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Nobody gets despondent with as much cheeky abandon as Morrissey. The former leader of the Smiths, his solo work retains Johnny Marr's Byrds-inspired, jangly guitar sound and adds even bigger doses of 1940s Music Hall, '50s Rockabilly, and '70s Glam. Morrissey's first solo album, Viva Hate, co-written by producer Stephen Street, was a triumph. Since then, the quality of Morrissey's output has careened wildly from respectable to moments of brilliance to leaden time-fillers. Mick Ronson (of early Bowie fame) helped toughen up his sound, but it was the reflective, peaceful and biting Vauxhall and I that reminded the public of this melodramatic crooner's unique vision. By the late 1990s, the public began to take Morrissey for granted and he was without a label for years. Then, in 2004, he released the best-selling You Are the Quarry and was once again embraced by sensitive rockers the world over. If songs as wonderful as "Trouble Loves Me" (1997) don't fly off his pen as quickly as they used to, it's still a comfort to have Morrissey around. He's your eccentric uncle, the one who laughs at stale convention and scoffs at the decadent hipsters ruling the pop world. Morrissey may be nostalgic for an England that never was, but he shows that the most revolutionary action in our busy, digital age may just be unhurried navel-gazing.
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