Guilt by association

Vauxhall and I (1994) is generally put forward as the high point of Morrissey’s solo career (insert your own ‘damning it with faint praise’ gag here, haters).

Coming off the back of the glam-rockish and well-received Your Arsenal, the musical differences from its predecessor are quickly apparent, with its darker, more serious tone (the songs deal with introspection, retrospection, and regret; menace and scorn), and increased number of ballads. At the time of its release, Morrissey ventured that it was his best album to date (doesn’t he always?) and (less common, this) possibly his last.

Among the highlights, Now My Heart Is Full, where love meets despair, Spring-Heeled Jim’s swaggering threat bleeding into impotence (with its tantalising snatches of conversation from Cockney scallywags), the obsession-cum-stalking of The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get, and (rarely for Moz) an elegant railing against the music industry in Why Don’t You Find Out For Yourself.

What stops me from getting fully behind this album is the change in pace, both lyrically and musically, towards the end of the album. We see a little too much self-pity, and outright derision of others, and yet, and yet… he saves it at the end, with the towering, defiant, pseudo-confessional Speedway.

Characteristically, what he’s confessing to is left unclear but used as a stick with which to beat a perceived ingrate, the message being “just think how easily I could have brought you down with me” (as a side note, his recent live gig in Grimsby (oh yes) saw his current band struggle to avoid butchering much of his back catalogue; this song, however, they nailed).


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