Sire Records, 1992
REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/22/2004
This is Morrissey's edgiest album; more kicking than probably any of his work, even with The Smiths. Morrissey's songs, in general, have a very sweet, amicable epidermis, but beneath all the supposed winsome nature of the songs lies Morrissey's sickened sarcasm and sadness: oh how we all love Moz's self-pity and longing.
Your Arsenal is anti-pop from beginning to end. A part of the era when Kurt Cobain, Layne Staley, and Jeff Buckley were still alive and ass-kicking, and grunge music was big, much before Butch Vig started drumming for Shirley Manson, this album is Morrissey's only true 'grunge' album -- a befitting contribution to the age where it belongs best.
Musically, Your Arsenal scorches and stings. With 'production' to the bare minimum, the music has nothing more than the old and reliable drums, guitar and bass -- the sweetness of strings and piano are kept well away from the songs of Your Arsenal. Morrissey's humbled but acerbic vocals suit this blisteringly harsh music-style, as it does with his mellower work, pre- Your Arsenal. With this album, he is less shy, as evident in the scandalous cover, in which he boldly reveals his new-found muscular torso and the unseen stomach scar, which he wants to be noticed, hence the sleeve mischievously says, "stomach scar courtesy Davyhulme Hospital" amongst the parsimoniously included text in the album-booklet.
Though musically roughened, Your Arsenal does have Morrissey croon, as he always does. Self-pity, iced with sarcasm, is a way of life with this fella, and neither he, or anyone else can change it, come what may. Morrissey's forte has been his simplistic and honest style, and the rawness of this album, makes his simplistic style smell of the heavenly scent of the wet raw earth in the monsoon.
As pure and lingering as the scent of wet-earth are the best songs of the album: "We'll Let You Know" and "Seasick, Yet Still Docked." These songs prove that Moz sounds best when he is left alone to sing, without any accompaniments -- would good ole Moz be still the same if he'd found some company? "We'll Let You Know," with a just deranged radio providing a background for namesake displays best, both the tenderness and the tension in Morrissey's voice, which is left all desolate. Probably one of the Morrissey's best songs ever, "Seasick, Yet Still Docked," is what Morrissey is, what he wants to be, left by himself, inspired by his longing -- the melancholic tune, beseeching, it is, moves with its self-denial.
On one hand if Morrissey oozes with perfectly nurtured self-pity by singing "I am a poor freezingly cold soul; so far from where I intended to go," on the other, he can be a huge pompous ass, as is evident in "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful." Beneath its sweet and simple attire, with "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," he sends out a clear message: I am the best, and people have a problem with it, though they can't help but feel jealous. Moz can be as orotund as he can be earthy.
As an album, Your Arsenal is variegated, but still maintaining its inherent sound throughout. Along the lines of Bona Drag's "November Spawned A Monster," are the hardest numbers of the album, "You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side" and "Glamorous Glue," the songs that kick off the album. Amongst the only few London's answers to Grunge, these songs are explosive, raunchy and full of mindless guitar-screeches. On the mellower side, are "The National Front Disco," "We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," "You're The One For Me, Fatty," and the 10/10 closing number, "Tomorrow" -- good, clean rock numbers, galvanizing the album; a fine balance to the more somber "We'll Let You Know," "Seasick, Yet Still Docked," and "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday."
Your Arsenal is bold and bashful. Moz is less uptight, and more mischievous here. This album is also his least British one. From the naughty cover to its muscular numbers, it shows that Morrissey needn't be all clean-shaven to look good. If it is rock n' roll that he is trying to create here, then he has hit all the right notes.