Morrissey | Years of Refusal

Lost Highway (2009)
By ZETH LUNDY  |  February 9, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

"Could this be an arm around my waist?" asks Morrissey on the final track of his ninth post-Smiths solo album, adding, "Surely the hand contains a knife." This fatalistic logic comes as no surprise, seeing as Years of Refusal has documented an emotional battlefield bereft of human contact, where kindness is AWOL, egotism is a means of survival, and death, the only absolute, makes for a constant companion.

In the soaring "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris," Moz declares that "only stone and steel accept my love." That's rough. It's also intentionally overblown, the scorned-boy pretense transforming disappointment into transcendent rock music. That transcendence is achieved with grandstanding familiarity throughout Years of Refusal.

Produced by the late Jerry Finn, the album is a slice of American rock radio, polished, compressed, and routinely combustible. The hooks are huge ("Mama Lay Softly on the Riverbed," wrapped in loss and mystery, and the flamenco-flavored "When I Last Spoke to Carol" are permanent fixtures in my skull), and so is Moz's pop-operatic voice, here a man-sized exhalation. I'm not giving anything away by noting that the singer ends up alone again by album's end — at least, alone as one can be while transferring the burden of solitude to the devoted masses.
Related: Unhappy birthday, Morrissey | Swords, Slideshow: Morrissey at House of Blues, More more >
  Topics: CD Reviews , The Smiths, Jerry Finn, Jerry Finn,  More more >
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