has an unfinished feel, which can only be explained by the fact that it is indeed musically incomplete. Or so the story goes. According to lore, Morrissey's musical collaborator on this album, Mark Nevin, presented the singer with some rough ideas of the direction in which he desired to head. Musically and socially inept Morrissey was either too musically ignorant to realise the rough drafts were rough drafts (and rubbish ones at that), or too sheepish to suggest that the songs needed work. He took the demos as the final product and ran with them, resulting in the snooze-fest that is Kill Uncle. Ah, it all begins to make sense.
Prior to the disbanding of the Smiths, Morrissey had never needed any musical acuity; Johnny Marr managed all musical aspects masterfully and single-handedly. Even after the breakup, Morrissey relied on the compositions of Stephen Street just to keep his head above the water. Morrissey is an untraditional vocalist and lyricist who holds no regard for structure or musical stability - and this is all well and good when he has a partner who possesses the talents Morrissey lacks. But without a compatible writing partner who understands Morrissey's weaknesses and can work around them, it all falls apart. Such is the case with Kill Uncle
. After an unhealthy musical split from Stephen Street in the late 1980s, Morrissey was for the first time without a trusted writing partner. Though the split from Marr was unquestionably more painful and complicated, at least he had Street to fall back on, already a trusted producer and engineer for the Smiths before he become Morrissey's co-writer during the Viva Hate
era. When he severed ties with Street, Morrissey had no musical partner to turn to. As such, Kill Uncle
is a transitional album and Morrissey is rather ill at ease and apprehensive. He is navigating uncharted territory, which wouldn't be much of a problem if he didn't have a gaping perforation in the boat caused by the substandard music Iceberg (see: the first paragraph).
Though these abysmal problems should have been noted by someone with a set of ears before the album was recorded, or worse yet released
, credit must be given where it is due. "Our Frank" is a genuinely catchy song, much in the same vein as every other catchy Morrissey song out there, and it is the only track on which he sounds confident. "Mute Witness" has some of the most inane lyrics he has ever written (and this is the fellow who wrote 'Vicar in a Tutu' and 'Some Girls are Bigger Than Others', natch), but it is once again a catchy song amid a veritable sea of banality, so it stands out. "Driving Your Girlfriend Home" has the moments of subdued awkwardness that only Morrissey can reflect and oddly enough this song is probably helped
by the unease with which Morrissey approaches this record.
Some of the songs, like 'King Leer' and 'There's a Place in Hell for Me and My Friends' aren't explicitly unlistenable, they just never seem to take flight and never introduce any noticeable hook. They begin, then they're over, and nothing much comes of it. If you want to fall asleep listening to music and wake with no memory of ever having heard the songs in the first place, these two tracks will do the job quite adequately.
Other songs inspire harsher words. 'The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye', 'Tony the Pony' and '(I'm) The End of the Family Line' are unintentionally absurd. Were I to categorise my least favourite songs ever recorded, I don't doubt that one of these three would make the shortlist. Not quite bad enough to topple 'Games Without Frontiers' or 'Meat is Murder', but I wouldn't count them out either.
Strangely, 'Sing Your Life' was released as a main single, and understandably did not chart well. The song never picks up and the lyrics are no inspiration either. 'Sing your life/anyone can think of words that rhyme', he admits. 'Many others do, why can't you"' What garbage. Perhaps they are meant to be humorous, but I am definitely not seeing it. The only enjoyable thing about this song is trying to figure out which is worse - the music, or the lyrics. I never can quite decide. And it's not even the worst song on the album.
There is really no reason to ever listen to this album, unless you're looking for a reason to hate Morrissey and the fact that he's flaming MORRISSEY isn't enough. Fortunately he found his footing a year after the release of this album and, teaming up with Alain Whyte and Boz Boorer, Morrissey has maintained a relatively consistent set of relationships for nearly fifteen years, a lifetime by his standards. Perhaps he needed to get this album out of his system before moving on with more appropriate ventures, good for him, whatever. It doesn't mean anyone should ever have to listen to it again.