Somebody get the man a guitarist

1991’s Kill Uncle found Morrissey in something of a half-way house. While the response to his debut solo album, Viva Hate, had been almost wholly positive, following this up proved tricky. As a result, Bona Drag, intended to be his second studio album, instead became a compilation of non-album singles, B-sides, and the two biggest hits from Viva Hate.
 
Thus, after a near-three year gap, Kill Uncle was released, Morrissey having parted company with Stephen Street, who successfully co-wrote and produced Viva Hate, and teaming up with song-writer Mark Nevin of Fairground Attraction. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the resulting album was musically slight (Found Found Found standing out as an obvious attempt to remedy this) and lacked much of the deft ear for a popular tune that Street had brought. Lyrically, much of the album is on equally thin ice: King Leer is usually put forward as exhibit A in this prosecution, featuring rhymes and puns which are, regrettably, as bad as the title of the song itself. Either that, or in twinning “surprise yer” with “Tizer”, Morrissey is simply demonstrating that any fool can indeed think of words that rhyme (as per Sing Your Life).
 
Similarly, Mute Witness can be an uncomfortable listen for its seemingly unkind treatment of the witness (and implied victim) in question. There’s an argument which says Moz is merely reflecting the attitudes of the criminal justice system when faced with a young, vulnerable, and possibly disabled victim, but he doesn’t manage to pull off this ambivalence with as much empathy as in November Spawned A Monster.
 
This is becoming far too serious and earnest (not to mention nearly hinting at gentle criticism of my hero), so, moving swiftly on…
 
(I’m) The End of the Family Line is a statement of intent (or rather, non-intent) regarding parenthood. Getting beyond the inevitable speculation as to the meaning of lines such as a family “all honouring nature / until I arrived / with incredible style”, this is a touching song which acknowledges the selfish side of the decision (“I’m spared the pain of ever saying goodbye”) as well as being a declaration of a life to be spent alone.
 
Asian Rut is delivered with the singer’s typical mix of sympathy, pity, mild scorn, fatalism, despair and empathy for the outsider, and sees Morrissey contemplating a schoolboy who is seeking revenge for the killing of his best, and only, friend. From the outset it is clear that the ensuing confrontation will not go the way of our wannabe hero.
 
Our Frank, the opening track and first single, comes the closest to Morrissey’s initial (and still arguably finest) batch of guitar-pop radio-friendly solo singles. Ostensibly aimed at an acquaintance who insists on initiating deep and ‘meaningful’ conversations, more revealing is the end of the track where Moz is desperate to be released from his incessant introspection: “won’t somebody stop me / from thinking / from thinking all the time / so bleakly, so deeply / so deeply all the time / about everything”. Sounds familiar.

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