Morrissey, née Stephen Patrick Morrissey, the lyricist and vocalist for The Smiths, has had a career of ups and downs. His first solo album, Viva Hate, immediately outsold any of the previously released The Smiths albums, including the critical favorites Meat is Murder and The Queen is Dead. The quality of his solo work didn't diminish, and the climax of a long, critically acclaimed run of albums was Vauxhall and I, the 1994 album that many Morrissey fans call their favorite. Vauxhall and I was a bittersweet album, with the lyrics and tone influenced by the recent deaths of three of Morrissey's close friends (but not without the usual, controversial vitriol that Morrissey is best known for--see "Speedway"). After Vauxhall, which a deeeply saddened Morrissey originally claimed to be his final album, the fans and critics expected Morrissey to release another album with the same style of music as Vauxhall--sad and beautiful. Instead, the follow-up was Southpaw Grammar, an album fans have best described as "punk prog.". Disappointed by this sudden jolt away from the melancholy orchestral stylings of Vauxhall, fans and critics alike reacted poorly to Southpaw (which is another highly underrated album, but I'll save that for some other time).
In 1997, Morrissey released an album that is, in my opinion, on par with Vauxhall in terms of composition, power, and lyrics. Maladjusted was another critical and fan failure, but I believe this was not because of the album itself, but solely due to the backlash from Southpaw Grammar the year before. Maladjusted includes its fair share of beautiful Vauxhall-esque songs, including "Alma Matters," "Trouble Loves Me," and "Ammunition." However, this style of songs seem to be an afterthought to the actual driving force of the album, which is revenge (to the critics, fickle fans, and former Smiths bandmates who sued Morrissey and his collaborator Johnny Marr for money that Morrissey and Marr had every legal right to own). The real thrust of Maladjusted is the anger shown in tracks like "Sorrow Will Come in the End" and "Ambitious Outsiders." It's an amazing feat, in my mind, that Morrissey can write an album insulting everybody who listens to his music, and not only make it poignant and listenable, but cohesive as a whole. This is where Maladjusted shines, and it's a shame that more critics (and Morrissey fans themselves) didn't understand the full power of this album.
After a seven year hiatus, Morrissey returned with the critical and fan-approved You Are the Quarry, an album that once again took potshots at critics in songs such as "You Know I Couldn't Last." It's good to see people are becoming more friendly to Morrissey's style of bitter pop music.
I hope some of you are enjoying these articles, or more importantly, that you are listening to the samples and downloading some of the songs (and enjoying them). I don't know how many of these I have left in me (although a few underrated albums are lingering around in my mind), and it may be a few posts until the next one. Discover some of this good stuff, people.