Album Review :: Morrissey – Bona Drag (20th Anniversary Edition)

“Re-issue, re-package, re-package”

When I hear on the TV that Pixie Lott has got a ‘deluxe’ or ‘expanded’ edition of her debut album, I can’t help but ask what she or her album have done to deserve such treatment. It’s not that I don’t think she’s talented, and this definitely doesn’t just apply to her, but does a year (or less) old album really need a re-release? No, I didn’t think so. That’s not the case here. Morrissey’s eponymous solo compilation, Bona Drag, has clocked up twenty gruesome years, and the arrogant king of indie rock has decided it’s time to unleash it upon the world again. This time, with a host of unreleased tracks and bonus content.

The man who sang about the tacky, needless practice of re-releasing songs with The Smiths is now on his fourth solo re-release, and there’s not a hint of irony about it. Whilst some, myself included, decree Mozzer’s constant contradictions, I can’t help but love this expanded and remastered version of a classic indie album. Morrissey is known for his perfectionism, and it was under his watchful eye that Bona Drag was given a new lease of life. The quality of each track has been improved, and in some cases extended, to create one of the finest remasters I’ve ever heard.

Though it may be a B-side collection, Bona Drag contains some of Morrissey’s finest solo tracks. Those who dismiss his solo work as lacking in comparison to The Smiths may be surprised to find they enjoy this. Tracks like ‘Hairdresser On Fire’, ‘The Last Of The Famous International Playboys’ and ‘Picadilly Palare’ all feature and sound fantastic. The real ‘meat’ (bad choice of words really) of the album comes from it’s bonus material. Some tracks have been extended, for better or worse, but some previously unreleased tracks have been included too.

Outside of the a brand new release, it’s rare for a fan like myself to find a Morrissey track I haven’t heard. This re-issue contains 6 previously unreleased songs from Manchester’s most famous son. Seeing as this is a twenty year old album, it’s hard to review it on the merits of the original tracks. I mean you’ve had two decades to listen to them. With the bonus stuff, it’s a different story. All six tracks are good and each were recorded around the time of the original release, something that definitely helps keep things cohesive. ‘Lifeguard On Duty’ and ‘The Bed Took Fire’ (an early recording of ‘At Amber’) are the standouts, alongside ‘Please Help The Cause Against Lonliness’. By far the best of the bonus material, it was written by Morrissey but recorded by Sandie Shaw. A demo was recorded during the Viva Hate sessions, and that’s what’s on offer here. It’s great and I can’t see why it was never properly recorded.

Despite this being a re-release, it’s something every Morrissey fan should be buying. The remasters are some of the best I’ve ever heard. They alone should be worth price of entry. The bonus material just puts the icing on the cake. If you felt a bit burned after Mozzer’s recent re-issuing, fear not. This is not just the same again.

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