"I need Britain for my personal stability." - Morrissey
The early 1990s were not an especially good time for Morrissey. While his first solo album since leaving The Smiths, Viva Hate, hit number one upon its release in 1988, his fortunes had taken quite the downward turn. His follow-up delayed until 1991, with only a stop-gap compilation record released in the mean time, left interest in The Moz in serious decline; Kill Uncle, upon its release, baffled critics and the public alike, showing a sudden departure from the pop he'd been famed for throughout his career thus far; and, of course, his infamous appearance with the Union Flag and a pair of skinheads left him reeling with accusations of nationalism - or worse.
Clearly, something had to be done. In 1992, Morrissey struck back at his critics with one of the strongest albums of his career: "Your Arsenal". Its title typically Morrissey, it can be interpreted in many ways; as an 'arsenal' for his critics, a reference to the football team, and of course, an invitation for his detractors to shove the record up their backsides. Musically the LP represents a sudden shift in style, being hailed as something of a 'glam resurgence'. The guitar work is strong and focused, while being suitably different to our favourite virtuoso guitarist to stand out.
Your Arsenal managed to make a very respectable number four in the UK charts, but managed to also make it to 21 in the US; indeed, it was around this time that, with support in the UK dropping considerably, America began to embrace him.
- You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side - Turn the volume up to full, and get ready to rock out - this powerful opener sets the pace for the entire album, energetic and with one hell of a bassline. Here Morrissey almost aggressively informs the listener that they need "someone on their side", before flippantly adding "Here I am... well, you don't need to look so pleased." Certainly single-quality, it sadly didn't see single release. "Someone kindly told me that you'd wasted / Eight of nine lives / Give yourself a break, before you break down / You're gonna need someone on your side"
- Glamorous Glue - A stomping drumbeat leads the next track, a vicious attack on our society full of liars, where everything we hold dear dies. Definitely one of the more glam tracks, certainly it wouldn't feel out of place on a T. Rex album, but it still remains essentially Morrissey. Not released as a single. "We won't vote Conservative because we never have, everyone lies, everyone lies"
- We'll Let You Know - Shifting gears to a gentler, acoustic guitar-led number, this fills the role of the 'epic' on this LP. Morrissey takes a quieter, more introspective look at the world, asking "How sad are we? We'll let you know." Later however, the song takes a more direct approach as distortion-led electric guitars enter, declaring "We may be the most depressing people you'll ever know". This track is almost a prelude to the next - surprising, since this is almost a minute longer. Not released as a single "At heart, what's left, we sadly know / We are the last truly British people you'll ever know"
- The National Front Disco - One of the songs inevitably chosen when critics attack Morrissey for being supposedly racist, it's easy to simply pick quotes and pretend he means them sincerely. Instead, this track is supposed to be interpreted as an attack on the racists of the National Front - there's a reason the line "England for the English" is in quote marks on the lyric sheet. (Sadly, not included with the album - this track is more than likely to blame) Morrissey criticises them with his usual wit; on listening it's not hard to tell who he's really siding with. Unsurprisingly, not released as a single. "Your mother says 'I've lost my boy' / But she should know why you've gone / Because again and again you've explained"
- Certain People I Know - A song which can be best described as "bouncy", this jovial song provides a nice contrast to the previous. Here, our singer seems to be playfully criticising his companions and contemporaries, the song's style more gentle and innocent than harsh criticism. Not released as single. "There clothes are imitation George the 23rd / Don't you find this absurd? / I'd hate to be like certain people I know"
- We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful - The first single to be released from the album, here Morrissey's criticism is much more honest - but it's directed at his own detractors, putting himself into the role of the "friend" who's found fame. His joking laughter which forms the chorus has a mournful element towards the end - perhaps one of pity? Released as a single in 1992, reaching number 17. "We hate it when our friends become successful / And if they're Northern, that makes it even worse"
- You're The One For Me, Fatty - Lyrically a very simple track, the second single someone still manages to be an enthralling, and darkly humourous song as Morrissey so openly declares his love for someone, but not without a trademark barb at the end. Musically the track is excellent, perhaps a little Smiths-esque in the melody - but of course, nothing wrong with that. Released as a single in 1992, reaching number 19. "You're the one for me, fatty / You're the one I really, really love / And I will stay, promise you'll say / If I'm 'in your way' "
- Seasick, Yet Still Docked - Returning to the gentle guitars of "We'll Let You Know" is another quieter, reflective song where the singer describes how very much he yearns to be with the one he loves, before turning it around to ask how they could possibly ignore him. One of the more beautiful tracks on the album, but definitely a grower; it didn't grab me until several listens. Not released as a single. "My love is as sharp as a needle in your eye / You must be such a fool to pass me by"
- I Know It's Gonna Happen Someday - An interesting song, opening with a sample of German radio before being "tuned" to the actual song. Here, contrasting immensely with the previous track, here we see a Morrissey sounding so hopeful, imploring the listener not to lose faith, since he knows it's "going to happen some day to you". But to whom is the song addressed? Not released as a single."You say the day's just never going to arrive / And it's seemed so far away / Still, I know it's gonna happen some day to you"
- Tomorrow - What better way to end than with a track which starts like "Rock 'n' Roll Suicide"? The bass line that then appears feels very similar to much of the work from Bona Drag, giving the song an altogether quite uplifting air. Paradoxically, the lyrics are Morrissey at his most dour! Here he declares he "won't make it" to tomorrow, however by the end all he needs to make him better is the subject to "tell me that you love me". A fitting end to a brilliant LP. Not released as a single. "Tomorrow - it's surely nearer now? / You don't think I'll make it / I never said I wanted to!"
What more is there to say? With Your Arsenal Morrissey struck back at his critics, proving not only could he be successful without The Smiths, but that he could also be innovative, inventive and strike out in new directions. While he would continue to be dogged with controversy over his supposed 'racist' lyrics, it's hardly as if he was unused to this; however the biggest change in the world of Moz would be his flight from Britain, to settle in a considerably more accepting America. (His legions of latino fans, however, should permanently end the rumours of his racism).