Published May 21, 2019"We will descend on anyone unable to defend themselves," sang Morrissey on his 1991 masterpiece "We'll Let You Know," recently brought back to notoriety by the fabulous film Mid90s. This universal message has been undercut by the former Smiths frontman, as he's done everything he can to invalidate any shred of sensitivity. Unfortunately, despite a recent appeal to dog whistle politics on Jimmy Fallon, as well as many other indefensible comments, Morrissey's iconoclasm continues.
California Son displays an ambiguity that reeks of grotesque hypocrisy. It's difficult to separate Morrissey's art from his public persona when the songs he chooses on this covers album are completely opposed to his purported views.
His version of Bob Dylan's "Only a Pawn In Their Game," a song criticizing racist political rhetoric in the '60s Deep South, displays, at best, a complete lack of self-awareness or, at worst, a deep cynicism. When he announces "a rebel loves a cause" on his cover of Joni Mitchell's "Don't Interrupt the Sorrow," the unintentional irony rings true: at no point on this LP does Morrissey display any reasoning.
For the most part, Morrissey sounds like a cheap facsimile of himself; an aged crooner without any latter-day grace. Moreover, the features list on this album, including Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day, occasionally comes into play with no impact. Coupled with Morrissey's complete lack of finesse in his vocals are the instrumentals, which are, for the most part, the dictionary definition of clinical.
California Son represents a deep-rooted cynicism at the heart of a man who utters one thing publicly, yet cannot abide by it in his performance. However, its main problem is that it's just terminally boring. Do not listen to this album. (BMG)