The patron saint of misunderstood artistes was stuck with the racist tag by no less an arbiter than NME back in 1992, after he released “The National Front Disco” and cavorted onstage with a Union Jack. Morrissey is still taken for a conservative from time to time, and I imagine Oscar Wilde is banging his head on a desk in heaven–but then, there’s nothing like being provocative and ambiguous to ensure that your politics will be misconstrued. On the plus side, this ambiguity allows Morrissey’s songs to connect with people who don’t share his background or his outlook: Though he’s an alleged queer of long standing and just turned 45, teenage girls have been pelting him with panties onstage on his current tour. And since he moved to the States–specifically to Los Angeles, where he lives in a house whose former owners include Clark Gable and F. Scott Fitzgerald–the old British dandy has attracted an enormous audience of young Mexican men. Overeducated thirtysomethings on the Internet have been debating the merits of Morrissey’s new album, You Are the Quarry (Attack), and seem to think he’s still thought-provoking. Given the song titles here (“I Have Forgiven Jesus,” “How Could Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel?”), it’s hard to deny that our hero is a drama queen, but he’s an amusing one–and the new tunes include fiery indictments of both music-industry litigiousness and imperialist ambitions. (I will concede, though, that the chain-saw guitars sound tacked on.) The leadoff, “America Is Not the World,” paints a caricature of the U.S. as a heartless cop, and on deck is “Irish Blood, English Heart,” a tantrum about the state of Britannia. Maybe lines like “I’ve been dreaming of a time when to be English is not to be baneful / To be standing by the flag not feeling shameful, racist or partial” sound a teensy bit nationalistic to you, but in that case you probably think Woody Guthrie was jingoistic too. Who doesn’t wish they could feel good about their country? This show is sold-out. Saturday, July 17, 8 PM, House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn; 312-923-2000 or 312-559-1212.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Greg Gorman.