Someone forgot to tell Morrissey that sly, literate pop songs went out of vogue after the Cole Porter era. On his fifth solo album, the former front man for the Smiths delivers such treats as "Billy Budd," a love song that seems to be inspired by the similarly titled Melville novella, and "Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning," a passionately whispered morality tale about apathy.
As always, this British antihero's severely glum pose is full of ambiguity. It's unclear whether Morrissey is making an earnest confession or mocking himself when, on "Why Don't You Find Out for Yourself," he moans, "I've been stabbed in the back/So many times/ I don't have any skin."
Vauxhall and I sounds a little bland in comparison with the blasts of electric guitar and punchy rockabilly tunes on Morrissey's 1992 album, Your Arsenal. But the quieter folk-rock accompaniment and flowing melodies help achieve intended irony as Morrissey sings about his overwrought emotions. (Sire)