Thirty years ago, in 1988, Morrissey recorded a devastating, tender and tragic account of moving house.
It was called Late Night, Maudlin Street and it was eight minutes long, a wandering dream-state narrative of childhood. "I was born here," he sings, "I was raised here, and I took some stick here." Amongst the drifting jigsaw pieces recollected are a hopeless love affair and betrayed trust, a head injury and a late-night lift home in a van... a 1972 powercut prompting a secret walk with the subject of his unrequited love ("No, I cannot steal a pair of jeans off a clothesline for you!")... vivid pen-portraits of a working class urban upbringing in which three generations of the same family inhabit the same houses. "Your gran died and your mother died on Maudlin Street..." he observes, before tragically adding, "...in pain and ashamed." And towards the end he draws to a close, ("I am moving house. A half-life disappears today") before shifting his perspective, returning to the present and singing to his lost love - or perhaps previous self - "Wherever you are, I hope you're singing now."
It's a tremendous song, all echo and chime, ghostly piano and long bass-drops drawing heavily from Jaco Pastorious's work on Joni Mitchell's Don Juan's Reckless Daughter. Terrific.
But Morrissey has changed, as we all know. This year's album contains another song about houses. Except Morrissey's not in them as a child anymore, he's outside them as an adult; rich, successful and proudly iconoclastic, so this time rather than tender insight we just get cheery spite: "What kind of people live in these houses?" he asks, part disgusted, part incredulous, before observing: "They vote the way they vote - they don't know how to change because their parents did the same." It seems his jokes are at the expense of the trapped these days. "They look at television, thinking its their window to the world!" he chortles, before dismissing his subject matter entirely in his closing line: "Who cares what people live in these houses?"
A silly swipe at conformity, musically unimaginative, it's a mid-tempo strum-a-long wazzed over by paper-thin pedal steel.
Thirty years is a long time, it seems.