As lead singer of the Smiths, Morrissey was a virtual postmodern Sylvia Plath. Superimposing lyrics of alienation and insecurity over a punk-inspired jangle of guitars — courtesy of Johnny Marr — he articulated gloom to a loyal school of devotees. Although he captured that sensibility most successfully — both in his music and lyrics — on Viva Hate, his 1988 solo debut, Kill Uncle only hints at the achievement of that earlier album.
Certainly, Morrissey has lost none of his wit or theatricality; songs like “The Harsh Truth of the Camera Eye” and “King Leer” sparkle with the almost over-the-top song structures and images characteristic of the Smiths’ best work. What Kill Uncle lacks is the musical coherence, let alone the stick-in-your-head charisma, that would lend the album the consistency of the singer’s previous work. From the pleasant pop of “Our Frank” to the lazy crawl of “Asian Rut” or the pound of “Found Found Found,” it plays more like a fragmented collection of polished studio outtakes than a finished album. After a choppy compilation of British singles and B sides from Morrissey last year (Bona Drag), that detached feel is particularly disappointing.
Ironically, disappointment is an integral component of Morrissey’s work — it should, however, derive from the mood of each song’s lyrics instead of from listeners’ reactions.