Morrissey – Greatest Hits (Polydor)
He always sounds like a man who since childhood has only wanted to quote himself.
Allow me the same indulgence - in 1999 I wrote this: "There’s something about the Smiths that still has an unhealthy hold over people you’d love to love. Get the facts straight though: the Smiths were about nostalgia, they were about destroying any black trace in pop, when they emerged they were pretty much a rights-for-whites insistence that nothing since punk had mattered. “Panic” is a letter to Melody Maker spun into a song and Morrisey is a Ted-fixated pre-immigration-fantasizing Granny of a man. This laid the groundwork of morose retrospect that Lad-rock would later find it’s spiritual motivation. Blame and shame them every chance you get".
I have no desire to take that opportunity now, especially now the pack are involved. For Moz to get dissed for nostalgia and fear by the fucking NME would be funny if it weren’t so grisly to watch – that definitive mix of leftist sloganeering and conservative queasiness that the Smiths pioneered has moulded the political metabolism of UK indie music ever since. The Smiths won, and own their detractors in a deathgrip inescapable– they beat Yargo, the Stone Roses beat the King Of The Slums, Oasis beat the Mondays – and sure it's all a damn shame but hold it. I grew up, I got over it, I hadda admit there are moments in Smiths tunes that are magical and that the Smiths reveal an essential of pop even more lucidly than Blur or U2: that the frontman is ultimately what changes cognizance to love, and can just as easily turn admiration into loathing. So though I mourn the victory of classic guitar-rock in
(and Morrisey trailblazed that steady campaign) I’ll concede the Smiths aren’t entirely
kindling - for the first few singles (when the mystery was still intact) I was
in love. Manchester
Then I heard & read deeper, and I realised that this band simply weren’t on earth for me – were in fact eyeing me with suspicion and faint repellence every time I even approached. So by the time I knew that Morrisey hated rap, black pop, “dislikes Pakistanis immensely” (his own words), by the time of ‘Asian Rut’ and ‘Bengali In Platforms’ and ‘National Front Disco’ (none of which are included here of course), I knew that his dreams didn’t include me, that me and my kind were a problem, an(other) obstacle in his vision of English pop progress/regress, his love of the sanctified suedeheads and po’ doomed trash that populated his perspective and mark the limits of his compassion. What’s clear through this comp, that in 15 tracks attempts to cover everything since 88 (live Patti Smith covers and two new tracks as well as EIGHT tracks from the last two albums – you’d have to be seriously dedicated to even be arsed) is that this is a man smart enough to never even think about surprising his audience, or himself: what’s conjured here is no sense of a man ageing , rather he’s a Peter Pan of Weltschmerz, the rotating monomania of his concerns (especially on the tracks from ‘Quarry’and ‘Tormentors’) & his bristling stew of martyrdom and malevolence still endlessly fascinating to him and consequently his adoring public.
I’m not sure Morrisey cares, or even whether he should care, that he only has that fan/dom relationship left, that he’ll never matter anymore now his myopia has become the mainstream, that the emo bands and indie-janglers will pocket and repackage his schtick until he gets the permanent Vegas-residency he’s been aiming for all his life. Nothing here, even from 88 and especially the new stuff, is remotely exciting to me. But give me Morrisey’s honesty about his little-Englander mindset over the wretched cowardly political-silence of NME-sanctioned rock every fucking time. The injured regret, the post-colonial revulsion of Morrisey’s music is closer to White England’s heartbeat than anyone else will currently admit to being – beyond that this comp is something to seal yourself into whilst waiting for that Cameron victory you so secretly desire in 2010, British Proper Music packaged and compiled with all the laziness and largesse (you get a live bonus CD if you’re keen) you’d expect from a Time Life Neil Diamond comp (and check that gloriously smug sleeve).
Me, I’ve got letterbombs to send and trains to derail and my own delusions to make real. See you after the cleansing.