Your Arsenal


Sire Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


A touch of David Bowie does everyone some good.

In this case, it was former Bowie guitarist and conspirator Mick Ronson, one of the leading lights of the glam rock scene some 20 years prior, who came on board as a producer for Morrissey's second solo album. Ronson seemed to spark something in both Morrissey's songwriting and the playing of his new band – which debuts here for the first time – because Your Arsenal is Morrissey mostly breaking from his past, with little of the dour shoegazing acoustic insular seriousness of those classic Smiths records.

The killer one-two opening punch of this record stands head and shoulders above most other alt-rock from 1992; pity that the tracks didn't get more airplay on the grunge-saturated airwaves. "Glamorous Glue" is about as far from standard Smiths as one can get, a loud rock song with one hell of a cock-rock guitar crunch that, if Ronson didn't actually write, should get royalties just for inspiring. The lyrics are both pointed ("We won't vote conservative / Because we never have / Everyone lies / Where is the man you respect?") and bemoaning of Britain at the time ("We look to Los Angeles / For the language we use / London is dead"), yet Boz Boorer and Alain Whyte's guitar work steals the song. my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

The opening "You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side" is another rocker with a rolling surf-rock riff and a thumping bassline that pops in and out of the song between verses. Morrissey's serious, deep voice is as potent as ever and, coupled with Whyte's powerful, varied guitar work, results in a killer opening track. It might be more playful than "How Soon Is Now," but it's just as good.

From those two heights, the album backs down into somewhat more familiar Smiths territory, albeit louder and doused in glitter. The acoustic Bowie-esque "We'll Let You Know" would have fit on Ziggy Stardust, for example, while "Certain People I Know" uses a jaunty, grinning beat that borders on rockabilly and early Beatles (not surprising, given Whyte's background). Many of the lyrics are imbued with an English patriotism and love that is still not afraid to call out people and ideas detrimental to the country ("The National Front Disco").

Those expecting The Queen Is Dead pt. 2 will be disappointed, but without Johnny Marr and the other Smiths, this was never going to be a continuation of that old '80s sound. Granted, a handful of songs are still written in that vein ("We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful," the cheerful love song "You're The One For Me, Fatty"), and these are the weakeast of the bunch, although still charming.

The ballad "I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday" recalls "We'll Let You Know", sounding so much like Bowie that the man himself covered it one year later on the awful Black Tie White Noise record. Much better is the acoustic guitar shading of "Seasick, Yet Still Docked" and the Pretenders-inspired "Tomorrow," with its dual guitars straddling the lines of post punk, alt-rock and power pop, ending far too soon.

Morrissey realized he had a good thing here, and this lineup would go on to make more albums, but Your Arsenal remains his best post-Smiths work and a forgotten album from the early '90s whose handful of gems are ripe for rediscovery.

Rating: B-

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