01 May 2006

dear god please don't make them reunite

Today is May 7th. I started to write the post below six days ago, but never got to finish it until today, when Grant McLennan's passing prompted me to sit down and blog again. You'll read about and get to listen to Grant in a couple of hours. 

Anyway, I was reading the May issue of UNCUT magazine with Morrissey on the cover, and in the interview he talks about why he sees no point in reuniting The Smiths. The latest offer was for them to perform together at Coachella this summer for $5 million, which guitarist Johnny Marr says was double a prior offer for them to play in New York and London. Says Moz: "It has been 18 years since it ended. I don't know them; they don't know me. They know nothing about me; I know nothing about them. Anything that I know about them is unpleasant, so why on earth do we want to be onstage together making music?"

Interestingly, in its March issue, UNCUT talked to other former members of The Smiths (for an article on the 20th anniversary of their album The Queen is Dead) and asked them the same question of why wouldn't they reform. Johnny Marr answers: "There's been an awful lot of very dirty water gone under the bridge...I think we'd have to go to some new-age retreat in Arizona, all wear muslin and get up every morning to share the dawn. For several months. Go on some meditation walks and then share. Share! Share! Share! Or we could all go for a walk around Ancoats. And sort it out." Says drummer Mike Joyce, who successfully sued in 1996 for a higher share of royalties (leading Morrissey and Marr to each pay him somewhere around £1 million): "Because of Morrissey's hatred towards me, I suppose. Musically, it'd still be fucking brilliant...but it's too hypothetical." And from bassist Andy Rourke: "That's a tough one; it really is. I'd like to say 'never say never', but I think it's pretty unlikely, for one reason or another."

I'm probably the only fan to agree and say, Let lying dogs sleep. With their acrimony running deep, any Smiths reunion is only going to be half-arsed. Sure, there is a genuine interest among fans to see if Morrissey, Marr, Joyce and Rourke could still make great music together, and The Smiths could very well still blow us away (I doubt it, for reasons I'll say in a bit) but I think curiosity and commercial demand are never good enough reasons to mess with something that's been held sacred for two decades. As far as I'm concerned, I wouldn't want a dispassionate reunion to taint my memory of a band that affected me so much in my youth.

dear god please help me : morrissey
click here or on the image below to listen

This is the most talked-about song from Morrisey's latest album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, thanks to one line that's rather uncharacteristic even for a man who once wrote And when we're in your scholarly room/Who will swallow whom? But in this song where his Mozness reveals that there are explosive kegs between his legs, Dear God must be one of the most liberating records he has written since going solo. Long a resident of Los Angeles, Morrissey has found greater freedom since moving to Rome last year. Past its narrow streets, Moz is finally able to look at lust squarely in the eye (Then he motions to me with his hand on my knee) and within the city's cramped quarters, he lets it all out without restraint (Now I'm spreading your legs with mine in between). And no matter how fleeting the encounter may be, he leaves ultimately satisfied. The heart feels free, he sings in the ending, in a rousing voice that strips away the bitterness of age. It's the voice of rebirth, something he actually sings about in At Last I Am Born (which is strategically assigned as the album's last track).

That's pretty much the theme of the album. Although Morrissey continues to use up the lexicon of misery in his song titles, Ringleaders is an exorcism of demons, a declaration of freedom from repression. Almost every song is optimistic in some parts and yielding in others, but it is all a variation of one theme: being at peace with himself by accepting what can and cannot be. From Life is a Pigsty: It's the same old S.O.S./But with brand new broken fortunes/I'm the same underneath. From I Will See You In Far Off Places: It's so easy for us to sit together/But it's so hard for our hearts to combine/And why? And in The Youngest Was The Most Loved, he warbles with a chorus of children's voices: There is no such thing in life as normal. Something tells me that Morrissey's next album will have far less torment. I'm just not sure whether that's good or bad. Although – or probably because – it's his most self-effacing album, Ringleaders doesn't have the lyrical riddles of his previous works, and fails to reach even half the stature of the complex Vauxhall and I.

caught up : johnny marr + the healers
click here or on the image below to listen

Now back to my point about the reunion. There's a dollar price for everything, so no one can say it's not going to happen, but my hope is for it not to happen, simply because they have grown so far apart Morrissey has outgrown his bandmates so much it's hard to imagine them even looking at one another on stage. Need proof? Listen to Caught Up, the best track from Marr's 2003 album Boomslang and be amazed with the shallowness of it. Catchy? Check. Good guitar? Check. Grown-up? Like can you even understand what he's saying? Come on, can anyone actually picture The Smiths playing their songs with the same intensity as they did 20 years ago? The Smiths is about Marr's guitar complementing Morrissey's words, and vice versa. Their connection was a prerequisite to their sound. They don't have that connection now, and I doubt if their technical expertise – if it's still up to par at all – can compensate for it. Put them together and they'll amount to a circus act people will see only out of curiosity. Can they cross the wire without falling? Yeah, no thanks, whatever.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous25.5.06

    Good article on the Smiths. I agree it would ruin everything if they had a reunion.

    Master_Moon (Sam)