Morrissey returns to a thicker, more rock-driven sound on his ninth solo album, “Ringleader of the Tormentors,” due April 3 in the U.K. and a day later in North America via Attack/Sanctuary. The 12-track set was produced by Tony Visconti and recorded in Rome, references to which appear in a number of songs. Legendary composer Ennio Morricone scored the string arrangement on “Dear God Please Help Me,” while an Italian children’s choir can be heard on several others.
Morrissey credits the “marked difference” in sound here to the presence of guitarist/songwriter Jesse Tobias, particularly on tracks like the stomping “In the Future When All’s Well,” the simple, effective first single “You Have Killed Me” and “The Youngest Was the Most Loved.” “These songs, especially, fully release the hounds,” Morrissey said earlier this week on the fan site True to You.
Album highlights include “The Father Who Must Be Killed,” which juxtaposes a murderous storyline with an ultra-poppy chorus; the unusual verse chord progression of “On the Streets I Ran” (during which Morrissey mentions his talent for “turning sickness into popular song”); and the seven-minute plus “Life Is a Pigsty,” an ominous, uncommonly multifaceted track flecked with the sound of rain and thunder.
Lyrically, Morrissey the storyteller transcends his earthly constraints (opener “I Will See You in Far Off Places”), laments a lost love (“I’ll Never Be Anybody’s Hero”), pays tribute to “the someone who can soothe me” (“To Me You Are a Work of Art”) and celebrates a rebirth, personal or otherwise (the vaguely Western closer “At Last I Am Born”).
“You Have Killed Me” will be released commercially March 20 in the United Kingdom, backed by the B-sides “Good Looking Man About Town,” “I Knew I Was Next” and a cover of the New York Dolls’ “Human Being.”
Morrissey will begin a 30-date U.K. tour in conjunction with the release of “Ringleader,” which is the follow-up to 2004’s “You Are the Quarry.” That album revived the former Smiths frontman’s career in North America, debuting at a career-best No. 11 on The Billboard 200. It has sold more than 195,000 copies in North America, according to Nielsen SoundScan, his highest total since 1994’s “Vauxhall and I.”