Morrissey “California Son”: Smugly Mediocre

Morrissey. Photo by Liliana Ampudia Mendez/REX/Shutterstock (9993280a)

Morrissey has been trying to shake his reputation as the frontman of The Smiths was quite some time now. While the band was extremely popular in the ’80s, that time of his life is over and now, he wants people to see him as a respectable solo artist.

Before we launch into the review, let’s be clear on one thing. We love The Smiths and we have a lot of time for Morrissey, even if some of the things he has said in the recent have been, well, questionable. The moment we saw the cover of California Son, however, we had a hard time taking this new record seriously.

The album consists of covers and while they are all creative takes on the originals, they are more like violations than improvements. His cover of
“Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow” adds saxophones and choral embellishments but it suffocates the honest and humble raw beauty of Joni Mitchell’s original track.

“Some Say I Got Devil” is probably one of the strongest covers on the record and gives us an eerie and powerful rendition of Melanie Safka’s original. He sings as a female protagonist and his voice brings something new and interesting to the track. Apart from a couple of other gems like the enjoyably cheesy “Wedding Bell Blues”, Morrissey takes more on the album than he gives.

So yes, Morrissey has finally achieved his goal of leaving behind The Smiths for good. The trouble is, once you remove Johnny Marr and the ironically morbid lyrics of Meat Is Murder, what’s left is a great singing voice and a massive ego. We’re all for cover albums but even though Morrissey has provided unique arrangements, he hasn’t given the respect the originals deserved. What’s more, the album just isn’t that great to listen to. Most of the songs are poppy and forgettable.

Ultimately, if these are the songs Morrissey will play at his concerts, we’re not interested. The only way we’d pay to see the smug singer live is if we were promised he would play our favorite songs from The Smiths back catalog. And that’s just never going to happen because Morrissey would much rather play his mediocre solo music.