MORRISSEY : "Bona Drag" Reprise ** 1/2

Morrissey isn't just the "Last of the International Playboys" (to use one of his song titles), he's the last of the true singles artists. This album--his second since the Smiths' lamentable breakup--is composed entirely of 45s (or 12-inch singles) and their B-sides, most of them released in England but not America. Rarely since the heyday of the Beatles has anyone striven so diligently to release songs as songs and not just promotional items designed to help sell albums. Half of these 14 selections will be familiar to anyone who's given even the occasional listen to KROQ over the last two years.

At this stage, Morrissey is best appreciated on those very same singles. A whole album of his obscurely dry-witted self-obsessions gets real tiresome real quick. He's amusing, and in Stephen Strange has found a collaborator whose tunes don't pale too much in comparison to ex-partner Johnny Marr's.

But an approach so ceaselessly predicated on Morrissey's fey way and raging id leaves little room for maturity, growth or the rest of the world. While lonely high school girls swoon, need the rest of us be as all-consumed with Morrissey's wounded-eunuch archness as he himself is?

Albums are rated on a scale of one star (poor) to five (a classic).

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