Newest Review: ... is somewhat typical of Morrissey. The backing vocals from Kirsty MacColl lift Morrissey's voice in key areas of the song to give it anoth... more
Bona Drag - Morrissey
Member Name: drakesdrum
Bona Drag - Morrissey
Advantages: A collection of a great tracks, interesting subjects and quirky production
Disadvantages: Previously released tracks on Viva Hate being included
Following the successful first solo album 'Viva Hate' from Morrissey, there were still many people doubtful of how Morrissey could stand up as a solo artist. 'Bona Drag' was the answer to these critics and it certainly surprised many people at the time. Morrissey had successfuly changed his musical style sufficiently to set himself apart from The Smiths but he still retained that quirkiness and genuine guitar sounds throughout the album. The album artwork in many respects reflects the sound of the album. Here we see Morrissye pictured posing in a red jacket, a nod to one of his heroes James Dean, whom wore a red jacket in the iconic film, 'Rebel Without A Cause', released in 1955. 1955 was a time with exciting new musical styles being produced and 'Bona Drag' musically takes a lot of influence from rockabilly styles and the pop melodies being produced at the time. However, I can't help but feel Morrissey and his band at the time took it to another level, producing a full sound with many more elements added to these influences. This is shown right from the start of the album, with 'Piccadily Palare'
This track is a wonderful sounding track, complete with werewolf howls in the intro which make it sound as if it's a 'sneeky' setting, if that makes any sense. It makes it sound like it's set at night time and it wouldn't sound out of place in a crime film of some description. This is reflected in Morrissey's lyrics, based around rentboys who operated around Piccadily, London, 'Palare' is cant slang in gay subculture of the time in Britain. This cant slang runs throughout the song, such as 'Riah' which gives the song an unique feeling. It's such an interesting topic to choose for a song, it makes for a compelling track. Personally I am baffled as to how it only reached 18 in the U.K. charts as it is a very accessible track, very radio-friendly and very catchy. I can't help but singalong to the chorus in particular. The production of the track adds to the quirky feeling of the album as a whole and it does justice to the unusual choice of subject in this track. Andy Rourke, the bassist from The Smiths, came up with the bassline in this track and it is very Rourke esque, the bassline could stand alone in itself as a bouncy melody and it gives the music another layer of interest. Excellent track.
This is an upbeat sounding track with some chirpy guitar work, set against Morrissey's poignant and serious lyrics. It's not a complete mismatch though, Morrissey injects his sharp wit throughout the song and sings the song in a playful manner, altering the pitch of his voice to fit particular words to give them power and highlight certain areas. It works extremely well. Like the previous track, this is also a catchy song, mainly thanks to Morrissey's vocals which are difficult to shake out of your head if you listen to this track a few times. This track reached the top ten of the U.K. chart and it's easy to see why. The subject of the lyrics is again a compelling listen, with many poignant lines and they can be analysed from many different angles, which is somewhat typical of Morrissey. The backing vocals from Kirsty MacColl lift Morrissey's voice in key areas of the song to give it another dimension.
November Spawned A Monster
This is a simply mesmerising track. The music features a terrific bassline with a plodding drumline, set against some excellent and inventive guitar work that brings the track to epic proportions. The music breaks for a disturbing yet strangely sympathetic and comic sounding squealing from Mary O'Hara, whom makes her sound as if she is a disabled to fit in with the subject of the song. Morrissey's lyrics are ambiguous throughout, with a strange mix of sympathy and repulsion for the subject matter of somebody who is disabled. They are also riddled with wit and black comedy and it is another fantasically interesting subject matter Morrissey chose here. It makes for a great change in the typical subject areas other pop singers generally choose and maybe this was why the track only reached 12 in the U.K. charts, it certainly doesn't pander to the lowest common denominator, which is what makes it so special. Morrissey uses his vocals in haunting ways and he also adds another layer to the music in how he sings a verse where the music is set up for the chorus and vice versa, a remarkable skill how he pulls it off.
Will Never Marry
This is a delicate but haunting track, lasting only 2:22, it is a change to the previous tracks on the album, which is nice. The vocals kick in straight away and it is noticeable they are packed with emotion and hurt which sets the tone for the song. There aren't many lyrics in this song but I think that was the point. It's a short, sharp and extremely poignant message and the line 'For whether you stay or you stray an inbuilt guilt catches up with you And as it comes around to your place at 5 A.M.; wakes you up and it laughs in your face' is a somewhat moving and brilliantly crafted piece of writing. The track tails off with a beautiful piece of music, fading away back to the rest of the album. It really has a feeling of someone in a group piping up with a quick, painful comment, then disappearing again. That's the feeling I got anyway.
Such a Little Thing Makes Such A Big Difference
This is a playful song both lyrically and musically, summed up with the line 'most people keep their brains between their legs'. As ever, there is a deeper message than a playful song and it's typical Morrissey to throw up such ambiguity once more. I particularly like how the music builds up for the chorus but ultimately this is one of the more forgettable tracks on the album. A good song but not a stand out by any means.
The Last Of The Famous International Playboys
This is bouncy sounding track and extremely catchy. Morrissey chooses another interesting subject of crime and plays on it hilariously. Here he proclaims to be the last of the famous international playboys, which is hilarious in that Morrissey at the time professed many times his celibacy. As ever, the playboy element can be interpreted in different ways too. This track reached number 6 in the U.K. charts thanks to it's catchy pop melody both vocally and musically. The music has a great bassline which is easy to dance along to, even for me. This bassline is thanks to Andy Rourke and it adds an extra layer to the poppy music. A great singalong track, it's very accessible and new Morrissey fans could do a lot worse than starting off with this track.
Ouija Board, Ouija Board
This track reached 16 in the U.K. charts, making it the first Morrissey solo single not to reach the top ten. It's a quirky track and it doesn't strike me as a good choice for a single. That's not to say it's a bad song, it's a super song and it is quite catchy but that quirkiness limits it to a larger audience. The music features many different sounds to give it the mystical feel that also features in Morrissey's lyrics in using a ouija board. The music would fit very well in fact with a childrens spooky cartoon of some description but it works very well. The imagery conjured up by Morrissey in this track is brilliant and it provided many laughs from his wonderful wit. The track has a more serious message too, with Morrissey being a committed vegetarian, the lyrics feature a line about someone who has escaped a world of canivores.
Hairdresser On Fire
This was the B-side to the single 'Suedehead' and yet it could easily sit as a single in it's own right. The music is upbeat and of a bouncy tempo, the bassline is extremely prevelent in this track giving it the bouncy sound. The subject matter is another interesting area and it is one of Morrissey's most amibiguous songs in his discography. The imagery pictures a hairdresser which is busy, situated in Sloane Square, London and Morrissey can't be seen to as it is too busy. However this is just scratching the surface. It is funny as a song seen as Morrissey whining playfully he can't be seen for his haircut but the song also has many poignant lines about London itself, sexuality and love. This is a catchy track and it fits in with the album very well.
Everyday Is Like Sunday
This track had been released previously on Morrissey's first solo album 'Viva Hate' and it received massive praise and rightly so. It's structured like a conventional pop song and it will appeal to a large audience, which was reflected in it reaching number 9 in the U.k. singles chart. The lyrics picture a drab seaside town with Morrissey wishing it was bombed, which he does with great skill. As much as I love this track, it's a shame it was released on Bona Drag having been released already. Bona Drag had a lot of potential as an album but as a result of including this track and 'Suedehead', it's discarded by many as a compilation, which is a shame. It's somewhat a lost gem for Morrissey.
He Knows I'd Love To See Him
This a slow tempoed track but it still fits with the album quite well. It's definitely one of the low points of the album and it is somewhat forgettable. Originally a B-side, I can't help but feel this is where this track should have stayed. It's not without some good points though, the delicate guitar work is nice and the lyrics are often funny but as I say, it probably should've been left of the album.
Yes I Am Blind
Another slow tempoed track, I find this track an excellent piece of work with poignant messages throughout. Morrissey's drummer for this track, Andrew Paresi, once said he found Morrissey one night walking around his room with a blindfold on and walking stick pretending he was blind. A hilarious thought with Morrissey bashing into things and what not and this scene produced this track, which I find quite charming. The music is not the most memorable, there is a lack of an interesting bassline and the guitar is a little drab sounding too but Morrissey's lyrics make up for it in this track. Not one for people new to Morrissey but it's a track that fits on the album very well.
This is an upbeat and playful song with a bouncy bassline. Musically it isn't earth shattering but it stands as a feel good song with many funny lines from Morrissey lyrics. The track is structured like a traditional pop song and Morrissey's vocals likewise fit this structure. There is also surely a more serious message within the song too, some speculate that it is about Johnny Marr, who Morrissey was once so close to. Either way, or both ways, it is a decent track but not one of his best.
Like 'Everyday is Like Sunday', 'Suedehead' had been released previously on 'Viva Hate' and it's a shame he had to include it on this album. It's a fantastic track which was met with high praise from many corners of the music industry. There were question marks over whether Morrissey could hack it as a solo artist but he answered his critics with this superb pop track. The music is very Smiths-esque, a beautiful jangly guitar, melodic and bouncy bassline and plodding drums. The lyrics are as ambiguous as they come and that's what makes this song so special. They can be interpreted in many different ways and which ever way you interpret them they can be a great source of inspiration and influence, as highlighted by Morrissey's devoted fanbase. A superb, catchy and radio friendly track it is no surprise this track reached number 5 in the U.K. singles charts.
This track was originally a B-side to 'Everyday Is Like Sunday' so it had already been released a while before 'Bona Drag' came out. This is a terrific track, with a pounding drumline which also makes for a great intro to the song. The rest of the music somewhat fits around this great drumming, with a sort of plodding nature at a similar tempo throughout the song. Morrissey's vocals stay largely within the same pitch but it doesn't mean they are boring, they fit with the music very well and the lyrical depth of the track is compelling. Once again they are ambiguous and once again they are witty, it's a great ending to a fine album.
Overall Bona Drag is a fine album but I have to concede that it is a compilation. It didn't have to be however, it could've been structured with other singles releases and previously released tracks to make a fantastic stand alone album but it wasn't to be, which is a shame. Nevertheless an album well worth purchasing, especially at the price of £3.18 from Amazon, which is a bargain.
Summary: A fine album to appeal to new fans and Morrissey veterans alike