Morrissey makes a little music and a little love

New album ‘Ringleader’ is grandiose – and great, sexy fun

by Emily Garber

Morrissey must be in love. And he must hate it.

For the first time the aging, iconic pop lyricist knows exactly what he’s going through. He responds in a way only Morrissey would: with existential disarray and soiled optimism.

Instead of hinting at not-quites and almosts, Morrissey uses his new album “Ringleader of the Tormentors” to take us on a grand adventure from his birth to his death – with a little bit of sexual penetration in between.

This sexuality is surprising. While still with Brit-pop group The Smiths in the 1980s, Morrissey was accused of referencing homosexual encounters in his music. He somehow escaped the rumors, and eventually claimed celibacy and asexuality.

Yet on “Ringleader” we hear lyrics that cross the vague and hazy lines Morrissey drew on past albums. On only the second song, characteristically named “Dear God, Please Help Me,” Morrissey proclaims, “There are explosive kegs between my legs” and later in the same song, “Now I’m spreading your legs with mine in between.”

This language is so frank and thrilling one wonders why Morrissey ever bothered to beat around the bush.

To prove his point, Morrissey sings later, “I entered nothing, and nothing entered me, till you came with the key.”

Looks like Morrissey’s finally getting down and dirty.

Morrissey recorded “Ringleader of the Tormentors” with legend Tony Visconti, who produced records for T-Rex and David Bowie during the ’60s and ’70s. This album sways in Visconti’s characteristic bass-heavy restlessness, especially on the first track, “I Will See You in Far Off Places.”

The song “You Have Killed Me” follows this formula, too. As the first single released from “Ringleader,” this song has enough dance-floor appeal to lure even his most depressed fans out from their shadowy nooks.

“At Last I Am Born,” brings another refreshing wave of unpolluted optimism, with military trumpets and snares assisting Morrissey as he declares “I once thought that I had numerous reasons to cry / and I did / but I don’t anymore.”

Despite all the confidence Morrissey seems to have acquired, the hope that he may have snapped out of his 23-year-long depression is squandered with songs like “To Me You Are a Work Of Art,” in which he croons, “I would give you my heart / that’s if I had one.”

In typical Morrissey fashion, “The Youngest Was The Most Loved,” alludes to a troubled upbringing. For this song, he brilliantly hired Italian Children’s Choir to chant, “There is no such thing as normal.” The dysfunctional family theme resurfaces two songs later in “The Father Who Must Be Killed.”

“Ringleader of the Tormentors” is Morrissey’s fresh take on old themes. His exposed gray hair on the album’s cover might be a sign that the legend has grown out of his depressed teenager stage.

Morrissey might have cracked a smile this time around, but he makes sure to follow it with his signature pompadour-framed pout.