After the split of The Smiths
in 1987, Morrissey
immediately set about writing and recording new material. In March 1988, Viva Hate was released, and it reached number one in the British
Alsatian Cousin provides a startling opening to the album. The distorted guitar and booming drums sound nothing like The Smiths. However, the lyrics are pure Morrissey: he is quizzing his subject about whether or not sex has taken place.
Little Man, What Now? takes its title from a line in Alan Bennett's play "Forty Years On". The song is rather melancholic, and charts Morrissey's obsession with minor celebrities. Morrissey spent the 1970s as a virtual hermit: listening to records and watching TV. Those wasted years find a use in this song.
Everyday Is Like Sunday was the first song Morrissey performed solo on Top of The Pops (and what a quiff he had!). The nuclear theme recalls John Betjemen's "Slough", and is characteristicly grim. This satire on the English holiday resort is one of Morrissey's best and, as he once observed, "The idea of a resort in Britain doesn't seem natural".
Bengali in Platforms is one of the most controversial songs in Morrissey's canon. The tone of the song is mocking and condescending, but it is up to you to decide whether Morrissey is adopting a different voice, or these "racist" words are his own. The song still causes friction among his followers.
Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together is a short yet beautiful track. The theme is suicide: one close to Morrissey's heart. The soaring string section suits his voice well, and doesn't sound like anything The Smiths could have produced.
Late Night, Maudlin Street has the feel of an epic. It lasts seven and a half minutes, and contains some of Morrissey's most self-pitying lyrics, as well as some of his most humorous. The over all tone is summed-up in the line "Me - without clothes? Well a nation turns its back and gags".
Suedehead begins with what has become a famous riff. Musically, this track is one of the most commercial Morrissey has ever recorded, yet the vindictive lyrics mean that it appeals also to devoted fans. The line "It was a good lay" repeats to fade at the end, yet it is missing from the sheet. A few eyebrows were raised among the following of the then-celibate singer at this provocative, teasing line.
Break Up The Family is a dull song, although the theme is typically Morrissey. We hear thoughts on the virtues of growing old alongside a story of a painful past.
The Ordinary Boys glorifies the elitism of the outsider, and so was popular among the fanbase. The track is Morrissey indulging both himself and his fans.
I Don't Mind If You Forget Me has lyrics which are *too* Morrissey to be effective. It is the old story of the maladjusted hero taking sweet revenge on the person who once had the cheek to reject him.
Dial-A-Cliché explores a dysfunctional youth living in a time when a fey image was still frowned upon.
Margaret On The Guillotine is not the most subtle political song. The twangy guitar sits uneasily alongside the vicious pleas for one of Morrissey's fans ("the kind people") to kill the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A humorous but macabre touch concludes the track: we hear the decapitation followed by a deadly silence. In fact, the sound is a door being closed - borrowed from the BBC Sound Effects record.
Bearing in mind that Morrissey was still finding his feet when he recorded this album, it is not at all bad. There are a few genuinely great tracks (eg Suedehead). However, Morrissey would go on to do much stronger work.