Something I Saw or Thought I Saw

Bill Morrissey

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Something I Saw or Thought I Saw Review

by William Ruhlmann

Something I Saw or Thought I Saw is a title that suggests the sometimes uncertain perspective of the characters in Bill Morrissey's songs. His usual reference points are in place -- he fills his songs with weather imagery, most of it winter-related, he sets many of his stories on the road, and his characters are always well-lubricated. In "Harry's Song," one character, just before having a beer, asks another if a phone caller was drunk. "No, but he'd been drinking," she replies, revealing an eye for degrees of inebriation that is typical of people in Morrissey songs. The main subject of the album is romantic dissolution. Annotator Ted Drozdowski notes that the songwriter has been through a second divorce, which is no surprise after you listen to "Twenty Third Street" (which seems to be another in the line of songs set in New York's Chelsea Hotel), "Just Before We Lost the War," "Moving Day," "Buddy Bolden's Blues," and "Fix Your Hair the Way You Used to Do." These songs are filled with Morrissey's always acute observations, yet the album's two most impressive compositions are on other topics. "Harry's Last Call" is about the dwindling of a longtime friendship between a man who has settled down and another who is still on the road. Though it is told from the point of view of the former, you can't help thinking that the songwriter himself may be closer to the latter. And "Traveling by Cab" is about a middle-aged trucker who stops in a young person's bar and watches a highly theatrical rock & roll band that he condemns. Though Morrissey himself may share that sentiment, the trucker is an untrustworthy persona. In Morrissey's best songs, his messages are often undercut by such compromised characters, lending them a complexity they might otherwise lack.

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