Morrissey, who hasn’t had a record deal since ’97, has signed with Sanctuary:
- “Morrissey is one of the most important artists of the last 20 years and we are delighted that he has given us the opportunity to lead the charge on this significant next phase of his career,” Sanctuary chief executive Merck Mercuriadis said.
The new album, which will be released on the revived Attack Label, once part of legendary Trojan Records reggae group, will be Morrissey’s first since “Maladjusted,” recorded six years ago after which he was dropped by Island Records. [Reuters]
I still love the Smiths in moderate doses, and though veering toward the lugubrious, find the cream of Morrissey’s solo work as collected in the Best Of to be surprisingly tuneful and satisfying.
I discussed the Smiths a few years ago with producer John Porter. Jeff Travis, of the now-defunct Rough Trade label, called Porter one day in ’84 and asked him to fix up the sound on the album the Smiths had just recorded.
Although Porter was geared at the time toward funk, and the the Smiths sure weren’t funky, he decided to give it a go anyway. With an infusion of cash from Sire Records, Porter added lots of overdubs and essentially reproduced The Smiths .
Characterized by the alternately driving and delicate guitars of Johnny Marr, and the exhibitory emotional self-flagellation of singer/lyricist (Stephen) Morrissey, The Smiths struck a chord with moody youths everywhere. The single “What Difference Does It Make” is a great, rocking struggle between faith and nihilism.
An odd collection of live BBC tracks with three different producers (including Porter), and studio recordings with Porter, Hatful of Hollow is even more powerful than the band’s debut. “How Soon Is Now?” is a long, trance-inducing, locomotive-rhythmed rock number with sensational dueling guitars from Marr and Porter, and a controlled but heartbreaking emotional outpouring from Morrissey (“You stand on your own, And you leave on your own, And you go home, And you cry, And you want to die”). “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” is a delicate, spare, contained cry of hope – hope that is not too loud as to call attention to itself.
After two more great singles – “Panic” and “Ask” in ’86 – Porter and the band parted ways. Morrissey’s heart-, soul- and spleen-on-his-sleeve emotional honesty has been the source of much comment and merriment over the years, but his sincerity and artistic integrity are worthy of respect.
“Whether or not you agree with it, he means it,” says Porter. “I was having a growing process at the time and I realized you didn’t have to go to the Southside of Chicago, or down to New Orleans to find people who are soulful – it comes out in very many ways.”
Porter also enjoyed a great working relationship with Marr: “‘How Soon Is Now’ is an amazing tapestry of guitar textures, and would like to work with him again someday.”