Morrissey does not appear to be armed with a Walther PPK, and he's not savoring a martini, shaken or otherwise. But if they're looking to cast a new James Bond, it would be hard to find a better fit than the 44-year-old former Smiths singer. Sitting in a bungalow in the exclusive Beverly Hills Hotel, he's giving off a distinct secret-agent-on-vacation vibe. An immaculate Gucci blazer and pink dress shirt. A carefully pomaded swoop of hair. A gentlemanly British manner and quickness with an arched-eyebrow quip. A certain familiarity with humanity's darker side. Really, he couldn't be more perfect. So would he be willing to take on the role? ''Absolutely,'' he says. ''They need look no further. I've even got the dickie bow. And God knows I'd be very cheap.'' Of course, these days he might not be able to squeeze it into his schedule.
Fresh off five sold-out concerts in Los Angeles (where he now lives) and two days before flying to New York for another five-concert run at the Apollo Theater, Morrissey is suddenly back in a big way. He's headlining this summer's Lollapalooza tour, and his first new album in seven years, ''You Are the Quarry'' (out May 18), is already getting more attention than anything he's released in recent memory.
Deservedly so: ''Quarry'' proves that Morrissey's time in the sunshine has not blunted his sharp tongue, quenched his longing, or wilted his famous quiff. Sipping a cup of fine British tea (he's suffering from a bit of a cold) that is constantly refilled by his lovely entourage of one, L.A.'s most unlikely resident settles down to chat about his unexpected resurgence.
EW You're everywhere these days...
MORRISSEY As I should be! [Laughs]
EW Are you surprised that everyone seems interested in you again?
MORRISSEY Yes. But then I've really never had a record company fighting for me [like Sanctuary]. With Reprise in America and EMI in England, I was inherited from a previous situation with the Smiths, and the people who had signed us were no longer there. Also, I like to think that people in recent years have become disillusioned with the direction pop music has fallen into. Music lovers are absolutely sick to death of the way it's manipulated and the way people who have nothing to offer are pushed forward.
EW Like who? Are you thinking of stuff like ''American Idol''?
MORRISSEY ''Idol'' is an easy target as [the contestants] are really just very simple children who are manipulated by truly awful grown-up people. But I certainly think B. Spears is...the devil. The way she projects herself and the fact that she is so obviously vacuous. I think it's such a shame that she became so influential to very small children. Most of the faces I see on the covers of American music magazines are just dreadful -- people with nothing to offer the world at all.
EW It must be satisfying that so much of your fan base is still young.
MORRISSEY It's quite confusing because it seems as if [my fans] have always remained the same age, and I'm the only person on the planet who is actually aging. So it's vexing, but also fascinating. People will offer the theory that the songs are full of so-called adolescent yearning. And I fail to see how, since I am not adolescent. But that's how people explain it. There are a lot of young people who want somebody who has that vague flash of uniqueness, who seems like a human person, and mysteriously I seem to have fit the bill. [Laughs]