45 Viva Hate by Morrissey 1988
I think the Smiths broke up at their absolute peak but in doing so Morrissey let go a once in a lifetime partnership.
Viva Hate came out when arguably Morrissey was at his highest profile, simply in terms of everyone watching what he would do next and thinking it would answer the question of whether the greatness of the Smiths song writing was more Morrissey than Marr or Marr than Morrissey. I guess the answer was a bit of both.
Before he surrounded himself with people less talented than himself , he replaced one great guitarist with another , Vini Reilly of the Duritti Column. His smartest move was to keep on board later day Smiths producer Stephen Street but this time as co writer as well as producer.
The result is an lp that I think captures Morrissey's voice at its best. The work of Street and Reilly (who did a lot of the arrangements) produces a crisp sound that sparkles. Even the fuzzy guitar of the opening single has a sharpness about it
The lp doesn't start that way. Crashing drums and wailing guitar provide a sound scape of pure jealousy. The subject matter of other songs swing from potentially autobiographical to portraits of minor characters be it the forgotten child star of Little Man What Now or the Bengali in platforms.
As ever with Morrissey's lyrics half the fun is spotting the influences. Second single pulled on the mood of Betjeman's Slough and its Come friendly bombs invitation , all backed by a wall of sound with some soaring strings
Reilly , Street and Morrissey have at one point fallen out over who wrote what and song writing credits (all the more sadder considering Vini Reilly's current situation). It is shame that this combination wasn't allowed to flourish as although Morrissey has touched other great heights he hasn't produced a more consistent lp since.
The only track that doesn't really work is the final Margaret on the Guillotine. No matter how good the sentiment is feels an almost pastiche of his former band
The heart of the lp is the 7+ min of Last Night, Maudlin Street. I've read somewhere it is autobiographical but with Morrissey who knows.
This is one of those songs that if you don't like Morrissey it probably highlights all the reason why. For me though it has all that is great about him , great lyrics full of surprising turns of phrase , a wicked sense of humour but awash with melancholy. A vocal that is either a whine or soars with emotion depending on your point of view .. I love it
Late Night , Maudlin Street- Morrissey
A re release has recently come out (kind of a Morrissey director's cut) with the above track edited down with the lengthy fade removed and therefore reducing the power of the track , one track omitted and an inferior one included. Also for some reason a change of type face (a change for the worse) . Stick to the original which you can get here