"Take me out, tonight
Where there's music and there's people who are young and alive
Driving in your car, I never never want to go home
Because I haven't got one anymore..." - The Smiths, "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out"
This is a particularly interesting album to look at, for it marks a very important milestone in the career of the man we know as Morrissey. Previously, he had recorded some of the finest pop songs ever written with The Smiths; then, went on to release a debut solo LP which became his first number one. Easily he could have rushed out a follow-up, and gone on to continue as a successful singer.
Critics and fans alike were rather bemused when, by 1990, all the Moz had to show for himself were a collection of, admittedly good, singles, and a compilation record, Bona Drag. Where was the second LP? Caught in limbo, it took until 1991 for the second proper record from the ex-Smith to emerge. "Kill Uncle" is that record - but it can hardly be considered a follow-up to "Viva Hate". Almost completely eschewing the previous record's more traditional sound, instead we see Morrissey branching out, with songs ranging from the barren and mournful "Asian Rut" to the aggressive and tribal "Sing Your Life".
"Kill Uncle" isn't the record you'd give to someone to introduce them to Morrissey; even for established fans opinion is divided as to whether it's even worth listening to at all. By no means is it a bad record, but it is certainly not his best, nor especially cohesive. There are standout tracks, as with any of his releases, but sadly there are those that aren't as good as they ought to be, and the odd couple that are truly worth skipping over.
- Our Frank - Despite being Morrissey's "quirky" release, "Kill Uncle" begins with a track that certainly wouldn't be out of place on Viva Hate. 'Frank' in the title stands for the 'frank and open conversations' that our protagonist can no longer abide. An interesting violin line joins the backing as he asks the listener to "give it a break, won't you?", suggesting he do such un-Morrissey acts as smoke or drink - before asking if someone will stop him. An excellent opening track. Released as a single in 1991, reaching number 26. "So give us a drink, and make it quick / Or else I'm gonna be sick / Sick all over your red pullover"
- Asian Rut -From the elegant pop of the first track, here Morrissey instead switches to a more bare, violin-led piece with detached, mournful lyrics. The song tells the tale of an Asian boy, cornered and attached by some English kids. Morrissey is careful to stay on the Asian boy's side, imploring the English "It must be wrong - three against one?". Despite this, the song is dogged by the constant allegations of racism which simply isn't there. Not released as a single. "Tooled-up Asian boy / Has come to take revenge / For the cruel, cold killing of his very best friend"
- Sing Your Life - Another change of pace, and tribal drumming leads us into an excellent second single. At times Morrissey's voice seems to come from all over the place as he invites the target to take control, telling their side of their story instead of letting others besmirch them. The instrumentation here is excellent, the bass complimenting the drums nicely. Released as a single in 1991, reaching 33. "Others sang your life / But now is a chance to shine / And have the pleasure of saying what you mean"
- Mute Witness - Very much a song that feels out-of-place on this record, the fourth track is often attacked for being less than kind to its disabled subject. It's clear that Morrissey is trying to be humorous about the situation, but unfortunately it doesn't work quite as well as before (for example, the wonderful Girlfriend In A Coma). A shame, for it marrs a rather nice song. Not released as a single. "4AM Northside Clapham Common / Oh God, what was she doing there? / Will she sketch the answer later? / Well, I will ask her"
- King Leer -An upbeat and rather charming song about a girl who constantly rebuffs our protagonist's advances, this is one of my favourite tracks despite the rather awful pun in the title. A rather simplistic composition, with lyrics that (for Morrissey) are somewhat subpar, the song still comes across as entertaining and definitely one of the better trakcs of the LP. Not released as a single. "I crept up behind ya with a homeless chihuahua / You cooed for an hour / You handed him back and said / "You'll never guess - I'm bored now" "
- Found Found Found - A rockier, edgier song follows the gentle King Leer, foreshadowing the glam rock that Morrissey would embrace with his later work. Morrissey gladly 'borrows' lines from a Noel Coward number to present this track about someone who, having given their love to another, has had their trust cruelly snapped. Another excellent track, but a mere two minutes long. Not released as a single. "I do believe that the more you give your trust / And the more you give your love / The more you're bound to lose"
- Driving Your Girlfriend Home - A very delicate song that remains possibly the highlight of the album; a gentle acoustic guitar-led track which highlights the introspective nature of Morrissey's lyrics. Unsurprisingly the girlfriend of the title is not Mozzer's; instead, he is a friend to the boyfriend, listening to his partner tell him about how she doesn't wish to be in the relationship any longer as he drives her back home. The relationship between the driver and the girlfriend is never touched upon, giving it a lovely air of ambiguity; could they be secret, illicit lovers, or mere kindred spirits? Not released as a single. " 'Turn left' she says / I turn left, and she says / 'So how did I end up so deeply involved in / The very existence I planned on avoiding?' "
- The Harsh Truth Of The Camera Eye - Not a particularly good song, and at five and a half minutes by far the longest, this essay-like song is a scathing attack on the media and paparazzi, criticising the invasion of people's lives the moment they become "celebrities". The piano plods the song on but it feels far too long, the lyrics are too whining, and I almost inevitably skip it. Not released as a single. "Ooh, I don't want to be judged anymore / I don't want to be judged, I would sooner be loved"
- (I'm) The End Of The Family Line - The slower pace that failed to work on the track before here works perfectly, the song presenting the views of a tired and sorrowful person defending their wish not to have children; musically it contrasts perfectly with the similarly-themed Will Never Marry from "Bona Drag". A mock-fade out at the end suddenly, almost defiantly returns, as if the protagonist finally feels strong enough to be proud of his views. Not released as a single."No baby pulled screaming / Into this seething whirl, by chance or whim / (or even love?)"
- There's A Place In Hell For Me And My Friends - And now children, stand for the Morrissey hymn. A perfect track to close, this quiet and gentle song can only be described as depressively optimist - the singer looks forward to when he and his friends die, so that they no longer "get in your way", whilst at the same time defiantly admitting that if he wants to cry "then I will, because I can". His vocals are backed only by a piano, until when he finishes singing, and a soft drum helps bring the LP to a close. Not released as a single."Oh, there is a place, a place in Hell, reserved for me and my friends / And if ever I just wanted to cry / Then I will, because I can"
Despite the faults - several subpar songs, one rather dire - Kill Uncle isn't a bad record. After several listens the better tracks stand out as very good tracks, and there are a few that are every bit as good as anything on Viva Hate. The album is very much one which could only be recorded by Morrissey, and while it doesn't always work quite as well as others, it is still most certainly worth the investment.