Album Review: Morrissey – Swords (Universal)

Neil O'Sullivan 5 November 2009

Since the demise of The Smiths Morrissey’s solo efforts have ranged from the sublime (Vauxhall and I) to the ridiculous (Bengali in Platforms). The arch-miserablist is a master at putting out frequent compilation albums. So is Swords, Morrissey’s latest offering, another lazy collection of off-cuts or a worthy addition to the singer’s extensive back catalogue?

Swords gathers 18 b-sides from Morrissey’s last three albums, and is the latest release from his ongoing renaissance period. The grainy and uninspired cover art does not do much to raise expectations, but on the whole the consistent quality of the recent albums is matched in this collection. Some songs are brilliant. “Ganglord” and “Don’t Make Fun of Daddy’s Voice” positively burst out of the speakers. “Friday Mourning” and “Munich Air Disaster 1958” come close to the poignancy of some of The Smiths’ finest work.

Morrissey may not be the razor sharp lyricist he once was, but he can still pen a good song, and his trademark mix of humour and melancholy is much in evidence on Swords. The surprisingly good cover of Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday “also shows that, despite recent health problems, there’s life in man’s voice yet.

The biggest problem with Swords is that it lacks cohesion. It feels like a b-sides album. Different musical styles sit uncomfortably next to each other and weaker songs disrupt the flow of the album. Casual listeners may struggle to maintain interest over 18 tracks, but for fans, the moments of brilliance mean the album won’t disappoint.

Neil O’Sullivan