(insert a quote from any part of Paint A Vulgar Picture by The Smiths here)
And so the fleecing of the faithful continues without pause. Adrift in a commercial wasteland, without contract and with millions in the bank, Morrissey *further cheapens his reputation with his sixth compilation in a row. Seventh, if you include the shameful “_Very Best Of The Smiths*_”.
So after “Suedehead - The Best Of”, “My Early Burglary Years - The B-Sides”, “The Best Of Morrissey”, “Singles 88-91” and “Singles 91-95” box sets, comes this entirely superflous 20 track reissue version of “Viva Hate” with new artwork and photos taken from 5 years after the album originally came out, thrown together with eight extra b-sides from 1989 to 1994. At best it sounds like a random compilation CD someone put together for no reason whatsoever. You can’t polish a turd and to all intents and purposes that is exactly what this is.
In case you haven’t got the gist I strongly recommend you avoid buying this cheap and tacky ripoff.
And now to go back in time. Musically speaking this is to be treasured, because not only is it from the era when Morrissey actually made records and left the house, but most of it represents the era before Morrissey “lost it” in dated nostalgia and diminishing returns. There’s three distinct things that needs to be reviewed.
a) “Viva Hate”
In a rare decision I agree with, this album regarded by Morrissey as hastily-put together without the best choice of songs. Overall the impression the album gives is that of sterility, and adrift from his former musical partners in The Smiths, he sounds lost but defiant. There’s an abnormal number of slower tempo tracks, sounding as if the album was conceived in a test tube, and lyrically it can be seen as a concept album about the end of his former band. With song titles like “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me” and “Break Up The Family”, it can be fair to say that this album was the start of Morrissey’s first period of isolation - his former band split, his creative juices drying, and his inspiration lacking, as can be seen in the mediocre “Kill Uncle”.
It’s fairly clear that the split wasn’t for musical reasons. In fact, it might as well bear the words “The Smiths” on the front. Vini Reilly - of the Durutti Column - performs exceptionally well, even though he and the rest if the backing are no more than hired guns supporting songs written by producer Stephen Street and Morrissey.
It’s not his best album by far. The pacing is poor, a series of slow songs punctuated by the odd faster number, and ideally suited for sitting in your bedroom miserable as hell. By *Morrissey *standards then, its an absolute corker, and long before he disappeared into some world of bequiffed Mod teddy boys, wheelchairs, boxers, wrestlers, gangsters, and other marginalised English trivia.
As an album then, “Viva Hate“ is, despite its weaknesses, a strong and promising start to a best-uneven solo career. If you must buy it, get the original 12 track version second hand somewhere. There’s more than enough copies doing the rounds.
b) “The extra tracks”
Bluntly put - these are mostly crap and I can see why they didn’t make any album in its own right. The chronology of this makes it sound like some cheap, shoddy compilation, which is, oddly enough, exactly what it is The songs themselves are generally flimsy b-sides, bolstered only by the best-solo-song ever Morrissey has recorded in the shape of “I’ve Changed My Plea To Guilty”, and taken from a variety of line ups, sessions, and even includes live leftovers. Quite why, for example, EMI chose this bunch of rubbish, over say the 7 or 8 leftover songs from the ”Viva Hate” sessions themselves - most of which were mercifully released as b-sides over time - and stand far above the actual selections here, is a mystery.
In short, if you don’t own the singles and absolutely positively must own these songs then by all means buy this CD but be aware that you are getting royally shafted in the process.
c) “The reissue”
Thanks EMI. Reissue. Repackage. Put them into different sleeves. Extra track. All that’s missing on this CD is the tacky badge, but then again, it does come in a tacky box, so that’s almost good enough isn’t it.
Overall, “Viva Hate” is great. But the extra tracks and tacky reissue are cheap, uneccessary, and leave a bad taste in the mouth. Avoid.
1Mark Reed's Score