“I NEVER liked Morrissey,” sang John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats once, “and I don’t like you.”
That was on “Anti-Music Song,” one of Darnielle’s early four-track songs from the ’90s, but by 2002, on the compilation Ghana, the leader of one of the most respected indie bands around had written in the liner notes about it: “I’ve actually become a belated convert to the Church of the Mozzer, and regret going public with my ignorance of his excellence.” By 2008, Darnielle was covering “Suedehead” at live shows.
For longtime Morrissey fans, it might have been easy to judge, but isn’t this how it went for so many of us? I remember driving past Santa Cruz’s Morrissey Boulevard with friends in my first year of college, and making jokes about how it must be the whiniest street on the planet. That was about a year before I discovered the Smiths via The Queen is Dead, and I certainly never made another Morrissey joke again. I now have the words “Hang the DJ” (from the Smiths’ “Panic”) tattooed on my leg. So John Darnielle, I feel you.
The thing is, no one makes better Morrissey jokes than Morrissey, and his upcoming 10th solo album World Peace is None of Your Business, to be released this summer, appears to have some good ones, if titles like “I’m Not a Man” are any indication.
Moz’s self-deprecating wit and lyrical genius have seduced legions of unbelievers over his more than 30 years in music, a phenomenon that his 1994 solo hit “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” seems to address head on in a sly sex-music double entendre: “When you sleep, I will creep into your thoughts, like a bad debt that you can’t pay, take the easy way and give in—and let me in.”
His autobiography was a huge hit last year, and while it had a lot of the expected incisive humor (and way too much about the Smiths trial), it didn’t give any insight at all into how he does what he does as a songwriter and singer. The only way to understand what inspires such a fierce allegiance in his fans is to see him live, which San Jose will get the rare chance to do as he opens his tour here.
Morrissey performs at a sold out show May 7 at City National Civic in San Jose. More info.