I'm a lifelong devotee (well, since discovering The Smiths in college back in '07) and I am frankly BLOWN AWAY by his new album. In my opinion it's his absolute best work since his solo debut Viva Hate. It arrived like a bolt from the blue, since his previous three albums have been quite lackluster to me and I thought he was well past his glory days. There's a song on it I consider to be top-tier Smiths level, even:
Also, this really shouldn't have to be mentioned, but just in case the conversation spirals away from the music: No, I do not agree with his politics regarding immigration, Brexit, Islam, etc.
I am although he's a tricky guy to assess and always has been - I think his act worked in the context of a band (much like his drunken American rival Paul Westerberg or his sensitive kindred spirit Michael Stipe).
I don't think the Smiths made a great record besides Queen Is Dead (pacinoyes 2nd best of 1986!) but made a lot of ace singles too even if I sometimes found them (unintentionally) funny ..... Suedehead/Viva Hate were extensions of the Smiths - but as time has gone on he lost the plot and to me it isn't about his politics at all - some of the time he's just playing the media for his amusement imo - it's rather about him not being able to find another Johnny Marr and not having anything to play off - no counterpoint in the music.
I think about half of the new record really works - there's some really good stuff scattered across the album - and surprisingly so - but it wore out for me before the end - maybe his best since Years of Refusal not sure how far back that was but that was a good record.......
Ha, I'm not so sure the comedy is unintentional. The majority of his stuff is absolutely laugh-out-loud ridiculous, and that's a lot of the appeal to me. I think a lot of people unfamiliar with The Smiths assume it's gloomy emo depressing music, whereas most of it is hilariously tongue in cheek. There's a song on Ringleader of the Tormentors (underrated album) set to an achingly beautiful Ennio Morricone orchestral backdrop where he passionately opines: "There are explosive kegs... between my legs... Dear god, please help me..."
And while I agree that The Smiths were a much better "singles" band than "album" band, I'm going to put on my contrarian hat and state that personally I find Strangeways, Here We Come to be their greatest album, even better than Queen is Dead. I think I'm the only person on the planet that agrees with Morrissey and Marr on this.
And I agree with you, over time his music has suffered since he never found a music songwriter on the same level as Marr. Still, I find much of the music on the new album to be shockingly great, especially compared to most of the chug-rock he's been singing over for the past twenty years. Cheers!
Posted my thoughts on The Smiths recently in the poll thread about their best song ... they were one of my absolute favorite bands in high school who I've since cooled on. I barely listen to them anymore and part of the reason is Morrissey's white supremacist bullshit ... as I said in the other thread, it's not even a moral thing that has turned me off from their music, I don't think Morrissey's current toxicity in the public sphere should devalue the great art he made over thirty years ago with the other band members whose credibility shouldn't have to suffer either ... it's something on a more innate emotional level that I can rarely bring myself to listen to their music as much as I used to. That said I've been listening to them a bit more in these quarantine days, partly because my recent listening has been more focused on '70s/'80s stuff than usual (my music taste is more 21st century focused, especially in the past couple years) and partly because I feel like they keep being brought up on this board which keeps bringing them back to my attention. I still do like their music ... "The Headmaster's Ritual" and "I Know it's Over" especially are all-timer songs for me, obviously "How Soon is Now," "There is a Light...," "This Charming Man," "Panic," "Bigmouth," countless others are still iconic stuff in the canon of my musical headspace ... but as I've said, they've been kinda "beaten out" in my listening habits by other bands of their era who did something similar and probably did it better.
Have never really listened to Morrissey's solo stuff (nor am I keen to, to be honest) which is why my thoughts on him as an artist are entirely intertwined with my thoughts on The Smiths in general...