Vauxhall And I; a restrained, contemplative album. This being a Morrissey record it’s all still delightfully (and characteristically) barbed, retaining much of the bravado and gumption of predecessor Your Arsenal. But what it also succeeds in doing is to filter the swagger. The tenderness is rueful and detectable, so that these wistful markers are draped across proceedings, then blanket the listener in waves of intimate acknowledgement.
Melancholic inflexions, they’re apparent in even the driven, up-tempo tracks on V and I, such as ‘Billy Budd’. The title is borrowed from Herman Melville‘s posthumously published sea-bound morality tale, a novel with a long history of adaptation – the two most prominent of which – Benjamin Britain’s 1951 opera, and the 1962 movie co-starring ‘What Difference Does It Make?’ cover star Terence Stamp – carry the hallmark of Morrissey fascination. There’s the same thematic allusions, something arch and familiar in the stylistics of evocation. It’s difficult to encapsulate these influences in a snappy phrase – trust me, I’ve been failing with that for more years than I care to remember. However, for those in league with the whole Morrissey experience, we intrinsically understand what they are, what they represent.
This is the first song on the album with instrumentation courtesy of Alain Whyte. In public consciousness, it may be Johnny Marr who’s indelibly marked as Morrissey’s musical foil. Yet from my vantage, it’s the tandem of Boorer and Whyte who have not only endured much longer than the Smiths ever did, but who’ve consistently provided resplendant platforms for such lyrical dexterity. Subtle differences with approach, in dynamic, there may be; however, both guitarists create a synergy between tune and word that’s the musical equivalent of a Van Der Graff generator. In the right light, with a fair wind and a brisk sail, my hair will always stand on end.
Morrissey / Billy Budd