At the beginning of the end of 2020, or March 20th to be precise, Morrissey released a new album – I Am Not A Dog On A Chain. Between the despair of waking up each day in our new apocalyptic reality and going to bed wondering if anything would be normal again, I didn’t afford myself any time for his new release. I could have also just been subconsciously preserving what emotional reserves I had left, because for me and many others – Morrissey has been the voice of all those feelings that a couple generations worth of people couldn’t put into words for themselves. Melancholy, rejection, whimsy, and unrequited love; I was already having difficulties, and a Morrissey album wasn’t going to help this time.
Fast forward to 13 months later, and I get a text message from my husband whose disdain for Morrissey is no secret. The text includes a clip from S32 E703 of The Simpsons most recent episode – Panic on The Streets of Springfield. What I watched was fantastic, a video to a parody song called “Everyone Is Horrid Except Me (And Possibly You)”.
Cleverly, the Simpson’s team managed to create a minute long tune, reminiscent of ‘There is a Light That Never Goes Out‘ and ‘Everyday is Sunday‘. If Morrissey could still release music half as good as this parody, he likely wouldn’t need his manager to take to Facebook to sob and rant on his behalf.
Unleashing The Mutt
I watched the full episode of Panic on the Streets of Springfield three nights ago and decided that it was time to finally go listen to the new-ish album. After the first full listen through, I felt like I really had to make a more concerted effort than I normally have to when listening to Morrissey. Perhaps I was off put by the aggressive nature of some of the melodies, when really, I wanted Morrissey to reassure me that everyone is horrid except him, and possibly me.
Morrissey’s less favorable views have made headlines in the last few years, views that are a little bit more divisive than whether or not meat is murder. Tim Jonez, writer for The Guardian, recapitulated some of Morrissey’s more offensive and questionable stances last year in a piece: Bigmouth strikes again and again: why Morrissey fans feel so betrayed. At points, quoting Morrissey touching on sensitive subject matter in a way that is in no way meant to playful enflame the audience, or an artistic facade. There are a number of quotes to pull from, but most point to his support of the far-right group, For Britain.
Contributor to Pitchfork, Mina Tavakoli may have put it best when writing, “Mildly captivating, occasionally repetitive, and frequently ridiculous, the 13th studio album from the fabulous sulk turned red-pill pharmacist is Moz’s vision of radical truth-telling.” The overarching theme of this album is that Morrissey is a victim of society and media, and he isn’t going to take is quietly.
‘I Am Not A Dog On A Chain’ is Morrissey’s 13th studio album and it isn’t a lucky one. I still romanticize the feeling I got when I first heard ‘Come Back to Camden‘ or the Italian sirens on ‘Ringleader of the Tormentors‘. Being a shy kid who couldn’t break away from feelings of isolation and unrequited love, Morrissey spoke to me and in a lot of ways, still does. However, it’s difficult to find Morrissey, The Feeling in this album which just leaves us with Morrissey, The Man who apparently is an unappetizing, fanatical whose paranoid ideologies have gotten the better of him.
The lead off track, Jim Jim Falls, sets a dark tone almost immediately:
If you’re gonna jump, then jump, don’t think about itJim Jim Falls
If you’re gonna run home and cry, then don’t waste my time
If you’re gonna kill yourself then to save face, get on with it
It’s not completely surprising – Morrissey has stated himself that he believes the suicide is “admirable“, and it seems that no one reminded him how damaging a suggestion like this could be to impressionable listeners. Or maybe they did – remember, he isn’t a dog on a chain.
A lot of the lyrics reference this victim persona – whether real or imagined it is clear that he believes that the media is lying, targeting him, and acting as a propaganda machine. Though, for what – we are not told. This theme gets old quick, as its repeated over and over again:
I am not a dog on a chain, I use my own brain. I do not read newspapers, they are troublemakers Listen out for what’s not shown to you, and there you’ll find the truth For in a civilized and careful way, they’ll sculpture all your viewsI Am Not A Dog On A Chain
They look at television thinking it’s their window to the worldWhat Kind of People Live in These Houses?
That’s got to hurt
Who cares what people live in these houses?
They kicked to kill youKnockabout World
Do not forget, they tried to turn you
Into a public target
This album feels like Morrissey has forgotten how to write songs that anyone other than himself can connect to. The penultimate track, “The Secret of Music”, spills the furtive truth – that Morrissey has forgotten what music is. I envision this song being performed live with some terrible video playing behind it…likely just a video of Morrissey flailing around stage in front of a video of Morrissey flailing around a stage, and so on and so on.
The last track, “My Hurling Days Are Done”, feels like we’re back again. A semi-decent song that only sounds a little bit like Morrissey-of-days-gone-by. The entire album can be summed up by taking one of his own lyrics from the closing track:
Time will mold you and craft you But soon, when you’re looking away It will slide up and shaft you Oh, time. Oh, time. No friend of mineMy Hurling Days Are Done
I Am Not A Dog On A Chain is a weak attempt at remaining relevant in the sphere of pop music which is RICH with melodic melancholy and his inability to be a pertinent part of it has allowed Morrissey to create this caricature of being a victim of time and culture rather than a victim of himself. However The Simpson’s team decided to pay him some attention, and dragged him back into relevancy kicking and screaming. In short, Lisa discovers 80’s group The Snuffs (The Smiths) and Quilloughby (Morrissey) and is entranced by the prominent vegan themes in the music. 80’s version Quilloughby soon becomes Lisa’s imaginary friend, guiding her with his gloomy, sarcastic style. Quilloughby then tips Lisa off to a festival where the REAL Quilloughby will be performing.
Anyone who fell in love with The Smiths at some point in their life, has desperately hoped to see some version, just a glimmer of 1980’s Morrissey on stage. But much like the reality we have all faced seeing Morrissey live, Lisa too finds that the moody Manchester crooner, is but a shadow of his former self. Rude, racist, and surly, the real Quilloughby appears on stage in an unflattering state and Lisa has to reconcile the music she loves, with the man that created it.
Morrissey’s Own Hatful of Hollow
The harshest criticism of the episode came from Morrissey’s manager, Peter Katsis and Morrissey himself. Katsis went on an unhinged, multi-post tirade on Facebook, while Morrissey penned yet another rambling post directly to his website, spawning such quotable gems as:
“In a world obsessed with Hate Laws, there are none that protect me.”
“I’ve had enough horror thrown at me that would kill off a herd of bison.”– Morrissey, in response to ‘Panic On The Streets of Springfield‘
The more appropriate thing to write, in my opinion, would have been a hearty thank you to the writers of The Simpsons, for letting everyone know, for better or for worse, Morrissey is still out there. A 25 minute animated block has in no way altered your fan base – we all learned to separate Morrissey, The Feeling from Morrissey, The Man a long time ago. If we hadn’t, most of us wouldn’t be able to stand through the extended-version of Meat is Murder and the accompanying Meet Your Meat video when we see you live, just to go grab a burger down the street afterwards.
Morrissey’s predicted victimhood, spawned from this episode are the exact reason why they were in their right to parody him in the first place – it’s fun to make light of those who take themselves too seriously. Particularly, those who spout a hateful rhetoric. For someone as self-deprecating as Morrissey, he should know that.