Years of Refusal



by Rudy K. STAFF
March 2nd, 2009 | 13 replies

Release Date: 2009 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Years is an accomplished album, but the somewhat lackluster energy his backup band produces and Morrissey’s own rather tiring brand of relentless cynicism make one wonder what could’ve been.

It’s rare to find a pop icon that has aged as gracefully as former Smiths frontman and sardonic crooner Morrissey. For a man approaching that great milestone of midlife crises, the quintessential English singer-songwriter has achieved a newer, more vital sense of purpose that has led to some of the most vibrant music of his solo career. The latest, Years of Refusal, continues this trend in force, led by typically acerbic lyrics and Morrissey’s classic vocals.

Opener “Something Is Squeezing My Skull” is a guitar rave-up that propels the album off to a quick start, a rapid-fire assault of galloping snares and squealing amplifier feedback. Morrissey bemoans the fact there is “no love in modern life” and desperately cries out “how long must I stay on this stuff"” while reciting a laundry list of anti-depressants, all while sounding like the most well mannered gent this side of the Thames. Years of Refusal is typically Morrissean in content, from jaded reflections on wasteful love in “That’s How People Grow Up” to the tragedy of a mother driven to suicide by debt and her vengeful son on “Mama, Lay Softly on the Riverbed.” Few artists can include “priggish” in their lyrics and not come off as a total buffoon, but it only adds to Morrissey’s over-the-pond charm.

Morrissey’s insistence on spouting on about depression, grief, and assorted farewells, however, conjures up the ghost of an eternally gray London and threaten to drag the album down into a morass of unrelenting negativity. Even coming from the former ringleader of that band of all-time depressives, the Smiths, Years is in danger of wallowing in too much pessimism. Morrissey is blunt in his rage on “It’s Not Your Birthday Anymore,” where he asks “did you really think we meant all those syrupy sentimental things that we said,” and comes off as a petulant self-pitying youngster on “Black Cloud,” where he cries out “I can choke myself to please you / and I can sink much lower than usual / but there’s nothing I can do to make you mine.” You would think nearly fifty years of life on this mortal coil would have given Morrissey some perspective, but even for a crafty veteran, love evidently still sucks.

The album is supported by Morrissey’s backing band, the aptly named Tormentors, who frame their leader’s suave vocals competently, if not exceptionally. Single “I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris” makes up for its whiny lyrics (“no one wants my love / no one needs my love”) with a soaring melody and a catchy piano line that make Morrissey’s uninspired lyrics much more acceptable. The atmospheric ballad “You Were Good In Your Time” is another highlight, strings and a gentle accompaniment lending Morrissey’s vocals an extra weight of emotion before they abruptly cut off, followed by two minutes of disconnected noise that is as chilling as it is effective.

For the most part, however, the band performs capable renditions of the kind of guitar rock that made Morrissey famous in the first place, but aside from the aforementioned cuts, none are as revelatory as Morrissey’s still powerful vocals. The production is well done, and the arrangements are performed perfectly, but the whole affair almost has a workmanlike quality to it, as if the Tormentors are merely going through the motions. Morrissey’s voice remains the band’s most potent weapon, but even that needs a little inspirational help once in a while.

Morrissey ends the record with a maelstrom of rolling drums and lilting vocals in “I’m OK By Myself” and the realization that “after all these years I’m okay by myself,” but if there’s anything to be learned from Years of Refusal, it’s that Morrissey cannot succeed on his own. Years is an accomplished album, but the somewhat lackluster energy his backup band produces and Morrissey’s own rather tiring brand of relentless cynicism make one wonder what could’ve been. Someone get this guy a working relationship!

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user ratings (124)
other reviews of this album
rliu (4.5)
Another high quality output from the veteran...

Comments:Add a Comment 
February 17th 2009


kinda liked "you are the quarry", haven't touched anything by him since

February 17th 2009


Good review, and from what I've heard (the first few songs) the rating is correct. I might get this sometime, but it's far from the best he's done.

February 17th 2009


i've just recently got into morrissey and the smiths, so i guess i'll get to this eventually.

February 17th 2009


Good review but i just can't stand him no more. So tireing.

March 3rd 2009


I don't really like Morrissey's voice which means I can't get into The Smiths. The only song I've heard/liked from his solo career was 'Irish Blood, English Heart'.

May 29th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

There's a couple really good songs on here but overall it's a pretty uninspiring record. It's tough watching (hearing?) artists age.

May 29th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

Oh and nice review Klapper, it's nice to have a different viewpoint evaluating the Morrissey catalogue.

December 8th 2009


Album Rating: 2.5

Is Morrissey this irrelevant? 8 comments and half are from me.

This album has actually settled in nicely for me. I haven't listened to Ringleader since about 3 months after its release but this

finds its way onto my playlist fairly often. For those who like any solo Morrissey output, I'd give this one a chance.

December 8th 2009


huge fan, haven't gotten this yet

January 23rd 2010


very enjoyable album.

January 23rd 2010


lol Morrissey

July 15th 2014


Album Rating: 4.0

double pedals m/

October 21st 2015


someone must look at me and see their sunlit dream

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