May 16, 2004

ostentatious absenteeism


I disagree with Geeta and, as ever, find myself echoing Robin. By his presence alone, Morrissey on Jonathan Ross showed up Now Pop's inability to produce (self-made) mythical characters. Or is that absence? As Simon pointed out back in the day, Morrissey developed a kind of 'ostentatious absenteeism', a perverse 'look at me, I don't want to be here' form of attention-seeking/ repulsion.

On JR he still, absolutely, refused to play the game, refused to step out of role, to relax into Ross's PoMo spree of meta-commentary and lampoonery. Unlike Robin, I do like Ross (he can be forgiven most anything for his wit and his enthusiasm) but he was clearly out of his depth with Morrissey whose gravity and implacable seriousness were unassailable. Both men seemed uncomforable, though Morrissey, painting himself as the misanthrope of legend, on the edge of his nerves (where you suspect he lives most of his life), coiled, reflective, cultivating hatreds and amours fou alike, was at least more used to this painful level of social embarrasment. (Ross's joke about Morrissey becoming his friend quickly shaded into Alan Partridge territory: 'When are you coming round? ... I've got two lambs...')

His solo career amounts to very little, of course, although the new single is compelling enough, and 'The More You Ignore Me, the Closer I Get' is an underrated masterpiece, every bit the equal of his best work with The Smiths, an unflinching vignette of obsessive fixation ('I bear more grudges/ than lonely high court judges'). And his playing of 'Every Day is Like Sunday' reminded you that it is one of THE high watermark moments in Britannia Moribundia ('Trudging slowly over wet sand.... Win yourself a cheap tray'). Its perversity, its Betjeman 'Slough'-esque rage and disgust ('Come armageddon come....') tempered by a grim fascination, a Dubliners-like inertial pull; the o-so English attachment towards that which is ostensibly loathed. (The Joyce comparsion actually an interesting one, since both would remain permanently attached to a homeland they'd eventually live outside of.)

Robin talks of Lynch and that's strangely right: Morrissey in L.A. must be like one of Lynch's ghostly chanteurs, existing in some Lynchian untime, neither of the present nor of the past, never really rock and roll.... I suppose the closest parallel would be Ben, the Dean Stockwell character from Blue Velvet; performer for all those rough trade gangster-types (or perhaps that is Morrissey's dream of what he could be)....

As I watched, I realised that I couldn't remember the last time I'd seen Moz interviewed on television. (Well, it's been, so they said, eighteen years...) Is it me or does he look more handsome than before, his eyes an even brighter, an even steelier, blue than ever? That East End gangster look suits him rather well, I think.

The strange power of media and pop to simulate intimacy....
Morrissey says he doesn't like people, but we all feel, secretly, that he'd like us, don't we?

Posted by mark at May 16, 2004 11:00 PM | TrackBack

I see your point re. Ross's obvious enthusiasm - but surely the fact that it's all channelled into pomo posturing only makes him more infuriating. A lot of the time it seems he really _is_ alan partridge, half-veiled envy and bitterness and all. The thing that disturbs me about him is that he actually seems to think that the parodic circus he creates around himself is more important and more real than anything else. The thing that cemented my hatred of him was the 'Rod Hull incident', of which something anon on u.c.

Don't at all agree with the blanket denunciation of Morrissey's solo career - in fact - heresy of heresies - I actually prefer some of his solo stuff to The Smiths (although it's stupid to 'compare' anything to The Smiths really). I'd say all the stuff up to 'Vauxhall and I' sees him maturing/improving lyrically, and developing precisely that mythology you're talking about. Vauxhall and I is a truly magnificent record from beginning to end. I do agree that after 'Vauxhall' things got a bit poor though, dunno why (unless that was when he moved to LA?)

Posted by: undercurrent at May 16, 2004 11:31 PM

I'm intrigued about the 'Rod Hull incident'... ????

Tbh, haven't heard any of Morrissey's solo albums all the way through since 'Viva Hate' --- and I do adore 'More You Ignore Me' so it bodes well --- can it really be a DECADE ago that it came out? Ten years... Fuckin hell...

Posted by: mark k-punk at May 16, 2004 11:39 PM

I think 'Kill Uncle' (I think it's the one after Viva Hate) is a much underrated album - 'Our Frank' and 'Asian Rut' are particularly good songs; and I love the silly ones too: 'Ouija Bourd, Ouija Board'. But then, most of my Morrissey CDs got stolen by some **** in Wolverhampton, as you'll remember !

You're right about the Betjeman connection - I just started reading Betjeman today for no apparent reason, it must be subliminal...

Yes, I'll get the Rod Hull post done now!

Posted by: undercurrent at May 17, 2004 12:31 AM

On the contrary, I got the impression that I'd hate Morrissey, and he'd hate me, much though I admire him.

Posted by: Philip at May 17, 2004 09:59 AM

for me, you hit the nail poignantly and embarrassingly square there, mark - hence the paradoxical nature of his always seeming closer and yet necessarily further away than any 'celebrity'.

Posted by: undercurrent at May 17, 2004 11:14 AM

compared to Joyce.


Posted by: scott at May 17, 2004 07:21 PM

Scott, the Joyce comparison --- largely based on Dubliners --- same sense of paralysis, inability to escape ---- reconstruction of a longed-for homeland from exile ----

Posted by: mark k-punk at May 17, 2004 07:56 PM

yeah i thought that would be it.

and i wasn't really having a go.

and i realise you're not implying similar levels of artistic insight etc.etc. (well even if you are, fair play).

i just wanted to be a contrary bastard, as is my wont...

Posted by: scott at May 17, 2004 08:34 PM

Agree with undercurrent: 'Vauxhall & I' is just brilliant and I too prefer (some) solo Morrissey to the Smiths. Mark: you really should hear it - currently 4.99 at HMV. BTW I'd heartily recommend Mark Simpson's 'Saint Morrissey' to anyone who ever 'got' or never could get Morrissey...which is everyone, probably.

Posted by: peter at May 18, 2004 11:18 AM