Morrissey finally has a label partner for his long-in-the-works new album. The former Smiths vocalist has teamed with Capitol Records for the release of Bonfire of Teenagers, which will be out worldwide in February, except in the U.K., where Morrissey is unsigned.
The project has been largely completed for a year-and-a-half following a flurry of sessions at producer Andrew Watt’s Beverly Hills, Calif., studio, backed by his core band of session collaborators Josh Klinghoffer and Chad Smith. Smith’s Red Hot Chili Peppers bandmate Flea and longtime Morrissey band member Jesse Tobias also play on Bonfire, while Iggy Pop and Miley Cyrus contribute guest vocals on as-yet-unnamed songs. Smith and Klinghoffer also play on Pop’s own new album, produced by Watt and due out next year.
“The thrill of this album was the speed under which it was recorded,” Morrissey wrote of Bonfire on his website in May. “Considering the knots of grief I had experience[d] at the time, it made Bonfire an incredible achievement for me.”
Morrissey has already debuted six of the 11 songs in concerts this year. “I Am Veronica” finds him in fine vibrato atop a sticky, Viva Hate-era chorus, “Rebels Without Applause” is a clear nod to the signature jangle of the Smiths’ “Cemetry Gates,” “Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings” is a riffy, new wave rocker with bit of a bite, “I Live in Oblivion” is a classic, slow-burning bummer about aging and death, and “Kerouac’s Crack,” which just premiered in late September, is jaunty and full of “sha-la-la-la’s.”
The title track doesn’t mince words about the deadly 2017 bombing outside an Ariana Grande concert in Morrissey’s Manchester, U.K., hometown, calling out the celebrity “morons” who sang Oasis’ “Don’t Look Back in Anger” at a subsequent charity concert. The attack was carried out by an Islamist extremist, and the repeated lyric “go easy on the killer” has been seen as a dig at those unwilling to demand answers about what motivates these violent incidents. The song has already inspired debate as to the insensitivity of Morrissey’s lyrics and prior statements about immigration, about which he’s long been outspoken.
The new music has a co-sign from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder, who also worked with Watt, Smith, and Klinghoffer on his latest solo album, Earthling. In December 2021, Vedder told a small group of journalists at an Earthling listening session that the Bonfire music “was some of the greatest Morrissey I’d heard since back when it was the greatest Morrissey. This was like solid, great Morrissey, the whole time.”
In addition to Bonfire of Teenagers, Capitol has licensed past Morrissey albums Southpaw Grammar, You Are the Quarry, Ringleader of the Tormentors, Years of Refusal and World Peace Is None of Your Business, and will re-release them worldwide ex-U.K. in deluxe vinyl editions.
Morrissey begins a three-week North American tour Nov. 11 in Ontario, Calif., with dates on tap through Dec. 4 in Boston.
Here is the track list for Bonfire of Teenagers:
“I Am Veronica”
“Rebels Without Applause”
“Ha Ha Harlem”
“I Live in Oblivion”
“Bonfire of Teenagers”
“I Ex-love You”
“Sure Enough, the Telephone Rings”
“Saint in a Stained Glass Window”