”Jesus save me from pity, sympathy, and people discussing me,” sings Morrissey on ”November Spawned a Monster,” from Bona Drag, his new collection of previously released singles. No wonder he’s worried. His entire career has been based on writing scathing attacks against people whose moral standards fall well below his own apparently rather picky ones, and he’s long lived by the rule that the best defense is a good offense. Lines like ”I’m so sickened now,” from the cult favorite ”Suedehead,” are mild compared to the overall tenor of Bona Drag, in which Morrissey skewers what amounts to the entire middle class of Great Britain.
But in many ways, Morrissey’s outspoken disgust at the behavior of others is his most endearing quality. As you might expect from a collection of singles, Bona Drag has far less filler than most full-length LPs (it also includes one new track, ”Picadilly Palare”). The highlights are the more familiar songs, such as ”Ouija Board, Ouija Board” and ”Interesting Drug,” which are especially pretty even though the best of those highlights are without any kind of conventional tune. Morrissey’s oeuvre relies instead on an airy, smooth orchestral background, gentle but insistent rhythms, and, of course, his highly judgmental lyrics about sexual frustration, contempt, and, ultimately, regret.
Though Morrissey often comes off as a whiner, he’s never mean. At his best, he’s an outspoken side-taker, a pop champion of the lonely, the oversensitive, and the genuinely misunderstood. B+