By Stephen Lee, December 6 2017 —
Morrissey’s newest album, Low in High School, is rife with the artist’s signature dismal poetry, starting off strong but losing energy and intrigue in the album’s second half.
Low in High School offers relevant lyrics to the modern world. Songs like “Who Will Protect Us from the Police?” and “All the Young People Must Fall in Love” express a clear anti-totalitarian message. During divisive times, songs about police brutality and war will resonate with many listeners.
Morrissey employs wit to create a whimsical, dreary mood. His cynicism can be abrasive and at times superfluous but it represents the overall attitude of a generation’s yearning for peace amidst turmoil.
One song, “I Bury the Living,” is particularly interesting. It brings forth an onslaught of energy that adds to Morrissey’s harrowing commentary on war. The song’s conclusion is a captivating guitar lick mimicking Morrissey’s voice with reverb as the song fades. “All the Young People Must Fall in Love” offers a jaunty, laid-back vibe set to a rhythmic drum beat.
The biggest pitfall of Low in High School is that the second half loses momentum quickly. The lyrics may be insightful but the music is no longer captivating. There aren’t many riffs or chord progressions that bring new sounds in comparison to previous work. There’s a level of expectation to innovate attached to Morrissey because of his past with The Smiths. But guitarist Johnny Marr was the component of the band that brought instrumental ingenuity through his use of alternative tunings, unusual time signatures and a unique tone that come from his 12-string guitar. Without Marr to back Morrissey’s lyrics, some songs fall flat. He is a smart writer but this album doesn’t maintain energy and melody in all of its songs.
Morrissey’s lyrics are clever and the first half of this album offers some intriguing music. However, the album doesn’t maintain the same musical innovation throughout. Low in High School would be a greater success if Morrissey were able to channel his signature energy into its entirety.