[sic] Magazine

Morrissey – Bona Drag

At the time of its initial release, 20 years ago, Morrissey seemed to be at the end of his career. Having not toured for four years, nor released an album for two years, and his output having reduced to a crawl of occasional singles of varying quality and occasionally even worse b-sides, ‘Bona Drag’ – his long trailed second record – was reborn as a hasty assembled compilation of his seven solo singles and a b-side from each. And at the time, it sounded like it.

With an album far from complete, and several songs being rejected or left in a dusty bedroom drawer, and no band to tour it, the stop-gap compilation became, by default Moz’s second solo album. In countries where singles weren’t released, this meant that the second Morrissey album also contained a couple of songs from his debut.

At the time, this collection was a hotchpotch of various songs, lineups, styles, and sessions that didn’t quite make sense – and even more so now. Some of his finest b-sides – ‘Sister I’m A Poet’, ‘I Know Very Well How I Got My Name’, ‘Girl Least Likely To’, were excluded in favour of the maudlin, and ploddingly dull ‘He Knows I’d Love To See Him’ and ‘Yes, I Am Blind’ (and these exceptions remain uncorrected on the reissue). As a record, ‘Bona Drag’ is far from an unqualified success.

In true Morrissey style, this reissue follows the path of previous orphans ‘Southpaw Grammar’ and ‘Maladjusted’ : songs are tampered with, sections added and taken away, and the package appended with a non-chronological, and baffling selection of out-takes, demos, and appendices that sounded like an iPod playlist set to Shuffle. ‘Ouija Board’, never Moz’s finest solo work, now has a verse excised. ‘Piccadilly Palare’ has a new one added.

Of the extra tracks, most have, in some form or other, been heard before. ‘Oh Phoney’ is a delicate acoustic strum far removed from the previously circulated full band recording. ‘Bed Took Fire’ is a primitive ‘At Amber’, whilst ‘Happy Lovers At Last United’ and ‘Lifeguard On Duty’ are Viva-Hate era extras that would be better served on a remaster of that record. To then throw in an alternate version of 1992’s ‘Let The Right One Slip In’ breaks continuity – recorded two years after ‘Bona Drag’ was released, and more deserving for a reissue of ‘Your Arsenal’.

The gem of this crown is ‘Please Help The Cause Against Loneliness’, which is a beautiful song previously performed by Sandie Shaw, here presenting one of Morrissey’s finest vocals, lyrics, and melodies.

What is perhaps more confusing is that these Morrissey reissues seem to be coming out in an utterly nonsensical manner – some albums, chosen at random, with new covers, songs shuffled around, bits missing or added, some songs even removed completely, and the bonus tracks seemingly taken completely at random from all parts of Morrissey’s solo career and not the period each album represents: think if you will, if the reissue of ‘The Joshua Tree’ had added a verse to ‘With Or Without You’, taken the guitar solo off another song, and added a demo of ‘Vertigo’ from several years later to get an idea of how little respect for chronology this collection has.

Throw in the reworked cover with a garish font that breaks all of Morrissey’s previous styles, and what you have here is another, somewhat disrespectful attempt to rewrite history with corrections, tippex, and forgetfulness.

Good music, with bad intentions.



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