The Your Arsenal turning point


Morrissey is as controversial as ever with his iconic 1992 album release.

by Allen Therisa in Pet Sounds


Your Arsenal




On paper, Your Arsenal had it all: A talented if tempestuous recording artist near the top of his game with an axe to grind (just the one?); a seasoned, signature producer with a respected heritage to back him up (Mick Ronson) and a loyal fanbase willing to throw itself under the wheel for the man they love.

Put that little bundle together and what have you got?

Your Arsenal is the answer.

In 1992 Morrissey was at something of a minor crossroads. The Smiths had gone, running off in all directions, and the man himself had been musically doodling for almost half a decade. Viva Hate had been ear-catching and commercially successful if uneven, Bona Drag was a bit of a hotchpotch and Kill Uncle turned out to be, well, just a little bit boring.

Your Arsenal was, against this curious backdrop, a big proper album. It had proper songs and themes, a consistent sound and a strong focus. You could hear the work that had gone into the album and the musical polishing applied to it. It practically pleaded to be loved, or at least, to be taken seriously - which on release it was and which it remains to this day.

Comprising 10 songs and a gloomy, doomy mediation - not so much on the state of the zeitgeist, but on Morrissey's view of what that zeitgeist should be - Your Arsenal sounds right from the opener, You're Gonna Need Someone On Your Side, as if the world of potential love and hope is about to come crashing down in sodden pieces all around us.

The remainder of the long player does not disappoint this initial anticipation.

Glamorous Glue is cloying and punishing, We'll Let You Know is melancholic and self-obsessing, Certain People I Know is brittle and spiteful and Tomorrow is the sound of audio nails being hammered (half-heartedly) into the lid of the music business coffin.

On the bright side, We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful is bitchy and pointed, and You're The One For Me, Fatty is bitchy and silly. So there are sniggers amongst the guitarish flourishes and Morrissey certainly sounds like he's having a good time.

The album has a pulse.

However, it was The National Front Disco that threatened to stop the carnival before it could reach the High Street on its original release. Almost an ironic gesture too far, this one track and the media establishment furore it generated threatened to overshadow the entire album, as well as further energise the growing band of Morrissey critics which sensed a radical contrarian shifting rightward at an alarming pace on the album's release.

The National Front Disco, together with the unfortunate sight of Morrissey wrapping himself in the union flag (literally) brought the coins and bottles flying and a hurried and slightly panicked exit from an August 1992 appearance at the Finsbury Park Madstock Festival. 

It was possibly part of the price to be paid for being too clever by half in the early 1990s (and also one of the reasons the Great One picked up his bags and fled to Los Angeles).

Which is a bit of a shame really, as this, the album that was so pivotal in Morrissey's shift as a popular music artist, is a solid and provocative piece of work. Punchy, spirited and loud when it should be, annoying when it needs to be and very much alive to the changes that were taking place in British popular culture at the time, it is what men and women in Morrissey's very favoured position should be doing when they have the chance to confuse their fans and infuriate their critics.

It's also what great artists do, and why we love them.

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