MORRISSEY, "YOU ARE THE
QUARRY" (ATTACK) [one star]
Dropping out of sight for seven years is
the smartest thing that Morrissey could have done: Other pop stars whose
well-crafted personas border on the obnoxious should really try it (Madonna,
are you listening?). As a result, the 45-year-old singer's return is being
greeted as the musical equivalent of the second coming. But "You Are the
Quarry" shows that Moz has nothing new in his bag of tricks: If you were a
fan of his post-Smiths solo output, you'll love these 12 new songs. If you
weren't, you'll still be wondering what the fuss is about.
Morrissey is fronting a standard two-guitars, bass and drums quintet
(with keyboard help from Jellyfish veteran Roger Manning), but the music is
disappointingly anemic, lacking the bite and the bottom to punctuate his
acerbic lyrics. Contrary to what his cult would have you believe, the singer
is not rock's answer to Oscar Wilde; his hyperbolic hubris can indeed be
amusing (as on "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores"), but it can also be
off-putting ("I Have Forgiven Jesus"). And he still isn't able to view the
world at large outside the filter of his own infamous obsessions.
"America, it brought you the hamburger/Well, America, you know where
you can shove your hamburger," the celebrated vegetarian sings in the
opening "America Is Not the World," which puts our imperialism in the
context of our addiction to fast food. Meat may be murder, but empty-headed
political criticism is crap.
We've been here and done this before, and with better results. If
Morrissey is determined to live in the past, he should just bury the hatchet
with his ex-mates and revive the Smiths. At least then the music would
justify the hoopla.
LENNY KRAVITZ, "BAPTISM" (VIRGIN) [one star]
Complaining about Lenny Kravitz's unapologetic lack of originality is as
pointless as complaining about Chicago's weather. In fact, after six albums,
it's become his charm, at least when it's consumed in small doses via a
track on the radio here or a well-crafted MTV video there. Do you like the
Grand Funk Kravitz, or the faux-Hendrix Kravitz? How about the wannabe Led
Pre-release chatter promised a funk-soul outing this time around, and the
cover art and the photos scattered through the CD booklet find Kravitz doing
his damnedest to look like Prince. He also plays most of the instruments
himself, just like the Paisley Wonder, even though his kickin' band is his
biggest strength. But the 13 tracks don't deliver on that princely pledge;
while there's one neat fake-soul track ("Storm") and a few typically generic
imitation '70s rockers, much of the album has a quieter, more introspective
folk-rock bent. And introspection is not Lenny's strength.
"I don't want to be a star/Just want my Chevy and an old guitar,"
this lover of limousines croons on the second track. But that follows a
typically bombastic boast in the opener: "I'm the minister of rock 'n'
roll/I can heal you, I can save your soul?" Hey, which is it, Len? Are you a
superstar or an Everyman?
The soul-searching in the lyrics and the promise of spiritual rebirth
inherent in the album title indicate that at age 40, post-fling with Nicole
Kidman, our man is having a bit of a mid-life crisis. But since his entire
professional life has been lived in a time that came a decade and a half
before he came of age, it all plays as even more hollow, contrived and
forced than the usual Kravitz product. Dig out your vintage Kiss records and
crank those instead; they're a lot more fun.