Morrissey: I Am Not a Dog on a Chain (BMG CD, 49:30). Morrissey’s first album of all-new material since 2017’s “Low in High School” and 13th solo studio album overall, is excellent musically, with some of his best work, but the lyrics can be troublesome at time. That is immediately evident in the opening track, “Jim Jim Falls,” which is very catchy musically, but literally tells a potential suicide to take the plunge rather than just talk about the possibility. One suspects it is meant as an encouragement to keep on trying in life.

The album’s most appealing song, and first single, is “Bobby, Don’t You Think They Know?” that features Thelma Houston on backing vocals and occasional wail. The track has late keyboard runs and a sax solo. A Mellotron is heard on “Love Is on the Way Out,” which lists the ills of society, including “nerve-gassed children” and hunters of elephants, but ends with Morrissey wanting a taste of love before it runs out. Also strong is the second single, “Knockabout World,” which features lush strings and synthesizer in its second half. In the song, Morrissey announces, “Congratulations, you’re still OK/I’d kiss your lips off any day,” although earlier he bemoans his becoming a “public target” for his views.

In the title track, Morrissey is the dog and society is the chain and his lyrics edge towards “fake news” as he sings “I use my own brain/I do not read newspapers/They are troublemakers/Listen out for what you’re not being told.” He also stumbles lyrically with the easy targets in “What Kind of People Live in These Houses,” saying they waste their lives on TV and sex. Morrissey famously gave up on sex back in his days with The Smiths, although he pleas for “physical love” here in “Darling, I Hug a Pillow,” a musically rich track that includes Mariachi-style trumpets. The lengthy (7:52) “The Secret of Music” is the album’s main misstep.

Morrissey takes a nostalgic trip in “Once I Saw the River Clean,” recalling a walk with his grandmother; she was after cigarettes and he was after a T. Rex single (“Metal guru,” as he refers to it). Grade: B+

The Boomtown Rats: Citizens of Boomtown (BMG CD, 41 min.). Bob Geldof, 68, returns to the band where he got his start for the first time since 1984’s “In the Long Grass.” This is the reunited Irish band’s seventh studio album, with Geldof, bassist-keyboardist Pete Briquette, guitarist Garry Roberts and drummer Simon Crowe back from the original band. Missing are Johnnie Fingers and Gerry Coot, with the latter leaving the band midway through its initial run.

An early hit by the band was “I don’t Like Mondays” (1979) and, lyrically, they remain obsessed by the days of the week. The opening “Trash Glam Baby,” easily the most appealing track, is about a crappy Saturday night, while the other album highlight, “Sweet Thing,” also talks about the days of the week. The latter has nice drums and pounding piano and starts off recalling “Wild Thing.” Influences are apparent in the David Bowie-like “Passing Through,” with its understated, quiet lyrics, and the Lou Reed-like “Here’s a Postcard,” with its ringing guitar and London streets observations.

“Monster Monkeys” has some interesting percussion, but the band misfires greatly with “K.I.S.S.” that adds a weak rap. A dumb chorus offsets otherwise good lyrics in “Rock ‘n’ Roll Ye Ye.” Partially successful are “Get a Grip,” which tries for dance floor house music, and the closing call to arms of “The Boomtown Rats.” A 20-page booklet contains the lyrics. Grade: B

Stone Temple Pilots: Perdida (Rhino CD, 45:34). This is the San Diego band’s eighth studio album and second with Jeff Gutt on lead vocals. Original lead vocalist Scott Weiland of 24 years was fired in 2013 and died in 2015. Replacement vocalist Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was with STP for just over two years, before returning to Linkin Park and dying 19 months later. Gutt came from the nu metal band Dry Cell.

The new album is a twist, being an acoustic album, largely recorded on vintage instruments. Bassist Robert DeLeo wrote two of the 10 tracks alone and co-wrote the other eight with Gutt. Taken as a whole, the album is a disappointment, as the tunes are not very lively. Often the lyrics are world-weary, such as in the title track, which also has a bit of a Mexican flavor. “Three Wishes” has more dynamics, but also is a bit generic. Generic lyrics also surface in “I Didn’t Know the Time,” which is partially rescued by the two instrumental portions near its end, the second of which uses a flute. The album’s best track, and first single, is the pretty “Fare Thee Well.”

DeLeo sings “Years.” A droning sound opens “She’s My Queen,” which features more flute during its break. The up-and-down “Miles Away,” a slightly better track, features violin. “You Found Yourself While Losing Your Heart” has more melody. The next-to-last track is an instrumental, “I Once Sat at Your Table,” while the closing “Sunburst” is mostly just a wave of sound, repeating the chorus. Grade: C+

Ozzy Osbourne: Ordinary Man (Epic CD, 49 min.). Ozzy’s first album in a decade (“Scream” came out in 2010) features big hooks and great production by Andrew Watt, who also plays guitar, keyboards and bass, sings backing vocals and co-wrote the songs. Watt helped create recent pop hits by Cardi B and Justin Bieber. Throughout the album, the lyrics often deal with impending death and, despite his success with Black Sabbath and his solo career, Ozzy seems intent on still proving he has the chops. Part of the death obsession may stem from the 71-year-old’s recent Parkinson’s disease diagnosis.

Ozzy’s 12th solo album opens with the metallic “Straight to Hell,” with the laugh-inducing line, “Your dance be death/So we must celebrate/I’ll make you scream/I’ll make you defecate.” On the track are Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith and Guns N’ Roses bassist Duff McKagan, who play throughout the album. “All My Life” has twin guitars soaring to do battle, both played by Watt.

The title track, a rather maudlin ballad, is a duet with Elton John as they trade verses.  Ozzy wonders why he is still alive and declares that he does not want to die as an ordinary man. Slash joins Watt on guitars and strings wash the song’s ending. Other nods to death are “Goodbye” (“Cry for me… My work down here is done”), about bad memories and no future set to heavy sludge music; and “Holy for Tonight,” a track about not being remembered after death that is loaded with strings.

One of the fun tracks is “Eat Me,” with a heavy bass riff a la Black Sabbath and the lines, “I’m on the menu/You won’t get indigestion… Eat me… Before I change my mind and I sink my teeth into you.” “Scary Little Green Men” is about aliens creeping into minds and has a chorus sway that is more pop. The raucous “It’s a Raid” features Post Malone, who also is present on the bonus track, the pre-album single “Take What You Want,” which also features Travis Scott. A 16-page booklet contains the lyrics. Grade: B+

Watermelon Slim: Traveling Man (NorthernBlues, 2 CDs, 1:38:12). This excellent offering contains 2016 concerts at two Oklahoma locations, with Watermelon Slim, aka William P. Homans III, performing solo on electric slide guitar and harmonica. His previous release, last year’s “Church of the Blues,” has just been nominated for two 2020 Blues Music Awards: Album of the Year and Traditional Album of the Year.

Homans, 70, was born in Boston, but his family moved to Asheville, NC, where the family maid would sing him John Lee Hooker songs. While still playing music, Homans found work as a forklift driver, funeral officiator, watermelon farmer (Hence the professional name), small-time criminal, newspaper reporter, saw miller and truck driver for industrial waste (truck driving features in several of his songs). He made his first record, of 14, in 1973. Called “Merry Airbrakes,” it was one of the first anti-Vietnam War albums done by a military veteran. In fact, he learned to play slide guitar by listening to Fred McDowell records while recuperating from war wounds at a hospital in Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam. He used a Zippo lighter as a slide on his balsa wood guitar.

This album features 12 originals and five covers. The first disc was recorded Sept. 24, 2016 at The Blue Door in Oklahoma City. Among the originals, he says “Northern Blues” was written up in Massachusetts, “where it really does get cold,” and “The Last Blues” was originally called “After My Heart Attack,” but he “thought that was too direct.” Watermelon Slim delivers rough, working-man blues, including “Truck Driving Songs” and “Scalemaster Blues.”

There is a wonderful cover of William Carradine’s “Jimmy Bell,” with lots of harmonica and a warning from the pulpit that some of the flock are surely going to go to hell. In an 11-minute stretch, he pairs Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” and Muddy Water’s “Two Trains Running,” saying he first started playing “Smokestack Lightning” after he heard the Yardbirds’ version back in 1963. The other covers are McDowell’s “61 Highway Blues” and “Frisco Line.”

The second disc was recorded Feb. 28, 2016 at the Depot in Norman, OK, and here Watermelon Slim’s vocals are less raspy. On “Let It Be in Memphis,” a song about mortality, he comes across a bit like Levon Helm of The Band. “Into the Sunset” is about retirement, something he tells the audience he may never do. Even the traditional “John Henry” is about the death of the title character. “Archetypal Blues,” which features very fluid playing, is a list of the blues greats. The strong “Devil’s Cadillac” is a reworked song from his band days with The Workers. Before the song, he talks about taking tourists to those famed Crossroads. The closing “Dark Genius” includes JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis as an example. Grade: A

The Vibrators: Live in NYC (Deko CD, 58:10). Headed up by founding member-drummer John “Eddie” Edwards and longtime collaborators guitarist Nigel Bennett (The Members) and bassist Pete Honkamaki of Finland (UK Subs), The Vibrators have continued on from their days as one of England’s first punk wave in 1976. This 19-song live recording was made in 2019 at The Bowery Electric. The audience is very into the music, which includes a surprising number of guitar solos.

The set list covers their entire career, but centers of their first two albums, with five tracks from “Pure Mania” and four from “V2.” (Note that the song “Pure Mania” actually is from “V2” and not “Pure Mania.”) Covered here are their early successful singles, “Baby Baby,” “London Girls” and “Automatic Lovers.” Also very good are “Amphetamine Blue,” the more melodic “Loose Change” and the hard-rocking “Disco in Mosco” (sic). From 2017 are the songs “Strangers Never (Friends Forever)” and “She’s the One You Need.” The trio also cover Vince Taylor and his Playboys 1959 hit, “Brand New Cadillac,” which Britain’s The Clash covered in 1979. Grade: B

Christian Death: Death Club 1981-1993 (Cleopatra, CD + DVD). Also available is this compilation from Christian Death, a gothic rock band formed in Orange County, CA in 1979 by Rozz Williams. The band is most noted for its 1982 debut album, “Theatre of Pain,” which helped define the genre known as deathrock and inspired Danzig, Celtic Frost, Korn, Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, among others. The first disc collects 14 tracks from Williams’ days with the band, plus an audio interview with Williams and a bonus track from Halloween 2019. The DVD contains a 13-song live show, recorded Jan. 14, 1990 at The Mason Jar, as well as a two-song Media Blitz cable access TV performance and interviews with Williams & Christian Death and with guitarist Rikk Agnew (ex-Adolescents), who was with the first edition of the band. Williams left the band in 1985.