Another year, another dashed hope for a Smiths reunion at Coachella. But fortunately, ever since 2004's "You Are the Quarry," we've had unexpectedly solid Morrissey solo records to salve those wounds. He's settled nicely into his current role as the hipster Sinatra (equal parts cocky crooner and beleaguered dirty uncle), and "Years of Refusal" isn't just the loudest thing Morrissey has done in the '00s, it's also the best.
The record starts off with a wallop: "Something Is Squeezing My Skull" is bolstered by a nasty, punkish guitar. It's the first hint of the instrumental urgency that runs through "Years," as "All You Need Is Me" and "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell" wouldn't feel too out of place on an Undertones or Stiff Little Fingers album.
Divergences like lead single "I'm Throwing My Arms Around Paris" and "When I Last Spoke to Carol" blow the sound out with widescreen bombast and mariachi horns to great effect, even if the whole operation is hugely self-aware of the necessary tropes of a Great Morrissey Album.
His lyrical fangs are sharpened accordingly, and potential Facebook status updates abound on "Years." No one else has the mojo to pull off one-liners like "It's not your birthday anymore, there's no need to be kind to you." Fortunately "Years" backs up the barbs with some real musical muscle.