“World Peace Is None Of Your Business”— A Reappraisal of Morrissey’s 2014 Album
In Morrissey’s recent interview, published on his website Morrissey Central, the artist was asked which of his own albums he considered his favourite. He mentioned three in his response: his latest, the as yet unreleased Bonfire Of Teenagers, the covers album California Son and 2014’s World Peace Is None of Your Business.
Throughout his career, Morrissey has released a huge wealth of material — 13 solo studio albums and four records with his band, The Smiths, who were idolised icons of the 80s. Therefore, there is no shortage of differing opinions amongst his army of fans as to which is his best work. It’s an almost impossible task for the diehards, who, with albums such as Viva Hate, Vauxhall and I, You Are The Quarry and I Am Not A Dog On A Chain to pick from, rarely agree on what’s his best work. Yet most fans have their favourites; those records that go a little bit further than the rest, the songs that have provided a soundtrack to lives and memories, tracks that put into sound the emotions of everyday life in this often heartless world.
It was interesting for fans, therefore, to see where the singer himself ranked his work (so far), especially with his inclusion of World Peace, which was released almost seven years ago (15th July 2014). It’s an album that many of his fans also view as being a standout amongst his back catalogue, so Morrissey is evidently not alone in his inclusion of this album as one of his greatest to date.
In one way, the release of World Peace was a tumultuous time for the music legend. Although the album went top 2 in the UK album charts and number 14 in the US Billboard charts, it was only three weeks after its release that Morrissey announced that, due to issues with then record label Harvest Records, the album would essentially be “dropped” from their roster and abandoned without further promotion. Morrissey surely must have felt crestfallen. With several projects, including a number of upcoming single releases and possible videos having to be scrapped as a result, the album was left floating in space. It put the artist’s latest project at risk.
However, despite Harvest Records ensuing lack of support, World Peace quickly became a highly favoured album amongst Morrissey’s worldwide fanbase, proving that despite complications amongst the business side of the entertainment world, great art often rises to the top. World Peace was not going to sink.
What makes “World Peace” such a powerful album amongst Morrissey’s back catalogue?
From the outset, the 55-minute album pulls the listener in with the tribal, haunting drums of the title track, (which Morrissey co-wrote with his long-time collaborator, Boz Boorer). It’s a subtle, quiet opening that soon sparks and ignites to life with the artist’s trademark outlook on the modern world; cascading lyrics that explore how the working-class are subject to the rich, powerful, and elite. Morrissey questions the motives of those in power and asks why we have allowed ourselves to be controlled: why are we taking things lying down, he seems to be asking? He sings of everything in this opening track — from taxes to police brutality, government corruption, and the flaws of the voting system.
With Morrissey’s repeated vocal chant towards the end of the song, “Each time you vote, you support the process,” the listener can’t help but feel empowered by the singer’s unfiltered attitude to this often divisive subject. With gritty, melodious guitar brought to us from Jesse Tobias and Boz Boorer, it’s a song that encapsulates so much of what Morrissey represents and believes in. These are the kind of subjects few other artists would dare speak openly about, let alone lay their opinions bare for the entire world to listen to.
As the opening track fades, we take a journey with Morrissey through 11 further songs, each with their own earned place amongst the album. There is no weak spot in the release.
Indeed, each track sits comfortably amongst its neighbours, and has something vital to contribute.
Neal Cassady Drops Dead, with its heavy guitar throughout serves as a contrast to the softer opening track. The almost dream-like section in which Morrissey asks, “Victim, or life’s adventurer, which of the two are you?” presents us with one of the best moments of the 4-minute piece. A track exploring the life of American poet Allen Ginsberg, Morrissey shows us yet again the diversity of subjects he is willing to explore and tackle through his art.
I’m Not A Man packs a powerful punch with its lyrics, as Morrissey traverses the seldom tackled subject of toxic masculinity. He refutes and pulls apart, bit by bit, the notion that he (or any man) has to live up to any gender stereotype — in fact, he goes one further by celebrating the qualities he possesses that may (at one time) not have been viewed as “manly.” With the world today taking a deeper examination of gender and sexuality, this track seems ahead of its time addressing such issues years before it became a prominent subject on our social landscape.
Staircase At The University is a fan-favourite amongst many when they discuss and analyse the record. The infectious, 5-minute track tells the story of a student under crushing pressure to succeed by her family — to the point of suicide. “If you don’t get three A’s, as far as I’m concerned, you’re dead…” the artist sings. The spirited flamenco guitar section, together with Morrissey’s booming vocals, make this track truly unforgettable.
As many already know, Morrissey has long been a huge advocate of animal rights and has used his name, art and platform to promote the welfare of all species — to the point of even banning the sale of meat products at his gigs. His track, The Bullfighter Dies, stands at only 2 minutes, yet it fills every second with a snappy, contagious melody and Morrissey’s lyrics as he spits venom at the archaic practise of bullfighting. The song ends with Morrissey singing, “we all want the bull to survive,” — and most of us, nowadays, would agree with the sentiment.
One particular standout of World Peace is Mountjoy, a stark and hauntingly beautiful track. Said to be about the Dublin prison where Brendan Behan was jailed for attempted murder, the sombre lyrics from Morrissey and solemn acoustic guitar give the song a deep and aching edge. “What those in power do to you,” he sings, “reminds us at a glance, how humans hate each other's guts and show it given the chance.”
Such lyrics could have only ever come from Morrissey, the poetic way he addresses the harsh truths of life is something he has mastered beautifully. A song that somehow manages to soothe despite its dark, unsettling lyrical content.
Morrissey was seriously let down by his record label in 2014 and understandably disappointed by the lack of promotion. Yet despite this, World Peace Is None Of Your Business stands up proudly amongst his greatest work to date. Tackling subjects in his lyrically unique ways, with his deep honesty and emotional frankness, it’s easy to see why fans have become so fond of the release. World Peace is an hour-long journey that feels deeply meaningful, especially in today’s political and social climate. There is almost a sense that the artist saw ahead of his time, like a seer of the sonic stratosphere.
As Armond White wrote of the album for National Review when it was released, Morrissey truly “challenges pop and political orthodoxies” in World Peace. He still does today, refusing to give in to the way things are, even when his protests are met with criticisms from those who wilfully mangle the meanings of his words. They extract only those quotes which they can twist and turn into something that can create morbid headlines, all the while ignoring the truth of his message.