morrissey_refusalPut it this way. If the recorded history of The Smiths were the First World War, Morrissey would be knee deep in the mud of Dunkirk by now. Stretching this a bit further would make Viva Hate the Treaty Of Versailles, Vauxhall and I the boom times of the mid 1920's and Maladjusted the Great Depression. Sadly, it would also make You Are The Quarry the rise of the Nazi party, so we'll leave that there; but it does serve to highlight the huge gulf of time between the group for which he is most famous and the solo artist he became. And in some respects, the strapping lad of 2009 is a long way from the wiry, puny wielder of flowers from the 80's.With his brawny arm locked round a chubby toddler, he looks the business on the sleeve to Years of Refusal. He actually manages to look more of a threat to society holding a baby than firing a machine gun, his Fred Perry shirt straining at the buttons. And the album is almost as stuffed full as his shirt, packed with punchy, compact song nuggets. Lyrically, he is fiercer than ever. Gone are the fruity couplets of the last album, replaced by withering wit and cocky self-pity.And hardly one for reinvention, Morrissey sticking to what he does best both in words and in music. He opens with 'Something is Squeezing My Skull' , where he "blocks out the present and the past", declaring himself to be "doing very well" thank you, sticking the boot into modern life and anyone else who happens to get in his way. He keeps the pace up all through the first half of the album, 'Mama Lay Softly' full of strident drums, 'Black Cloud' somehow pulling off the act of sounding 20 years out of date and modern at the same time.Whilst these up tempo numbers are certainly stirring, it is in the quieter moments, so few and far between, that Morrissey really excites. It's a shame then that structurally he places these numbers towards the end of the album. 'Its Not Your Birthday Anymore' and 'You Were Good in your Time' sit uneasily with the petulant sounds of 'I'm Ok By Myself', which merely retreads the bulk of what has come before. 'All You Need Is Me' sees him really stick his bottom lip out, featuring the most world-weary sarcastic "whoopee" put to tape, even by his standards.This is probably the most "up front" of all his solo albums, the most immediate, more redolent of the pop aspirations of The Smiths than anything that has come before. However, it is unlikely to be regarded in the future as one of his best. When magazines in the year 2025 do the inevitable "Where Are They Now" treatment on the baby in the artwork, this will be considered a solid album, accessible and vibrant, but lacking the mystery of the likes of Vauxhall and I to remain a classic. It is a good album, at times bordering on the great, but does not quite have the heart to be a masterpiece.75%Morrissey on MySpace