Retro Review Steven P. Morrissey Viva Hate
Morrissey released his debut solo album Viva Hate on March 14, 1988.
by Walter Price
As if to make a blatant statement, Morrissey seemingly rushed out his debut album Viva Hate in March 1988. Remember, this was just 6 months after the last Smiths album Strangeways, Here We Come. And from the opening guitar work on track one, “Alsatian Cousin”, Moz made it clear to his former Smiths partner in crime that a solo Morrissey was going to be just as potent as anything The Smiths had been. Still no word on why that track in particular sounds like a rejected Duran Duran song, but things quickly moved into familiar and somewhat expected territories we’d hoped for or more precise, expected from our mopey pop star. Go back and check out “Everyday Is Like Sunday”, “Break Up the Family”, and “Suedehead” so to reconvince yourself.
Speaking of “Suedehead”, the first single from Viva Hate, the video was like chains being further removed from Morrissey’s pop-culture indulgences. And the fanaholics have created a whole offbeat culture about the production. The symbolisms etc are abundant but here are a few of my favorite tidbits (if some of these are just lore, so what, I like the thought of them all).
“Suedehead” fun bits:
- The little boy, Morrissey’s nephew Sam Esty Rayner, delivers a book. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, reportedly a favorite of James Dean.
- With that fact in hand, the video changes locations. To no other place but Fairmount, Indiana, the childhood home of…wait for it…James Dean!
- Morrissey roams the streets of Fairmount wearing a suede hat. Ok, this is a lame fact, but come on…
- The video was directed by Tim Broad (R.I.P.) who also directed clips from The Smiths, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Mike + The Mechanics among others and was a close friend of Morrissey.
- Morrissey didn’t really get to sit on James Dean’s motorcycle, watch the video…weird. Oh, nor did he get to touch Dean’s bongos (not a euphemism). Again, watch the video.
- Going back to Morrissey’s nephew Sam Esty Rayner, he got all grown up and directed Moz’s 2015 clip for “Kiss Me a Lot”. Full circle?
You can find more video facts all over the place, and please do. Some of it is fantastically interesting. The real point or question of this article is what critics thought at the time of Viva Hate’s release. Here are some excerpts from the time, you can decide for yourself the tones being laid out.
Rolling Stone (May 18, 1988)
by Mark Coleman
All by his lonesome self, The Smiths’ founder might be expected to dig into his well-documented obsessions and really wallow. Surprisingly, the wailing soul’s solo debut is a tight, fairly disciplined affair. Viva Hate reveals the talents of its maker: innocent vocal hooks and vivid guitar riffs belie twisted lyrics full of the usual bizarre imagery, provocative observations and campy asides. Musically, Morrissey has picked up right where the Smiths left off — with the damaged orchestral-pop sound of Strangeways. Here We Come — and stayed there.
That lack of forward motion won’t disappoint some old fans: the most blatantly Smith-like cut on the record is already a British hit single. On “Suedehead,” Morrissey seems to romanticize an obscure Sixties subculture (skinheads due for haircuts, basically) to the tune of a chiming Byrdsy figure from Durutti Column guitarist Vini Reilly. “I Don’t Mind If You Forget Me,” a potential chart rocket, is cut from the same Dusty Springfield-woven cloth as the Smiths’ “You Just Haven’t Earned It Yet, Baby.” Of course, a Morrissey effort without a suicide ode or two would be like a George Jones album without any drinking songs. But “Angel, Angel, Down We Go Together” seems a bit much even by Big Mo’s morbid standards, and producer Stephen Street’s gloppy string-and-piano arrangements only intensify its air of leaden melodrama. Does Morrissey know about the lad who cried wolf?
SPIN (June 1988)
by Billy Altman
“…the palin fact is that without guitarist/composer Johnny Marr at his side, the mahatma of mope rock seems to have gone out for a nice depressing stroll without noticing that he didn’t have a stitch to wear.”
Okay, this was cool…
German version also available!