whose work I love and admire but whose words and/or actions I have to choose to forget about while I'm enjoying it. Where one draws the line is a personal choice; Roxane Gay writes about struggling with these sorts of issues in Bad Feminist.
posted by The Card Cheat at 6:43 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


“Everybody goes through a Morrissey phase, except perhaps for Morrissey”

Aside from his problematic views, there is that Morrissey hasn't created anything compelling for over a decade. His recent albums don't stand up well next to The Smiths' material (and possibly his first few solo albums); they're not bad, but not viscerally compelling. (Part of it is probably that there is a difference between the anguish of a sensitive adolescent and the moanings of an intolerant old man.) One can listen to them, but one does so tilting one's head and squinting to force oneself to see an echo of The Smiths in them (which is enough of an effort if you're white, and must be monumentally more strenuous otherwise). And then there's his writing career, best known for giving the world the phrase “bulbous salutation”.

Perhaps it's time to, if not write Morrissey off altogether, think of him as a period artist, whose period was the 1980s; much in the way that nobody rates Mick Jagger's 1980s MTV-driven career alongside the Rolling Stones' output.
posted by acb at 6:43 AM on April 5, 2017 [9 favorites]


Songwriters would do well to stop and ask "Wait, am I being a giant asshole here?". That's how Andy Partridge wrote "The Disappointed". He read a story about the Mothers Of The Plaza Del Mayo and started working on a song about them, called "The Disappeared". As work proceeded, he started to grow uncomfortable and began thinking basically "Who am I, an English pop singer, to try to speak for these people?". So, he wrote an entirely different song, retaining only a similar title, and the image of the placards with a name and picture.
posted by thelonius at 6:54 AM on April 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


Once again, I was right all along.
posted by jonmc at 7:05 AM on April 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


"Blipster"

Uuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrgh is the noise that came out of my body when I realised this was a contraction of "black hipster".

"Blacklash"

Uuuuurrrrrrrrrrrrrgh

I was firmly Team Marr after the break up. I bought Bona Drag and it's a fine album, but there's no Johnny. I remember listening to the radio and they announced a new Morrissey single and I turned it way up. The song was You're the One For Me, Fatty. I didn't rush out to buy it.

Now whenever I get Morrissey news it erodes my once high opinion of the man until there's not much left. He said Brexit result was 'magnificent', which on it's own isn't racist per se, but it's something a racist would say. Then that eye-watering and bewildering sex scene in his novel. I would have bought if that didn't go viral. You know that sound you make when you see someone hurt themselves badly? It's a sharp intake of breath between gritted teeth. That's the noise that came out of my body as I read that.

Oh, and thank you for telling me that Madness have a large skinhead fanbase. Music journalism really ruins music. Sometimes seeing how the sausage is made will put you off sausages forever. And I like sausages.
posted by adept256 at 7:13 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was a radio announcer for 20+ years. It has always been interesting to me how what we think about an artist colors our feeling for that art/song.

E.g., we can enjoy art/song for its own merits, then have that level of enjoyment change based on a quotation from an interview, a news story, the band/singer's personal life...any anecdote really.

Gist: "I really like this painting." "But that wo/man is bad because ______(reasons)." "Oh...yeah, I don't like it so much now."

Do not grok.
posted by CrowGoat at 7:15 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Being "controversial" has always been his shtick, Morrissey and controversy are like a moth to a flame. A moth that has that disease where it can't feel pain. That wouldn't be a problem if he also wasn't a complete asshole to the point he no longer can manage his worst impulses: be it poor-taste merch (although it's likely that was done by some intern somewhere, either he or someone on someone on his camp had to sign it off without realising that wouldn't go down well), whining he can't find a label to his new record and can't tour (nevermind that it's questionable any label would be interested in another 20-stop US tour that is cut in half because he smelt kebabs someplace, the kids next door stage were being too noisy and finally he's too tired to go on), the idea he's a world-class author, or the constant lil'engulander rhetoric.

I still have a bunch of his stuff and occasionally listen to it, but I have zero interest on what he's up to anymore - usually it's more cancellations or another dumb remark anyway.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:16 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, and thank you for telling me that Madness have a large skinhead fanbase

Well, it goes without saying that they'd have had a large skinhead fanbase in the non-racist 2-tone/hard-Mod sense. I'd have thought the neo-Nazis to be more into Skrewdriver Bürzüm vaporwave or something.
posted by acb at 7:24 AM on April 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Morissey's problem is that he is at the point where he can summarily dismiss anybody who might dare to take him aside and tell him “you know, that's really not a good idea”, and presumably he exercises this power. Hence, two books in dire need of editorial intervention (one released on Penguin Classics, for no reason other than brinkmanship and the parent company's desire for profits), and some extremely unfortunate merchandise.

As someone (Robert Anton Wilson?) said, “communication is only possible between equals”. At this stage, Morrissey is about as isolated as Nicolae Ceausescu.
posted by acb at 7:27 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I think for me, Morrissey invests so much of himself in his work that it's hard to see his art apart from his persona. I can put aside my disagreement with certain artists and appreciate their work if it doesn't seem too much like autobiography or hagiography, and Morrissey errs too far on the hagiographic end of the spectrum for me to appreciate his work.
posted by pxe2000 at 7:29 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Love the art, hate the artist? Maybe, but separating the two isn't easy.
posted by tommasz at 7:30 AM on April 5, 2017


Morissey's problem is that he is at the point where he can summarily dismiss anybody who might dare to take him aside and tell him “you know, that's really not a good idea”, and presumably he exercises this power.

Maybe we should call this point the Lucas Horizon.
posted by Sangermaine at 7:49 AM on April 5, 2017 [12 favorites]


People are complicated, artists more so. At least he isn't Orson Scott Card or Bill Cosby level complicated.
posted by fungible at 7:50 AM on April 5, 2017


I was a radio announcer for 20+ years. It has always been interesting to me how what we think about an artist colors our feeling for that art/song. . .

Do not grok.


I think this is because of a fairly-common view that the best art is a genuine expression of the artist's inner feeling and reflects their valuable insight into the human condition. And we value it most when those insights seem to give voice to our own feelings about the world.

When the source of said expression turns out to be an asshole, there's some cognitive dissonance a fan needs to deal with.

I think Cook's article was a nice exploration of that dynamic.
posted by layceepee at 7:52 AM on April 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


Maybe, but separating the two isn't easy.
It is if someone (like me) associates the art with moments and people and less the creator. On the other hand, it was also the reason I couldn't listen to New Order for about one year without turning into a mess.
posted by lmfsilva at 7:57 AM on April 5, 2017


I was firmly Team Marr after the break up.

I like Team Marr. Team Marr is back on the new The The single (!), so Team Marr is always OK in my book.

But really, I'm Team Andy. This is based solely on his coming to my local club to spin tunes one night a few years ago, which is kinda sad, but he was a pro and a good sport and he took my Smith gushing with grace and a smile. He came across as just a simple, friendly guy who loves music and is only trying to make a living. And I got to shake the hand of a Smith! So yeah, Team Andy.

I cannot for the life of me imagine having such a pleasant encounter with Moz.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:06 AM on April 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


There's a particular dissonance in having someone speak your inner thoughts at one point in your life and then have them later start saying things you would never ever think. I was never even that big of a fan - that was a slightly different clique than mine - but the music was a staple of my high school soundtrack and you couldn't deny the man could turn a phrase.

I feel really bad for people I know for whom he was a lifeline at a vulnerable point in their lives.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]



Love the art, hate the artist? Maybe, but separating the two isn't easy.


One of the reasons I quit being a music writer is because my personal impression of a musician tended to color my enjoyment of their music for basically ever. I sort of hate that I am that way, but I can't seem to do anything about it. I'm way better off listening to songs in happy ignorance and not knowing that musicians I admire talk merciless shit about their bandmates behind their backs or cheat on their girlfriends while on tour or undertip waiters or are kind of a bigot/an insufferable narcissist/ actually kind of a jerk or whatever. See also: why I stopped volunteering to work at literary festivals back when I was in school
posted by thivaia at 8:14 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


"...yet, every human being is an unprecedented miracle. One tries to treat them as the miracles they are, while trying to protect oneself against the disasters they've become" No Name in the Street, Baldwin.
posted by bdc34 at 8:21 AM on April 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Heaven knows he's risible now.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:22 AM on April 5, 2017 [7 favorites]


My dislike of Morrissey and the Smiths is well known, but I read that Johnny Marr is a big fan of Rory Gallagher so he must be OK.
posted by jonmc at 8:29 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


It's one of the central contradictions of Morrissey that although he articulates the position of the outsider so eloquently, he hasn't been an outsider himself for decades now. Resentment from the top turns pretty nasty, and I think Moz has indulged in white resentment as he's aged to a disturbing degree. He loves Mexico because Mexican fans valorize him, but that's as far as it goes. For the time he lived in LA, I don't recall him being active in Mexican/ChicanX immigrant issues, despite being held up as an outsider voice of solidarity. I don't know what I'm getting at. I'm just, like, really really disappointed that he's decided not to grasp the overlap between PoC and the outsider figures he champions.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 8:47 AM on April 5, 2017 [6 favorites]


I was a radio announcer for 20+ years. It has always been interesting to me how what we think about an artist colors our feeling for that art/song. . .

Do not grok.


Do you know what I don't grok? Chris Brown still has a career. I thought the minute that picture of Rihanna was publicised he'd get a call from the label to talk about his contract. But he's still writing music, and fans are still buying it and going to his shows. While forgiveness is a fine thing, I'd be too ashamed to show my face in public ever again, not go out singing and dancing to a cheering crowd. It shows a certain lack of remorse that really doesn't inspire forgiveness in me.

He was supposed to tour Australia last year and as the poster promoting it went up I thought I don't want you here, and I'm embarrassed by the people who do. Then he was denied a visa on the basis of his domestic violence record! I tell you, I was proud to be Australian that day.
posted by adept256 at 9:16 AM on April 5, 2017 [19 favorites]


I saw Morrissey at Riot Fest in Chicago last year, and walked out halfway through his set (after waiting 45 minutes for him to go on, late) when he decided to use a video as a backdrop that was endless cuts of cops killing dogs, and the occasional person. You know, as if it was some kind of abstract "this is bad" thing and not something that people right here right now actually face in their lives, many of them right there in the audience. I was never a huge Smiths fan and had honestly never listened to his solo stuff before, but that made his disconnect crystal clear and I had no more interest in hearing what he had to say.
posted by jeweled accumulation at 9:38 AM on April 5, 2017


I've never been one to stop listening/watching/reading stuff by "problematic" people, but I try not to give them my money by going to shows and such. Luckily, Morrissey's recent work is so weak I don't think I'm missing anything. I'm a longtime Smiths fan but never got too into his solo work at all, which never seemed to have the same magic.
posted by vanitas at 9:54 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Morrissey seems to have only excelled when he has a creative force to work against. Before The Smiths, he had his editors at the Record Mirror. In The Smiths, that was probably Johnny Marr. Since then, nobody's stood up to him, and he's gotten flabby. It seems he needs somebody in near proximity to be angry at, not a generalized otherness like a minority group.

One of the most memorable record reviews I'd ever read described the "Strangeways" album in terms of Marr spending the entire recording session with an eye on Morrisey lest he get stabbed once he let his guard down.
posted by ardgedee at 10:03 AM on April 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Morrissey seems to have only excelled when he has a creative force to work against.

The same could be said about Johnny Marr, except that Marr has self-awareness of his predicament and almost always collaborates with other artists (The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse, Blondie, etc.). Morrissey has self-awareness of a different sort, unfortunately.
posted by stannate at 10:10 AM on April 5, 2017


I was firmly Team Marr after the break up.

I was firmly in Team Marr during the Smiths though obviously Marr with Morrissey and Morrissey with Marr was, if it's your cup of tea, one hell of a unique, distinct, and very influential and to many, inspiring songwriting pair in the musical sense. Obviously the differences in their outlook, personality, and work ethic severed that relationship.

I rarely pay any attention to the musicians themselves but Morrissey, like so many others, tries to make sure you've heard of what he's up to but I've ignored him largely after his first "solo" album. Still, you hear about things from time to time.

I do find it interesting that those two have reversed my impression of them personally (i.e. outside of music, singing, lyrics). Marr's interviews at the time of the Smiths often saw him a little dismissive and arrogant with a fair bit of posturing whereas Morrissey seemed delightlyfully mischievous, at least to my teenage sensibilities and I loved his take on Live Aid. That said, what I saw and heard was pretty limited to what we can see and hear of any members of marginally popular bands today so I could have missed a whole lot.

Now Marr does not posture and seems fairly straightforward, far more open musically, and he stills puts on a good show live whereas Morrissey is, to say the least, unpleasant and difficult from what I've seen here and there over the years. I would never see him live (I don't think he does Canada anyway) but I've seen live footage on YouTube and his band fucking butchers Smiths songs. I don't need to hear that so clearly I'm far more focussed on the music than the artist.
posted by juiceCake at 11:12 AM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


As a Floridian, the long standing Morrissey joke is that he hates the state and always cancels his concerts.
I got burned on Ticketmaster fees several times, before I just decided to say "Fuck it", and never gave a shit again whether he comes here or not.

This article is a great reinforcement to that decision.
#teammarr
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:19 AM on April 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, and thank you for telling me that Madness have a large skinhead fanbase

Well, it goes without saying that they'd have had a large skinhead fanbase in the non-racist 2-tone/hard-Mod sense. I'd have thought the neo-Nazis to be more into Skrewdriver Bürzüm vaporwave or something.


The band wasn't too happy about it.

posted by Halloween Jack at 2:03 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Perhaps it's time to, if not write Morrissey off altogether, think of him as a period artist, whose period was the 1980s

I gave up personally after Your Arsenal. And the more I looked back at The Smiths, the more frozen in the amber of my closeted college years they became, the unmistakable uniqueness of the music and lyrics aside. I can still like Bronski Beat unironically because nobody has ever pretended that they are timeless.

It's sort of the same as liking many 1980s American movies. Unironically. There are very, very few of them, probably a dozen at most, that stand the test of time.
posted by blucevalo at 2:55 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Mexrrissey is always a good time, even if my spellcheck refuses to acknowledge it.

Perhaps it's time to, if not write Morrissey off altogether, think of him as a period artist, whose period was the 1980s

Vauxhall and I (1994) and You are the Quarry (2004) are probably my favourites from his solo career. For me, the 1980s were about my mother singing Cat Stevens at me in an attempt to wake me up for school, not about The Smiths.

Morrissey has been indie music's racist uncle for a long time - zero surprise from me if he really is pro-Brexit. I can completely understand getting tired and deciding the terrible opinions outweigh the pleasures of the music. That's why you don't see me rushing out to buy tickets for Stephen Merritt.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:04 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Vauxhall and I (1994) and You are the Quarry (2004) are probably my favourites from his solo career.

For me, Bona Drag is the standout solo album. You Are the Quarry had a couple of good tunes (First Of The Gang To Die, for one). Ringleader of the Tormentors was mostly forgettable, and his self-indulgence seemed to be slipping the moorings of what perspective kept it in check. I didn't buy anything after that; I read the reviews of the one that followed, from which it sounded sour and miserable and without the grace that redeemed his earlier work, and Ringleader didn't grab me enough to make me check it out myself.

I did pick up both of his books; the novel was, in its own way, entertaining.
posted by acb at 4:35 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


Blondie opened for him the day gay marriage became legal everywhere in the US. Debbie Harry was bubbling over with joy; barely a peep from Steven Patrick.
posted by brujita at 5:39 PM on April 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


It breaks my heart that the man who wrote "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind" could become such a cruel person.
posted by 4ster at 6:19 PM on April 5, 2017 [8 favorites]


Morrissey has always been an annoying and insufferable person. That's part of the deal, and it kinda worked in the context of The Smiths because he acted like a self-parody. I've recently read one of the band bios, and apparently in real life he's just really hard to get along with. But very clever.
posted by ovvl at 7:14 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Racism or semantics?
If you're rich and you're white
you think you're so right
I just don't see why
this should be so
-- Morissey, "Mexico"


Also The White Negro: Superficial Reflections on the Hipster

I'm saying that it's ok to use black and white about other things than the color of your skin. In the end it's just a pop artist and a t-shirt. Enjoy the music.
posted by beesbees at 10:55 AM on April 6, 2017


I'm saying that it's ok to use black and white about other things than the color of your skin. In the end it's just a pop artist and a t-shirt.

One point that Cook made was that it's not just a pop artist and a t-shirt, writing that As every Morrissey die-hard knows, this is far from his first brush with controversy, specifically when it comes to race.

And if there wasn't supposed to be a racial referent for the word "black" on the T-shirt, what was the point of using Baldwin's image at all?

I don't know if your comment was a failed attempt an engaging with the article or whether you never intended to do so in the first place, but dragging Norman Mailer into it doesn't suggest you deserve the benefit of the doubt.
posted by layceepee at 3:24 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


It breaks my heart that the man who wrote "It's so easy to laugh, it's so easy to hate, it takes guts to be gentle and kind" could become such a cruel person.

I can't find the quote, but after Mike Tyson bit Evander Holyfield's ear in the ring in June of '97, some sportswriter observed it's when the talent starts to wane that you see the character of the man or something like that.

Morrissey began his career with a real instinct for publicity. He took brash stands on some issues (vegetarianism, the monarchy, nuclear annihilation of boring seaside towns), while playing infuriatingly coy with others (specifically his sexuality) to build a contrarian, sensitive-outsider mystique that inspired and fascinated many, many people. Even early on, a lot of those fans understood that the dark side of sensitive-outsider schtick is self-pitying narcissism, and that obsessive misery is not, strictly speaking, the mark of a healthy person, but damn it, sometimes it felt good to indulge those feelings, especially when the songs were catchy.

But now the seams are showing.

Even in healthy people, fame dulls the empathy centers and reduces behavior to a bunch of ego-driven reflexes. Out-of-touch celebs think they're the first people to ever contemplate some issue. And whatever his core beliefs on race, Morrissey's need to be contrary, or inscrutable, or to have something shockingly insightful to say appear to me to be driving his bizarre string of racially loaded gaffes. After all, plenty of moderately racist famous people manage to keep their venom to themselves. It takes a weird pathology to flirt with it in public the way he has.

For better or for worse, because I love so many of his songs, I am still grasping for some decent explanation. Many of his best lyrics were about feeling like a prisoner in your home, your country or even your own skin. I can see why, in the age of Brexit and creeping nationalist sentiment, he might try to feed his mystique with unconventional statements and positions, but that's as generous as I can be. Whatever point he thinks he's making, it's not landing. Like the song Bengali in Platforms, which made me seriously uncomfortable way back when, his pattern of hurtful remarks, presumptuous gestures and churlish non-apologies just sound racist. Racist and dumb. And he needs to stop.
posted by ducky l'orange at 4:40 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


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