His fourth and finest solo album is, as the cover shot suggests, Morrisey's idea of hard rock. There's a gritty, glam feel to Mick Ronson's production (check the Ziggy Stardust
cop on "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday"), while the loud'n'rude riffs of new guitarist Boz Boorer banish memories of the Smiths. Best news: for once the songs focus on adult life, not the man's well-documented adolescence. --Jeff Bateman
Whilst his sophomore solo outing, Viva Hate, was indeed a strong calling card full of Northern promise, the following material, particularly the oddly unengaged Kill Uncle failed to delight to the same degree.
The shadow cast by the long list of The Smiths' unerring, and perhaps for Morrissey himself unnerving, drop-dead classics meant that anything less than the very best from this particular singer would be consigned to unenviable comparisons of those former glories.
Commonly regarded as return to form, Your Arsenal, was also something of an artistic retreat from the sparse pointillistic rockabilly experimentalism of its predecessor; to a surer delivery of hook-laden pop. Its reputation as a serious contender is due in no small measure to the deadly double-whammy of the opening 'You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side' and 'Glamorous Glue.'
The first is as dizzying as a fairground waltzer, with cavernous growls swirling about as wide-boy twang-bars move menacingly closer, bending your ear the whole time. It's no coincidence that ex-Spider From Mars, Mick Ronson, was at the helm for this release. The second track shows the muse had decisively moved from 1960s kitchen-sink noir, to plug directly into a harder-edged 70s glam-rock glower power source.
Of course, the decade that launched a thousand ill-considered droopy moustaches wasn't all crap tank-tops and Magpie at tea-time. Odious skinheads stomped a brutish path through the cultural milieu as the controversy-courting 'National Front Disco' makes clear. Allegations that he was in sympathy with flag-waving yobbos were further stoked as he started unfurling the Union Jack during gigs. Yet the song is clearly and legitimately documenting a social and political phenomenon and who else should be there to chart the ambiguities of class and race if not one of the sharpest wordsmiths this nation has produced?
If proof were ever needed of this last claim then even a cursory listening to 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful' will dispel any doubts. A deliciously spiteful gem that could've easily graced the incomparable The Queen Is Dead, it's quality songs like this that enabled Morrissey to continue his irresistible rise. --Sid Smith
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