Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Morrissey 2: Bona Drag

Just as he had as a member of the Smiths, Morrissey forged his solo career not on albums, but singles, releasing four new songs (plus B-sides) in the space of the calendar year following his debut. And just as with the Smiths, his second album was a simply a compilation of those singles and some, but not all, of the B-sides. Convenient for non-collectors, for sure, but maddening for anyone who already had “Suedehead” and “Everyday Is Like Sunday” on Viva Hate, wonderful as they are.
All of the singles are decent, as a matter of fact, and while most of the B-sides are on the second half of the set, Bona Drag is still sequenced to enhance listening, not to provide a chronology. “Piccadilly Palare”, “Interesting Drug” and “November Spawned A Monster” are all Smith-worthy (though Mary Margaret O’Hara’s vocal interjections over the instrumental break of the latter are a little unsettling). “Will Never Marry” is a little slower, based around keyboards, one of the better B-sides, in contrast with “Such A Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference”, the title itself a knowing acknowledgement of inferiority. “The Last Of The Famous International Playboys” finds him developing his sound, despite having the Smiths rhythm section on hand, though “Ouija Board, Ouija Board” is another step back.
Side two is dominated by B-sides, luckily elevated by the repeats mentioned above. “Hairdresser On Fire” wasn’t on the British version of the first album anyway, so it’s nice to have it here. “He Knows I’d Love To See Him” is mopey even for him, and “Yes, I Am Blind” only piles it on, but is redeemed by the guitars; this would have been a fabulous Smiths track. “Lucky Lisp” appears to be another occasional benediction to Johnny Marr, and a clumsy one, but still vague. “Disappointed” has a satisfying stomp very much in the “How Soon Is Now?” pattern without being self-plagiaristic. It’s even got a funny ending.
Taken all together, Bona Drag shows he at least had a solid work ethic, and the effort makes up for some of the less-than-stellar output. The current version of the album is mostly cosmetically different, with an altered cover, though a few of the tracks have been remixed or edited. More amazingly, he added six outtakes of the era, including the very decent “Happy Lovers At Last United” and “Let The Right One Slip In”, the less successful “Lifeguard On Duty”, and “Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness”, previously given to Moz idol Sandie Shaw and a musical ripoff of “You Can’t Hurry Love”.

Morrissey Bona Drag (1990)—3
2010 20th Anniversary Edition: “same” as 1990, plus 6 extra tracks

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