Ringleader has a nice ring to it
Morrissey's eighth studio album, Ringleader of the Tormentors, is more experimental than the artist's previous album.
Apr. 14, 2006
Few songwriters have Morrissey's biting wit.
His always-acerbic take on sex, God and politics has made him one of the most influential independent artists of the past decades.
On his eighth studio album, Ringleader of the Tormenters, Morrissey sticks with these familiar lyrical themes.
But, he still finds ways to be innovative with his sound, embellishing tracks with unexpected flourishes.
His last album, 2004's You Are the Quarry, had a more coherent sound, but Ringleader's strategy of experimentation works almost as well.
It's refreshing to see an artist with so many albums — many of them classics — under his belt who still takes risks.
Granted, it's not as if Morrissey has decided to take up rap, but I'll take what I can get.
Album-opener "I Will See You in Far off Places" evokes a somewhat Middle Eastern sound with chiming percussion and shimmering guitar over which Morrissey sings lyrics like "If your god bestows protection upon you/And if the USA doesn't bomb you/I believe I will see you somewhere safe." It might look like heavy-handed symbolism on paper, but it works nicely in the song.
Another highlight of the album is "The Father Who Must Be Killed," a violent song about an abusive stepfather with a decidedly upbeat melody that features a delightfully creepy children's choir that backs up Morrissey. This children's chorus makes two other appearances, but this one stands out.
Morrissey follows up that track with "Life Is a Pigsty," which, at roughly seven and a half minutes, is the longest song on the album.
It begins simply with some atmospheric sounds: rain falling and what sounds like silverware clinking.
From here, it builds slowly from a clinking piano to an acoustic guitar track with a deep, pounding bass drum in the background.
This sounds unlike anything Morrissey has attempted before.
Of course, not all tracks have something new, but even when Morrissey sticks to his standard, sometimes overwrought, musical fare, his songs still work.
Morrissey's lyrics make his occasionally over-sentimental arrangements work though other artists' often do not.
His lyrics always bite through any overdone accompaniment and have always had a knack for mixing humor with bleakness.
A favorite example from this album's "On the Streets I Ran" goes "Dear God, take him, take them, take anyone/The stillborn/The newborn/The infirm/Take anyone/Take people from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania/Just spare me!" This encapsulates Morrissey's talent, especially given that he sounds downright cheerful as he sings.
For those who don't like Morrissey, this album is not going to change any opinions. But for all those fans who need another Morrissey fix, this album will definitely not disappoint.