After his sojourn in Los Angeles, which produced You Are The Quarry, his first album in seven years, Morrissey buggered off to Italy for a bit, living and recording in Rome.
The resulting album, Ringleader Of The Tormentors, was written with collborators old and new, in Alain Whyte and Jesse Tobias respectively, and roped in some bloke called Ennio Morricone to do a few strings. Tony Visconti, perhaps deciding there was no real future in T. Rex or David Bowie records any more, produced.
Thematically, one thing is particularly noticeable on this album: sex. It’s comfortably the most direct Morrissey has been about matters of the flesh, most notably on Dear God Please Help Me (featuring Morricone’s arrangement) which, inevitably, led to all kinds of conjecture about the exact nature of the relationship described. Similarly, At Last I Am Born, the, um, climax of the album, rounds things off with a crash, a bang, and a throwing-off off life’s worries.
Don’t worry, it’s not all bedroom frolics. Life Is A Pigsty begins with a Well I Wonder-esque drizzly intro, and rises above the sum of its parts to become a spectral, thumping, gripping, but ultimately simple presentation of life as a disappointment. Meanwhile, given the subject matter, The Father Who Must Be Killed is a surprisingly touching song: Morrissey both observes and directs a girl’s actions against her abusive step-father, before she turns the knife on herself, set to a rousing musical backdrop and a children’s choir.
The album highlight is You Have Killed Me, beginning with a growl of guitars and a clash of cymbals and ending with rising strings. Morrissey’s love of his adopted home comes to the fore, with liberal references to both the city (“Piazza Cavore / What’s my life for?”) and the country’s cinematic heritage, singing of himself, his love interest, actors and directors, in a lustrous mix of sexual desires. And the crowd goes wild.