Has anyone made the Smiths joke yet? Yes? Right, let's crack on then. Dublin duo Morrissey and Marshall give it some full-band, bold-as-brass bluster on their second studio album. By their own admission, they would have managed five albums by now had they not been beguiled by that fine hotbed of Irish philosophy, the pub. That said, these songs would sound just right in a boozer, either played live or over the PA system, drowning out the sound of the chirpy quiz machine or inept pool players.
You definitely wouldn't be able to hear the person next to you during opener, "Cold November Sunrise". With its strident rallying call to all of us to "Come alive", it could potentially wake the dead. It also makes you wonder what Ocean Colour Scene's attempt at the Batman theme would sound like. There's no ignoring M&M after song one (Anyone made the sweets joke yet? Yes? Right, let's crack on then). "Love and Be Loved" has a video that takes them on a black cab ride via all of the duo's landmark London locations since they relocated there two years ago, including Abbey Road studios, where they mastered this album. It starts like the Beatles doing the riff from Bob Marley's "Could You Be Loved" and it escalates into an impressively substantial rock soundscape, with some lung-busting backing vocals akin to Pink Floyd's "The Great Gig in the Sky".
"Play On" and "Stand Down" will appeal to fans of PWEI, The Wonder Stuff or Jesus Jones. The jaunty self-confidence of The Kinks advises an unwelcome lover to bog off on "Hangin' Around", before some unlikely but effective 90s synth-goth (think dark Depeche Mode) diffuses. There's an endearing positivity to this album, contrary to many a Millennial moaner, as embodied by "She's Got Love," which melds Cast with Teenage Fanclub to celebrate, 'She's got my hand./ It's so long to going alone'. Similarly, "We're The Greatest" champions how the love of another fortifies and magnifies the human spirit. Beatlesque ballad, "I Need You" tenderly offers devotion with, 'I love you, more than I need to be loved.'
There's a palpable late 60s/90s ring to "We Rise", but frankly, that's its charm. If more of life could refer back to those eras, especially the retail prices index, I'm sure we'd all be delighted. I draw the line at shellsuits and "Spiceworld", though.
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