Morrissey, the last, great postmodern Englishman, lives in Hollywood now. His concerts in Southern California are well attended by Chicano gangbangers. The cover of his new record depicts that most rarefied of pansies -- himself -- sporting a zoot suit and a tommy gun. Ever get the feeling you've been Punk'd? But it's no hoax: Something's gone apeshit in Moznia.

After a seven-year lag in albums, Morrissey is back. And although the music on You Are the Quarry is as workmanlike and vaguely catchy as 1997's Maladjusted, the Moz's always-cunning lyrics have been rocketed into some distant quasar galaxy of mad genius. Instead of simply aiming his smirking self-reference at himself, Morrissey has taken his hyper-inflated, cartoon-like image and twisted it into crazy new shapes. Yes, the man crafts his mien as deftly as he does his lines -- he's the last, great postmodern Englishman, remember? There's no denying the sheer ironic audacity of songs like "The World Is Full of Crashing Bores," "I Have Forgiven Jesus" and "All the Lazy Dykes," a promise to every closeted-lesbian housewife that "One sweet day, an emotional whirl/You will be good to yourself/And you'll come and join the girls." But he's not just a punchline in search of a joke; he's finally embracing -- and dutifully toying with -- the fact that not a day goes by without someone telling him that he's one of Western civilization's greatest cultural icons. And now he's headlining this summer's Lollapalooza and allegedly working on an album with none other than Nancy Sinatra. There's one very easy explanation for all this: After years of warring with record labels, ex-bandmates, carnivores, the Queen and, of course, his own identity, Morrissey has lost his fucking mind. Good for us.


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