There is something perversely satisfying in the fact that the famously recalcitrant and quietly rebellious Morrissey would, at an age when most figureheads of rock and pop begin churning out cross-eyed and midlife-crisis’d dreck, routinely release one excellent and engaging record after another.
Continuing the roll he’s been on since 2004’s warm, stately You Are the Quarry, Years of Refusal finds the singer doing what he does best — biting lyrics (i.e., wittily bitchy), pop pathos, that instantly recognizable croon — while making slight adjustments to the conservatism (aesthetic, not political) that has dictated his solo work since the first notes of Viva Hate. In this noisier and looser-than-average (for him) record, Morrissey finds comfort not in his trademarked misery and dread of aging. Rather, he mocks his miserablist image in songs like the jazzy sway of “You Were Good in Your Time” and finds comfort in middle age, a sentiment that forms the bedrock of the crunching “That’s How People Grow Up” and the whiplashed “I’m OK by Myself.”
Whether this most recent entry in his ongoing hotstreak is due to the confidence that stems from pop culture re-acknowledging his importance in recent years, or is simply a bi-product of maturity (not to be confused with complacency — he’s still bitchy), is beside the point. With music this uniformly entertaining, it’s best just to quiet down and let the former Stephen Patrick Morrissey do the talking. That’s what Years of Refusal confirms as his greatest strength, anyway.