World of Morrissey
(Sire/Reprise 45879)

Is there any pop performer having a weirder career than Morrissey? Even at the height of the "alternative" thing, he was never really considered cool to like, and Morrissey fans have always been met with a bit of the "Oh" factor, as in "Oh, you're one of those."

I'd count myself as pretty much of a serious Morrissey fan, although I'd have to say I haven't really listened to his music in a few years. I doubt I'm the only one who has watched as each successive Morrissey release seems more and more arbitrary and wayward, and albums like Bona Drag seem like more and more of a fluke. He hasn't actually helped his own case much by putting out albums like World of Morrissey.

Perhaps it's the listening public who's got it all wrong. Perhaps Morrissey has stumbled upon a groundbreaking new way of releasing albums … record a few new songs, and if the notion strikes, go ahead and include some "neglected" tracks from your last couple of albums. He seems to be constantly forcing his fans to listen to the same songs over and over, as if somehow he thinks no one is "getting" him.

Yet disappointing record sales only indicate one thing: that the only people who are sticking by him are his fans, so why torment them so much? They go out and buy import CD singles for one b-side, which subsequently crops up on an album like this, and in the end, for some reason, it's Morrissey that feels screwed?

Morrissey needs to stop thinking he's on the verge of some superstar pop career. Like Prince, Morrissey is a cult figure who is understood best by the fans, not by the casual record buying public, who, I should point out, would not be pleased with World of Morrissey either. It's a hodgepodge assortment of tracks from Morrissey's mid-90's string of spotty albums (Beethoven Was Deaf, Vauxhall And I) plus some singles and b-sides, and for some reason "The Last of the Famous International Playboys," which as I recall has been included on every Morrissey album so far.

The track selection is not terribly appealing, coming off more as Morrissey's personal selection of his own favorites rather than his truly great moments. I mean, "Billy Budd" and "Spring-Heeled Jim" were OK the first time around, but would be far from my choices for a compilation album.

Live takes of "You're the One For Me Fatty" and "Sister I'm a Poet" are better left on the live album, and tracks like "Jack the Ripper" and "Have-a-Go Merchant" are just plain unmemorable. On the plus side, "Boxers," "My Love Life," and "Moon River" are welcome inclusions, and it's always nice to hear "Certain People I Know." But overall the collection seems to be striving for a Bona Drag-level consistency, but it succeeds more in the "Drag" aspect than the "Bona." (?)

I can think of few artists who would be better served by a singles/b-sides collection. Just put the singles (the studio versions, please) on one or two CDs, and the b-sides on one … and there you have a rock-solid album. I mean, if you need to do a compilation release, do it right. So far, Morrissey has put out six proper albums … and THREE compilations!? For people who have the devotion to buy each release, this must be pretty trying.

Admittedly, Bona Drag, Morrissey's best release by far, was a compilation that repeated tracks from Viva Hate. But sometimes lightning only strikes once, Lou Christie notwithstanding. And while I'm talking about Morrissey, why is Kill Uncle the neglected album? Even Morrissey himself hasn't compiled tracks from that onto anything else. I swear, it's a good album!

And true to form, two albums later: My Early Burglary Years, a collection of "rare" b-sides and "neglected" album tracks. Ugh!!!

Review by Sal Pal