Attack Records - 2004 - 47 minutes

A casual glance through the track listing of Morrissey's new album - his first in seven years - and you'll get the impression that world politics is now his sole concern. Listening to the first two tracks here - 'America Is Not The World' and 'Irish Blood, English Heart' - would seem to confirm this. And then you worry.

The former track, while admirably candid ("Where the president is never black, female or gay/And until that day you've nothing to say...") is a bit too facile to deserve Morrissey's stamp. 'Irish Blood...' is a huge improvement, long-time collaborators Bez Boorer and Alain Whyte's guitars propelling Morrissey's rant against English politicians, Oliver Cromwell and, predictably, the Queen. But Morrissey going political is no good unless Morrissey actually puts himself at the centre of it all.

Thankfully, he soon does. In style. 'I Have Forgiven Jesus' sees its scribe going easy on his maker even though the diary is filled with days of "humiliation" and "suffocation". The gloom continues on 'Come Back To Camden' ("Drinking tea with the taste of the Thames/Here you'll find my thoughts and I"), while 'I'm Not Sorry' - arguably this record's standout - sees an unrepentant Mozzer defiant about it all, and will surely have fanatics picking over it for clues to the enigma of its author. Good luck.

'How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel' has one of the best opening lines of any Morrissey song: "She told me she loved me/Which means she must be insane". It gets better: "I've had my face dragged in 15 miles of shit/And I do not...like it".

But while intriguing and amusing lyrics are one thing, solid tunes are another. In the past, the music sometimes didn't match the Morrissey musings. 'You Are The Quarry', for the most part, puts this right, never swamping the best lyrical bits, but also taking the pressure off at critical respites.

Toward the album's close, 'I Like You', a live favourite, sees Morrissey smitten and, therefore, suspicious, while, laconic as ever, 'You Know I Couldn't Last - with its sultry verse/vicious chorus toing and froing - is a two fat fingered salute to the critics "who can't break you" and "unwittingly make you".

Those same critics, whoever they are, will have their lips zipped after all of this, because 'You Are The Quarry' is a brilliant return. It also shows us once again that Morrissey is at his best when describing personal tribulations, not global ones. The geography here is split between his birthplace (England) and his adopted homeland (the US), but almost 20 years on from the demise of the Smiths, Morrissey's natural habitat remains the lonely bedsit.

Heaven knows he's still miserable. Thankfully.

Tom Grealis

Tracklisting: America Is Not The World - Irish Blood, English Heart - I Have Forgiven Jesus - Come Back to Camden - I'm Not Sorry - The World Is Full of Crashing Bores - How Can Anybody Possibly Know How I Feel - First Of The Gang To Die - Let Me Kiss You - All The Lazy Dykes - I Like You - You Know I Couldn’t' Last