The Pied Piper of disaffected youth, conflicted sexuality, and controversy, Morrissey has settled into middle-aged mediocrity. He follows You Are the Quarry, 2004's above average "comeback," with an album of lofty sonic ambitions and lyrics; only producer Tony Visconti saves it from becoming a full-blown quagmire.
Seemingly well-intended, Ringleader is not well executed. There are flashes of the Smiths' heyday ("I'll Never Be Anybody's Hero"), Middle Eastern melodies ("I Will See You in Far-Off Places," "Dear God Please Help Me"), and even operatic prog-rock ("Life Is a Pigsty"), but when the Moz of Many Colors leaps into the challenge headlong, guitarist Jesse Tobias and the band just can't, leaving exciting ideas hanging like fruit on the vine.
Morrissey himself often sounds bored and irrelevant. Elsewhere, he's merely revisiting (make that recycling) his entire career. "You Have Killed Me" and "The Father Who Must Be Killed" are painful reminders that the indigo hues of Viva Hate and Vauxhall & I are only memories now. He might want to reconsider Coachella's $5 million offer for the Smiths to reunite. Morrissey needs a Johnny Marr transfusion.