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Morrissey

As the iconic Morrissey approaches his 50th birthday, one is hard-pressed to name many artists who have maintained such validity over the last 25 years. From The Smiths to his solo work, Morrissey's biting tales of the perennial outsider can still speak to an awkward teen behind a laptop in rural Ohio, a Los Angeles barrio greaser or the scores of maladjusted adults raised on his unique brand of self-loathing and angst.

With Morrissey's latest release, Years of Refusal, his number of solo albums, at nine, more than double that of The Smiths. And while the millennium comeback that started with 2004's You Are the Quarry took an ill-timed pit stop with the lush, melancholy Ringleader of the Tormentors in 2006, Morrissey is back to form with the energetic Refusal, by far his best album since 1994's Vauxhall and I.

Quarry producer Jerry Finn returned for Refusal, and the punch of Quarry is back with opener "Something Is Squeezing My Skull," a sharp, defiant statement to detractors with a priceless anti-meds finale. Moz's comedic timing is also spot-on, as in the condescending, codependency anthem "All You Need Is Me"; the instant office-cubicle classic "It's Not Your Birthday Anymore"; and the tragic, thank-you-but-no "When Last I Spoke to Carol," a flamenco-flavored, brass-driven, Calexico-esque mariachi rocker.

In what's sure to be a new show-closer, Morrissey warns "One Day Goodbye Will Be Farewell," but to those awkward teens dancing their legs down to the knees, he'll always be just a click away.

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