(My own view on this one is that it's a total mess of a song, both lyrically and musically, BUT there are interesting elements to it, as well. I like the last two minutes - "It's funny how the war goes on" etc...) I just don't listen to it very much.
Not pulling any punches here. I have no idea if I "like" the song, but I respect Morrissey for not softening in his older age and for putting as much passion into his music as he ever has. It's not exactly a fun listen...but come on. Wow.
It's understandable that the musicians received quite a lot of praise in many of the reviews for this album. Jesse had certainly grown a lot in terms of both confidence and competence by this point, especially as so many of his early composition with Morrissey were rather generic rockers.
While the song is lyrically overreaching, I like the fact that (typically for Morrissey) it takes the contrarian standpoint and dismisses the idea that all soldiers are heroes. The opening lines made me laugh out loud as well, as hey remind me so much of my career's officer at school. For anybody who had no clue what to do with their life the question was always, "Have you thought about the army?"
The final third of the song is the highlight and I admire both Morrissey and Jesse for taking risks. I personally like the falsetto vocals, the la la las and the soft ending with laughter.
In the poll on the Hoffman board it ranked 127th from 264 solo songs.
OK, here we go...
I love this song; I think it’s a great achievement, especially for Moz, who is in the technical “latter half” of his career. Surprisingly, most of the phases work together: I appreciate the contrast between the louder, more vicious first section’s instrumentation and the second and third section’s quiet, to illustrate the change in viewpoints.
As I believe I have explained elsewhere, I personally don’t find the lyrics to be condenscending. Spiteful, perhaps, but not towards those who’s position he inhabits in the song’s first section. He takes the viewpoint of a (presumably young) individual who has been indoctrinated by propaganda and myths of “traditional” heroics on the battlefield: the use of the name “John” perhaps signifying the fact that these plotted delusions can sink into anyone’s heads.
By the end of his short life, John has realised the futility of this conflict, seeing the damage it has inflicted upon himself and his family: “that wasn’t the job I loved” suggests that John was invested in the work, but this may be suspension of disbelief in the face of a conflict that doesn’t “live up to expectations”.
The closing sections are just gorgeous, musically, with Jesse plucking out a Vini Reilly or even Marr-esque sequence. This is overplayed with devastating words from John’s parents: “funny how the war goes on, without our John”.
The final section slows this fingerpicking sequence down, placing the laughs of someone: an officer, perhaps, bringing the focus on the song back to class and the difference it makes on your “roles” in society or war. He’s laughing - he threw his troops into the fire but stayed a safe distance away himself, as always.
All in all, a powerful song, to say the least.
I don't like this one very much. The music is okay in parts. The lyrics are terrible ("give me an order, I'll blow up a border") and the vocal performance feels like he's trying really hard to make this work.
It is definitely not a song that I can listen too about anytime. But it is certainly a daring and unusual piece of music. The music at times sounds like a bombardment and reflects the ugliness of war, builds to a climax of angry desperation, then in the final 1/3 switches to a desolate and peaceful atmosphere because the war is over (at least for that soldier). That part is gorgeous.
I don't like that "honour-mad canon fodder" repetition very much. But even if Morrissey doesn't view soldiers as heroes, and sings lines like "there would be no war if not for me", he sees soldiers as victims of a system that needs wars as a display of power or whatever, and that views the army as a respectable employer (for working class people / minorities?).
I think the idea for the song took its cue from Buffie Sainte Mary's Universal soldier.
An eclectic, overambitious song with weird lyrics, that wants it all but leaves many listeners rather perplexed. The back third of the song, echoes a Smiths song from the grave, which is the most positive thing. In the end, we are left with the realisation, that 11 years had passed after a successfully multi-layered song like Pigsty, Morrissey's falsetto would no longer be a weapon in old age and coherent songwriters were lacking.
A mighty piece of art pop that towers over the rest of the album. Probably the most ambitious work on Low In High School, it would not have seemed out of place on World Peace. Certainly not something to dance your legs off to, but for me a shining highlight on an otherwise patchy record.
Love it or hate it, but when I first heard it, I couldn't believe that some people still thought there could (or should) ever be a way back to mediocre, trivial alternative rock after this.
Lyrically it does seem a bit clumsy but I think it's admirable he's still trying something new in his late 50s...
I was very intrigued by @Ketamine Sun 's suggestion that it might have been inspired by Kate Bush's brilliant Army Dreamers.
At first listen I thought this was something of a hot sick mess of song, but over time I Bury The Living has grown on me. I feel the lyrics miss the mark once or twice, and that this is really two (or three?) songs crudely melded together. The final couple of minutes could, with a bit more work, have been a dainty little B-side in itself, reminding me of those early Suedehead B-Sides, I Know Very Well How I Got My Name or Oh Well, I'll Never Learn, but that could well be down to the Vini Reilly-esque guitar work, as somebody else has mentioned. A solid enough mid-album track which I am sure I would enjoy more if I could personally relate to the lyrics, or felt that Morrissey hasn’t gone down similar lyrical paths elsewhere…
Musically and melodically it's one of the best things on the entire album. Very grandiose, very ambitious and strong. I especially love the final third or so of the song ("funny how"...and the la-la-la bit is just gorgeous). But lyrically...my God. Ice cold, cruel and totally bereft of any compassion or understanding. Disturbing, almost.
To me, Morrissey has always been warm, compassionate and kind-hearted, but on certain songs on WPINOYB and LIHS he is remarkably and inexplicably cruel and cold. What the hell happened to him during these years? Luckily, IANADOAC saw him regain some of his warmth.