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MORRISSEY:: Years of Refusal (Album Review)

Soon after leaving the safety of his bedroom and founding the Smiths, one of the most influential bands of the ’80s, ever-plaintive English singer Morrissey outlined the beliefs that would define him as a songwriter: Life is demoralizing, honesty is rare, and some people — himself very much included — are destined never to be loved.

Since going solo, he’s revisited these themes again and again, sometimes writing good songs, other times great ones — the kinds of devastating, darkly funny missives that fans mine for tattoo slogans and personal mantras.

The difference between mediocre and magnificent Morrissey records tends to be the music, and by that measure, “Years of Refusal” is the strongest of his three ’00s comeback efforts.

The album marks the final work of pop-punk producer Jerry Finn, who died last year, and while the songs explode with the slick, overdriven guitars that were his trademark, they also retain the subtle rockabilly and Brit-pop flourishes of Morrissey’s brilliant ’90s albums, particularly “Your Arsenal.”

Lyrically, Morrissey dishes the usual: egotism (“All You Need Is Me”), brutal honesty (“It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore”), and self-aggrandizement masquerading as self-pity — if not the other way around (“I’m OK By Myself”).

The writing isn’t his best, but taken in full, “Refusal” rides his contradictions for nearly all they’re worth.
(Kenneth Partridge)