An almost dismissive sly jazzy new-wave thrasher
The memorable former The Smiths frontman, Steve Patrick Morrissey, released his newest album I Am Not a Dog On a Chain, consisting of new-wave tunes, Morrissey’s sly rhythmic vocals and miscellaneous instruments that just do not belong.
At the core, Morrissey keeps the iconic new-wave rock beat that so many fell in love with in his earlier solo albums and with The Smiths, but falls short of it due to wacky tunes that would be regularly implemented by other bedroom pop artists and often drags from one song to the next.
The album begins with hard EDM like synths in “Jim Jim Falls,” a track with an almost blatant theme of killing yourself with a chorus stanza of, “if you’re gonna jump then jump/ don’t think about it/ if you’re gonna run home and cry/ then don’t waste my time/ if you’re gonna kill yourself/ then to save face/ just kill yourself.” With catchy beats, “Jim Jim Falls” highlights the true talent of Morrissey’s iconic articulatory vocals making this a headstrong track to kick off the album.
With scratchy synths, catchy repetitive strumming and smooth bass “Love Is on Its Way Out” alludes to the nostalgic depressive tempos once played in Morrissey’s youth with the addition of heightened synths, fit for the underground hole in the wall café bar scene. The lyrical music paints a depressive psychedelic experience with stunning photography and slow-mow shots for anyone wishing to jam out to Morrissey’s strong narcotic vocals.
“Bobby, You Think They Know?” features head-bopping beats with slack riff guitar, chimed keyboards, and R&B and gospel vocals of the well renown Thelma Jackson for a hard-hitting punk track.
“I Am Not a Dog on a Chain” bears vocals and melodies aesthetic to that of The Smith’s 1987 album Louder Than Bombs, with declaring punk lyrics and a possible allusion to ‘Fake News.’ “I am not a dog on a chain, I use my own brain/ I do not read newspapers, they are troublemakers/ listen out for what’s not shown to you and there you find the truth/ for in a civilized and careful way they’ll sculpture all your views.”
Soft rock strumming and slow percussions support Morrissey’s slow dragged vocals composing a sound found similar to that of his early 90s work in “What Kind of People Live in These Houses?”
Showing off his draggy articulated vocals, “Knockabout World” gives an easy to sway to melody making it one the top three tracks on the album with plucky strings and steady percussions.
What started fairly decent as a melody takes a bad turn when trumpets overlie a catchy chorus and steady beat, strums, and vocals that would have for an excellent love song with dreamy lyrics of, “why can’t you bring figs all pulpy and moist?/ roasted in passion and salty in voice?/ no longer keeping a secret of your secret place/ why can’t you give me some physical love?/ why can’t you give me some physical love?/ everything else is in place, except physical love,” if not for the deafening unfit trumpets.
With a music video featuring the journey and nature of raccoons along a riverbank over a chill EDM tune “Once I Saw the River Clean” presents an artistic narrative with groovy melodies on top of Morrissey’s sly lyrics. For cinematography and an excellent tune mashed together, Once I Saw the River Clean takes the cake for #1 track on this album.
Soft strums and rhythmic poetic vocals make for a slow and sad outro track in “My Hurling Days Are Done” with depressing lyrics such as, “oh mama, mama and teddy bear/ were the first full firm spectrum of time/ but now my hurling days are done/ and there is no one to tell and there’s nowhere to run,” to give that descending fade ending.
I Am Not a Dog On a Chain is by far not one of Morrissey’s best compilations with somewhat off picks of melodies that just don’t concrete well with Morrissey’s style of vocals. For fans of The Smiths and Morrissey’s first solo works, this album still presents that iconic voice we all appreciate but the tunes that upkeep them are just offsetting to that nostalgic ’80s punk new-wave sound so many fell in love with.
Though there are plenty of dismissive tracks this album bears there are at least few select tracks that sure give any The Smiths fan that sound they crave so dearly.