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The Very Best of Morrissey is a 2011 compilation album featuring 16 songs by the love him or hate him pop icon. They could probably be done under the trades descriptions act though for that title as this is very far from the best of Morrissey (culling together as it does a narrow range of songs from the HMV and Parlophone albums). Conspicuous by their absence are Nobody Loves Us, Disappointed, Michael's Bones, Hated For Loving, Hairdresser On Fire, First of the Gang to Die, Sunny, We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name, Lifeguard Sleeping/Girl Drowning, National Front Disco etc. All, I would argue, are much better than half of the songs available here. To be honest, I lost track of or interest in Morrissey's solo career a while back and couldn't even tell you what his last album was called (he'd probably struggle to remember himself after all these years and all these records) but I got this for nothing and there are a couple of modestly rare versions of songs I'd never heard before. My personal favourite Morrissey story is the one told to me by my friend Shiera. When she was a teenager at University up North she once did a stake out on Morrissey's house in Manchester for two days because she'd heard he was in the country. Finally, the reclusive star emerged and went to get in his car. As she approached him she decided that if he was rude or ignored her she was going to burn all her Smiths and Morrissey records. She needn't of worried because he was apparently very friendly and nice and chatted for a while, even letting her take a photograph of them together despite the fact that he had to urgently drive to London. The thing she remembers most about the meeting though is that just as he was saying goodbye and preparing to leave, his mum came scuttling out of the house with a little packed lunch she'd prepared for him! Anyway, this is a spotty compilation that uncomfortably evokes The Smiths song Paint A Vulgar Picture (where Morrissey lambasts record companies for exactly this type of cynical cash in malarkey). Do we really need Morrissey's 7 hour version of Moonriver here? I don't think we do.
The first song out of the lucky dip here is The Last Of The Famous International Playboys. This was an early Morrissey single and an excellent one. Very electronic for Morrissey but essentially a great pop song spun around a lyric that (amusingly) touches upon Morrissey's strange fascination with crime ("Reggie Kray, do you know my name?") and cockney wide boys. Or something. Next is You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side - a song taken from Morrissey's 1992 Your Arsenal album. Not my favourite Morrissey song ever really. It's rather glammy (that album was produced by Mick Ronson) but not very immediate or memorable. The song is about Morrissey lending his support to someone but being met with polite indifference for all his affable endevours. "Well you don't need to look so pleased!" declares Moz. The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get is is a single from Morrissey's wonderful 1994 album Vauxhall & I. It did very well and got into the top ten but it's rather bland in my opinion. Morrissey's vocals are nice though. He sang beautifully on that record I thought. It has a playful lyric about creeping into the consciousness of someone with Morrissey telling us he bears more grudges than "...lonely High Court judges..." I bet he's got a really long memory if someone snubs him. Glamorous Glue is another so-so glammy stomper from Your Arsenal with lyrics that derive from Morrissey's observation that Britain (specifically London) is losing its cultural heritage and becoming more and more generic and influenced by America. It's got a lot worse since he wrote the song too. Girl Least Likely To is taken from, do you know what, I have no idea. Might be a b-side. It's a decent and melodramatic song which finds the singer standing by a girl who is doomed to failure in her creative ambitions. The vocal is rather complex and Morrissey handles it well.
Next is Sudehead, the greatest solo Morrissey single EVER and the equal to most of his work with The Smiths. It reached number 5 in the charts and has wonderful guitars worthy of Johnny Marr. I believe this was produced by Stephen Street - who of course went to work extensively with Blur. Never really liked Blur. Nice tunes but seem too posh to me. Next is Tomorrow, the US single version of a song from Your Arsenal. This is precise and hooky with a nice guitar intro. "All I ask of you is one thing that you'll never do, would you put your arms around me?" sings Morrissey. It sounds equally good in this version as the singer uses the lyrics to spin a very Morrissey preoccupation with rejection and loneliness. Boxers is up next and a (no pun intended) lightweight but poignant and pretty song about a boxer who loses a big fight in front of his home crowd ("The crowd calls your name, they love you all the same..."). Reminds me of an amateur boxing night in Margate. When we went to get fed at the end of the evening they only had some dog eared salad left in the kitchens. Yummy! A plate of lettuce. I love the snatches of commentary here from the late great Reggie Gutteridge. My Love Life - like Boxers - is taken from The World of Morrissey compilation and is pleasant enough if nothing great. In this gentle song, Morrissey (again) yearns for someone to enter his life in his usual self-deprecating fashion. Break Up the Family is taken from the 1988 debut album Viva Hate and darker than most of the other songs here. It's slower but not quite a ballad. The most interesting thing about the song is the epic kitchen sink lyrics where Morrissey trawls through the imagery and bittersweet memories of his childhood. He decides he's glad to grow older and move away from those "awful" years. I've Changed My Plea To Guilty is a bit self-indulgent with Morrissey in melodramatic mode. He goes a bit falsetto in this slower song. Nothing great.
Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference is a throwaway b-side and a somewhat strange inclusion. It's breezy and Carry On but with a dark edge. Seems to be about being celibate I believe. Ouija Board Ouija Board is another odd inclusion and one of the most panned singles of Morrissey's career. It tries to be quirky in both the music and lyrics but only the latter comes off. Morrissey is funny though as he tries to make contact with a friend on the other side and is told to push off! Interesting Drug is next and features backing vocals from the late Kirsty MacColl. It's a poppy song but not one I think is that great. It has wall of sound guitars but they never settle into anything distinctive. The song is - I gather - about taking ecstasy to temporarily escape the reality of life under Margaret Thatcher. I sometimes get the feeling Morrissey didn't like Margaret Thatcher. I think it was the song Margaret On the Guillotine that first tipped me off. This is a very inconsistent compilation so far and not really The Very Best of Morrissey at all but it does pull its socks up for the next three songs at least and get its act together. November Spawned A Monster is superb with a sort of chainsaw riff running through it and a great intro and wailing backing vocals. The song was mildly controversial because it was about a disabled girl but Morrissey's lyrics (though edgy in places) are about not patronising her and dreaming of the day when she is independent. The song had a wonderfully camp and homoerotic video of Morrissey cavorting in Death Valley with a diaphanous shirt on. He was young and skinny then so could get away with such frippery.
Everyday Is Like Sunday is next and fantastic. The second best Morrissey song ever. The song is backed by a beautiful six-piece string section and violins and very majestic. Morrissey is on top form here lyrically and vocally. "Trudging slowly over wet sand, Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen, This is the coastal town, That they forgot to close down..." Next is Interlude, another great song. It sounds like a Jon Barry Bond theme ballad with lovely lyrics ("This is like a dream..."). Only drawback here though is that this is the version with Morrissey alone. It was also released as a duet between Morrissey and Siouxsie Sioux and that version is even better. Siouxsie Sioux (that surely can't be her real name!) sings beautifully on the other version of Interlude. Finally we have Moonriver. Yes, Morrissey sings Moonriver and it goes on FOREVER. Never listened to this all the way through myself. Life is too short! This is a pretty haphazard compilation that does not live up to its title. You do though get some remastered promo videos and these are fun at least. They are: The Last Of The Famous International Playboys, The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get, Glamorous Glue, Suedehead, Tomorrow, Boxers, My Love Life, I've Changed My Plea To Guilty (Taken From The Jonathan Ross Show, 1990), Interesting Drug and November Spawned A Monster. Shame the Ouija Board Ouija Board video isn't here because that had Joan Sims in it. These videos are a nice addition though. The Very Best of Morrissey is patchy though and never lives up to its title. One for completists only and they'll have practically all of this already. I borrowed Lady Bracknell's copy of this to listen to but at the time of writing you can purchase it new for about £7.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
1 The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
2 You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side
3 The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get
4 Glamorous Glue
5 Girl Least Likely To
7 Tomorrow (US Mix)
9 My Love Life (US Single Version)
10 Break Up The Family
11 I've Changed My Plea To Guilty
12 Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference
13 Ouija Board Ouija Board
14 Interesting Drug
15 November Spawned A Monster
16 Everyday Is Like Sunday
17 Interlude (Morrissey Solo Version)*
Disc #2 Tracklisting
1 The Last Of The Famous International Playboys (remastered promo video)
2 The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get (remastered promo video)**
3 Glamorous Glue (remastered promo video)
4 Suedehead (remastered promo video)
5 Tomorrow (remastered promo video)
6 Boxers (remastered promo video)**
7 My Love Life (remastered promo video)
8 I've Changed My Plea To Guilty (Taken From The `Tonight With Jonathan Ross Show', December 1990) *
9 Interesting Drug (remastered promo video)
10 November Spawned A Monster (remastered promo video)
11 Everyday Is Like Sunday (remastered promo video)
12 Sunny (remastered promo video)