Picks and Pans Review: Kill Uncle

updated 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/19/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT


Go ahead. Make fun of Morrissey for his droning voice, glum lyrics and support of such causes as celibacy or vegetarianism. One detail wins the defense's case: The guy is brilliant.

As a lyric writer, Morrissey has a rare gift for innuendo, rich metaphors and even that pop anathema, complexity. His melodies, often cowritten with band members, can settle into a static monotone, yet on every release he creates at least one song with a fresh twist. As leader of the Smiths, he launched a new pop style with the 1984 hit "How Soon Is Now," notable both for Johnny Marr's shimmering guitar and Morrissey's pun-packed lyrics about loneliness. His 1990 collection of solo singles, Bona Drag, includes other mold breakers.

On his third solo LP, Morrissey (working with Mark E. Nevin, a Fairground Attraction alum) introduces startling material again. The standout, "King Leer," sustains its double meaning as the narrator describes his troubling status as go-between in a love affair, though the affair may actually be his own. Not only does Morrissey stuff self-parody into the lyrics, even the music has a mocking edge. A repeated piano motif played by Steve Heart mimics cheap lounge music.

As always Morrissey writes lyrics that find vitality even in seemingly barren topics. "The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye" focuses on the sexual and psychological side of photography: "My so friendly lens/ Zooms into/ 'The inner you'/ And it tells the harsh truth/ And nothing but."

Kill Uncle may sound like just more moroseness. But Morrissey is to loneliness what Porter was to high society.

Morrissey pushes his favorite topics to new limits, reaching out for truths most pop songwriters ignore. In "Our Frank," another punfest—this time about the importance of being frank (not earnest)—Morrissey asks sarcastically: "Won't somebody stop me/ From thinking all the time/ About everything/ So deeply/ So bleakly."

Forget it. No one can stop him. This guy is in an introspective and fascinating mood for the long run. (Sire)

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