A LIGHT was shone on The Smiths’ songwriting process once when Johnny Marr lamented how he would send some of his proudest guitar work to Morrissey for lyrics, and cringe when these songs came back called things like Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others.

The mind boggles at what he’d have thought if they’d had titles like those on Moz’s first album in three years. But don’t worry, you’ll soon forget about Low In High School’s tracklisting. Just not for happy reasons.

Morrissey has occasionally veered close to making the sort of albums we really hoped he’d never make, but managed to restrain himself. Not on Low In High School. For the most part, it’s snidey, one-dimensional, bitter, lazy and – worst of all for one of the best lyricists of all time – boring.

It’s almost totally devoid of the wit, nuance and it’s-so-obvious-now-he’s-said-it observation that once characterised Morrissey’s writing. And it comes across as a vehicle for Morrissey’s more reactionary views, preventing him being castigated for voicing them in interviews, as if songs are covered by some sort of parliamentary privilege.

There are hints that the flame still burns. Opening track My Love I’d Do Anything For You may be fairly standard glam with a hard-rock coating, but at least Moz sounds hungry and energised, while I Wish You Lonely is self-analysis set to melody and Jacky’s Only Happy When She’s Up On The Stage captures some of the drama that’s always defined Morrissey’s best work.

Then he gives us I Bury The Living, a seven-minute slice of squaddie-bashing which prefers sneering to dissection of a topic; the shockingly bad Who Will Protect Us From The Police?, which even has the cheek to start with the blare of sirens; and a clutch of songs that crowbar in references to Israel and Tel Aviv, without offering anything remotely interesting or insightful about either.

Low In High School should leave you feeling sad about the decline of a great, like watching Muhammad Ali’s final bouts. The saddest thing about it is that it just leaves you feeling ambivalent.

Morrissey plays Leeds First Direct Arena on February 24