Full disclosure: I'm writing this with a bacon butty in front of me. This may. or may not, invalidate the entire review for you. I'm sure SP Moz is ignoring it as we speak due to this very fact.
This is one of those 'look, nobody sent me it, I heard this for the first time at the same time as you and needed a week for it to sink in' reviews that I throw in from time to time. NO advantage to writing this, no freebies, nothing, purely the fact that I feel the need to comment.
Let's get it out of the way straight from the start shall we? All the critics that are acclaiming this as Morrissey's greatest album in 20 year? They're right. It is. There's an invention, a sharpness, an attitude, that's been missing from Moz's work for a long time. It's appeared in flashes, little moments of wonder which shone in otherwise marginally disappointing albums (First Of The Gang to Die as a perfect exemplar, surrounded by the relatively lacklustre remainder of 'You Are The Quarry') but here it's everywhere.
There's a musical creativity that we probably stopped expecting a long time ago. Arrangements are interesting, sympathetic to the tune they support, endlessly surprising; raging guitars, delicate flamenco touches, trumpets, didgeridoos, the list is longer and more varied than one would hope. Melodically it may well be his finest hour since the demise of that band he used to front; his voice sounds richer, deeper, fuller, has more resonance, more life.
But Christ almighty, the lyrics.
There are moments that pull you out of your joyful wallow in the 'sound' of the album with a resounding thud, with a feeling akin to being wetly slapped across the face. There are whole swathes of writing which appropriate the sensation of being pulverised by sledge hammers labelled alternately 'obvious', 'predictable', 'juvenile' and 'facile'. We know Morrissey's worldview by now. God we know Morrissey's worldview by now but he portrays it here with a lack of the wit that was his original trademark, with a lack of the spark of originality that singled him so.
"Everyone's having babies, babies full of rabies, rabies full of scabies" may well be the low point of his entire oeuvre. Sod that, it may well be the low point of Western Culture. It's the heights you achieve that make the fall so deep. And Morrissey hit such heights.
I had a conversation with a friend, a major Morrissey fan, born after the Smiths split and experiencing the difference that band made only in retrospect but still experiencing it as validly as I did at the time.
'You can't expect more from him at this stage of his career/life' he said. And that may be true, there's very little comparison for the stage of career that the ex-Smith finds himself but it's still a long sad road from 'I am the son and the heir of a shyness that is criminally vulgar' to 'You're in the wrong place and you've got the wrong face and humans aren't very humane'.
But really these are relatively minor quibbles. This genuinely IS the best Morrissey album in decades. We can rejoice in this fact and hope that, on the apparently forthcoming second instalment, his producer has the (and Moz loves a Mexican reference so let's do this) 'cojones' to force the singer to sharpen his lazier moments.
We could then be looking at his masterpiece.