Morrissey – Viva Hate (1988)
Among the reasons for starting the 1001 albums challenge: though I had some decent/bordering-on-obsessive depth in my music collection, the breadth was lacking. I had just about every note The Smiths/The Beatles/The Tragically Hip had committed to tape but I could not say the collection featured much variety.
Hence the 1001 challenge, in which discovering different artists & recordings continues to be a blast . Every so often though, it’s time to break out an old favourite.
The Smiths were together for 5 years of perfection. Considering this is the Silver Anniversary of Viva Hate, it’s hard to believe that Morrissey has been a solo artist for the last quarter of a century. As even he remarked in Spring-Heeled Jim, “where did all the time go?”
Viva Hate is fine, but not phenomenal. In terms of the Morrissey-solo catalogue (including Bona Drag, but none of the other seemingly endless best of/most of/satiating the need compilations), I’d currently rank it sixth:
1. Your Arsenal (1992)
2. Vauxhall and I (1993)
3. You are the Quarry (2004)
4. Bona Drag (1990)
5. Ringleader of the Tormentors (2006)
6. Viva Hate (1988)
7. Maladjusted (1997)
8. Southpaw Grammar (1995)
9. Years of Refusal (2009)
10. Kill Uncle (1991)
It’s perhaps his most eclectic release and it was the right choice of songs for his solo debut. There’s nothing worse than a solo effort being considered a ‘watered down’ version of the former group; few would make that argument here.
The Lennon/McCartney argument does ring true however: Morrissey & Marr were a special partnership. Both have had successful post-Smiths careers but much like the Beatles before them, the creative synergy achieved as a partnership (even if John & Paul were competing by the end!) has been impossible to duplicate elsewhere.
That being said, Viva Hate does contain some of Morrissey’s best songs. 25 years later, track 3 & 7 sound better than ever: Everyday is like Sunday and Suedehead.
Viva Hate is still superior, of course, to most of the music anyone else has released since. It’s just not his magnum opus.