Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Morrissey 4: Your Arsenal

Just like it did with the Smiths, it took Morrissey three albums (and one compilation) to reach a level of something approaching greatness. Your Arsenal was produced by Mick Ronson—an icon to any kid raised on Bowie and Mott The Hoople—and mostly bathes Moz in a glorious meld of glam and rockabilly, to be expected from guys with pompadours.
“You’re Gonna Need Someone On Your Side” and “Glamorous Glue” are wonderfully trashy stompers, the former bringing to mind “Brand New Cadillac” and the latter echoing parts of “Sheila Take A Bow”, both in good ways. “We’ll Let You Know” is based around softer arpeggios and acoustic rhythm, but there’s a tension and discord underneath that threatens to overpower it—fittingly, for a song that seems to forgive the football hooligan culture. If that doesn’t raise enough eyebrows, “The National Front Disco” straddles a defense of a kid who joins a racist movement with the suggestion that it’s just a trendy thing to do. After that too builds and builds, “Certain People I Know” sits somewhere between skiffle and music hall—a simple sounding song, but with lots of layers that belie the simplicity.
Possibly the closest relative to his old band, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” is a hilarious portrait of musical envy well known to bands from the local to the international level. “You’re The One For Me, Fatty” doesn’t say much besides that, but it’s such a happy and sweet tune it doesn’t need to. Not until “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” does he go back to his morose persona; it’s actually welcome by now. A long transition involving a ticking clock and a radio stuck between German and French stations eventually finds “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday”, which does have a few musical nods to “Rock & Roll Suicide” off Ziggy Stardust. (Bowie himself liked the song so much recorded it for his own next album.) It’s enough of a big ending, but instead we close with “Tomorrow”, which starts in a three but continues in four before going back to three and a tack piano sequence that reminds us of “Asleep”.
Your Arsenal is very good because it not only sounds good, but the songs are also good. There isn’t a throwaway here, he keeps the whining to a minimum, and he also remembered to show off his humor. It truly takes skill to sound this effortless.

Morrissey Your Arsenal (1992)—

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