No disrespect to Moz, but it’s tough to carry a band with vocals and lyrics alone. Johnny Marr’s guitar playing and musical contributions (as well as from Andy Rourke and Mike Joyce, but Marr in particular) were essential to the band’s sound. The folks Morrissey gathered for Your Arsenal were up to the task.
Evolution in sound
Your Arsenal has a harder edge to it than Morrissey’s solo work immediately after leaving The Smiths. I might even argue that it’s a bit harder than most of The Smiths’ albums, but there are probably a few Smiths tracks where Marr and company match the band here.
As always, Morrissey’s lyrics are as biting as the guitar. It’s hard to see “We Hate it When Our Friends Become Successful” as anything other than a dig at Marr. It does, however, apply to many other situations as well.
“Certain People I Know” is another dig in the direction of Marr, with a pretty direct reference about people who “break their necks and can’t afford to get them fixed.” For such a petty sentiment, it actually still makes for a decent song. Guitarists Alain White and Boz Boorer aren’t direct substitutes for Marr, but they have great chops nonetheless.
“You’re the One For Me, Fatty” is (I hope) tongue in cheek. It’s got a great hook and guitar solo about mid-way through. I should probably add that the bass on this one is top-notch as well.
Return to the Morrissey basics
It wouldn’t be a proper Moz album without at least one or two songs pining about loneliness and despair. “I Know It’s Gonna Happen Someday” and “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” fill that nicely here. “Someday” doesn’t quite live up to some of the more substantive songs of this time from The Smiths, but it’s still a pretty good song.
“Tomorrow” closes out Your Arsenal, and it’s a rollicking and dynamic number. The album is full of intricate guitar work, but “Tomorrow” is at the top of the pack. It was, also, damn good live. I managed to see Morrissey in St. Louis at the Fabulous Fox Theatre on the tour supporting the album and it was damn good.
If you want an introduction to Morrissey as a solo artist, start here. I suspect even folks who might not dig the entire Moz catalog would enjoy this album, but if you’re prone to enjoying The Smiths and Morrissey, then this one is a do-not-miss.