"Very special thanks to Jake" - Morrissey, sleeve notes
Building on the return to form of Your Arsenal, goading his critics and welcoming his fans, the new Morrissey emerged in 1994 to release what could well be his finest solo LP.
Sound ambitious? Morrissey had, by now, released three full albums since the split with The Smiths, all unique but still distinctly his own. While he had established himself firmly as a solo artist with his first album, Viva Hate, he had dipped with the follow-up, and found himself mired in his usual controversy with his antics at the Finsbury Park "Madstock" concert.
The return in 1994 was, however, simply sublime. Morrissey had come back with an album that sounded so unlike himself, but at the same time was precisely what you'd expected him to release. Gone was the brutal, aggressive criticism he had polished with Your Arsenal, replaced with a softer, more subtle anger, coupled with the same shining wit he had always had. It was, essentially, an even greater 'return to form' than the previous album had been - no mean feat. The album even gave the Moz his very own American Top 20 single, with The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get.
- Now My Heart Is Full - The opening number sees Morrissey explaining to his audience that, with all the trouble in his world, he feels he needs to cut himself off from it. His heart is now full, but he "just can't explain" why it's happened. The lyrics are elegant and set to a beautiful soft piece, oddly juxtaposing his lyrics' dourness with such wonderful music. An excellent opening track, but not released as a single."Tell all my friends / (I don't have too many / Just some rain-coated lovers' puny brothers)"
- Spring-Heeled Jim - A quietly building sound takes us into the second track, its title a play on the Victorian penny dreadful legend of "Spring Heeled Jack". The track mixes a brooding atmosphere with samples from a 1950s film, telling the story of a murdering Jack reflecting on his life of womanising and killing, asking "where did all the time go?" as he realises how he's wasted his life. Not released as a single. "Spring-heeled Jim winks an eye / He'll 'do', he'll never be 'done to' "
- Billy Budd - The tempo shifts upwards as we re-encounter Morrissey, the rocker: in this fast-paced track we get to hear of a love affair between our storyteller and a prisoner, having to defend himself against his contemporaries because of Budd's reputation. Despite all this though, the narrator has no regrets and would "happily lose both of my legs" in order to be with him again. Not released as a single. "I took my job application into town / Did you hear? They turned me down / Yes, it's all because of us"
- Hold On To Your Friends - The album slows down again for another gentle track, but behind the softer music is fierce criticism by Morrissey of a person he sees as slipping away from their friends when they feel they don't need them. Morrissey asks them why they're so willing to lose the ones they need the most, pointedly asking "there are more than enough to fight and oppose - why waste good time fighting the people you like?" Whilst he seems harsh and over-critical, clearly Morrissey is willing to reconcile with them, and his worries are definitely sincere. Released as the LP's second single in 1994, it reached number 47. "Just bear in mind: / Oh, there might just come a time when you need some friends"
- The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get - A fantastic, mocking song where Mozzer once again attacks his critics, playfully calling to them that they really can't avoid him, no matter how hard they try. The video is especially memorable for employing elements from all his other (solo) videos, as if to say "you know this, you know me!" The song came at a time when, in the UK, he had been especially ostracised. However the song was his only top 10 single of the 1990s, reaching number 8. "Beware! I bear more grudges / Than lonely high court judges / When you sleep I will creep into your thoughts / Like a bad debt that you can't pay"
- Why Don't You Find Out For Yourself - Furthering the cause against the music industry (see Paint A Vulgar Picture and The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye), Morrissey here takes the side of a budding musician, warning them of the perils and pitfalls of the industry and those who are in it purely for themselves. This song is among many which feels very personal, and it's clear Moz is speaking truthfully when he attacks his foes, and here it comes backed with an intimate acoustic guitar. Not released as a single. "Why don't you find out for yourself? / Then you'll see the glass / Hidden in the grass"
- I Am Hated For Loving - Whilst one often hears Morrissey speak of love, we never hear him speak of being in love; here, however, he tells us that all the flak he receives is purely because he loves too much, and a frank admission that he still is only his own. Are the hills are alive with celibate cries? If the assault on Morrissey continued very much longer, they would probably be ringing forever more. The song is gentle and doesn't interfere in the singer's open dialogues, but at the end picks up into a suddenly optimistic break. Not released as a single. "Anonymous call, a poison pen, a brick in the small of the back again / I still don't belong"
- Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Dreaming - An ambiguous, brooding song dealing with the death of a girl, who despite her attempts to get help is ignored by the lifeguard who did nothing to help her. The song seems to deride the girl ("Who does she think she should be?") but is instead judging the lifeguard who let 'nobody's nothing' die without lifting a finger. It wasn't that he didn't try, but that he was incapable of doing his job, that Morrissey seems to detest. Not released as a single. "It was only a test / But she swam too far against the tide / She deserves all she gets"
- Used To Be A Sweet Boy - Another reflective, introspective song as Morrissey seems to ask how he turned out the way he is. He remains adamant "I'm not to blame", but in this short, interesting track he seems hesitant to answer his own questions, instead preferring to leave it open. Not released as a single."Used to be a sweet boy / Holding so tightly to daddy's hand / But that was all in some distant land"
- The Lazy Sunbathers - At the very beginning of World War II, German families flocked to Wahnsee, enjoying the summer but knowing that the start of their troubles was around the corner, almost in denial that their perfect world was about to be pushed aside. The "lazy sunbathers" of this song are these families, who try desperately to convince themselves that it's not real, that the summer will last forever. Not released as a single. "Too lazy to question stagnation / The sun burns through the planet's core / And it isn't enough / They want more"
- Speedway - The sound of a motorcycle engine helps kick-start this song, another song where Morrissey admits that he faces a lot of criticism, but also admits that he needs it - that it helps keep him "grounded". His critics will refuse to let up until the very end, but he knows that he could help bring them down with him if he wanted to. A fantastic way to the end the album, Morrissey as ever defiant. Not released as a single. "All of the rumours keeping me grounded / I never said, I never said they were unfounded"
At this point in his career Morrissey had long been shunned by his homeland, the NME (once nicknamed "New Morrissey Express") had begun its vendetta, and he had effectively fled to the USA on a permanent basis. But this album showed he was unwilling to go without a fight, and although it was during difficult times he still managed to reach number 1 in the albums chart with it back home.
Musically the album finds the band at a peak, as the artists find themselves increasingly more comfortable working together. The Morrissey/Boz Boorer/Alain Whyte partnership would form the core of his songwriting and musical team which has remained to this day, and while not a surrogate Smiths, have provided us here with the background to an artist at the very top of his game.