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Morrissey: Your Arsenal

June 8, 2011

Today’s roll: 50 – 96 – 11. (This is an old review using a 2d10 system)
Result:
Your Arsenal by Morrissey.

Morrissey is one of those artists where, if asked, I wouldn’t hesitate to name as one of my favourite singer-songwriters. Yet when pushed I would find it had to name an album of his I actually enjoy. Barring the five masterstrokes he recorded with The Smiths, since 1987 Moz has put out some great singles (“Suedehead”) but pretty patchy albums—some downright boring (Southpaw Grammar). Upon rolling the dice, I discovered the only solo album of his I own is 1992′s Your Arsenal. And what a delightfully incendiary little album it is.

From the opening riff of  “You’re Gonna Need Someone One Your Side” you know this is going to be an album that offers something different from the mopey Mancunian. Namely this is the only time Morrissey has truly rocked, thanks in part to Mick Ronson‘s ferocious production. Boz Boorer and Alan Whyte‘s psychobilly-tinted guitars are as far removed from the Johnny Marr-lite jangle of Moz’s previous (and later) solo work as granite from marshmallow. It’s an entirely new canvas for his witty, wry and cynical lyrics and one that suits them well.

The Link Wray-esque chords of “Glamorous Glue” are the perfect backdrop for the nihilistic refrain of “everyone lies, everyone lies” and the rockabilly shuffle of “Certain People I Know” hints at his roots in The Smiths, but if that band had been more dockyards than liberal arts college. There’s something grimy about the whole record which has always been saddly missing from his work.

Not only does the album step up its game sonically, it’s one of the only Morrissey sets where every song—barring the merely decent closer “Tomorrow”— is a winner. From the beautifully crooned ”Seasick, Yet Still Docked”  and “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday” to the poppy “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” and “You’re the One For Me, Fatty”, no other Moz album is as listenable, head bop-able, sing-alongable and air-punchable.

His recent albums, such as Years of Refusal, have tried to recapture some of Your Arsenal‘s rock’n’roll magic but lack the snarly, youthful vigour this album has in spades (the phallic placement of his microphone on the beefcake cover shot says it all, really). Truly, a high water mark in his career, if not alternative rock in general.

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