Morrissey (Sire/Reprise 26994)
As rock's reigning eccentric, Morrissey has labored long and hard to turn his private obsessions into public passions. Perhaps that's why "Your Arsenal," for all its apparent insularity, seems such a winning and accessible album. Granted, not every listener will have the proper frame of reference to grasp lyrics like those to "The National Front Disco" -- or even "You're the One for Me, Fatty." But all it takes to love the music is a taste for jangling guitars and lilting tuneful melodies, and Morrissey provides plenty of both, from the surf-rock roar of "You're Gonna Need Somebody On Your Side" to the Beatlesque twang of "Certain People I Know."
THE HARD WAY
Clint Black (RCA 66003)
If rugged good looks and a well-worn voice are all it takes to ensure country stardom, Clint Black ought to be set for life. But if heartfelt sentiment and musical sincerity still matter, "The Hard Way" suggests that Black's future may not be so golden. Although the material has its moments, thanks to songs as tuneful as "We Tell Ourselves" or as lyrically imaginative as the lost-love lament "Wake Up Yesterday," most of the songs lack the depth and resonance that made "Killin' Time" and "Put Yourself in My Shoes" so memorable. Worse, Black's singing is utterly uninspired, as if merely putting the melody across was all that was required of him. In all, "The Hard Way" makes it seem as if Black is dead-set on doing it the wrong way.
Ministry (Sire/Warner Bros. 26727)
Some music may have, as Congreve wrote, "charms to soothe a savage breast," but not the kind made by Ministry. There's nothing even remotely soothing about the shrieking guitars and jackhammer drums that make up this duo's sonic assaults, and as such, most of "Psalm 69" wafts out of the speakers like an Excedrin headache waiting to happen. That's not to say the group's sound is one-dimensional, mind, for Ministry manages to bring the noise in a variety of ways, from the cyberpunk intensity of "TVII" to the near-symphonic ambition of the album's title tune. But there's precious little fun to be had here, and apart from "Jesus Built My Hotrod" -- an inspired bit of silliness sounding like a Big Daddy Roth cartoon brought to life -- this Ministry is unlikely to make many converts.
Various Artists (Priority 53696)
Should you labor under the misapprehension that Ice-T is the only rapper who has ever put an anti-cop number on wax, "Street Soldiers" offers plenty of testimony to the contrary. Opening with N.W.A.'s notorious "F - - - tha Police," this compilation includes all sorts of police complaints, from don't-hassle-me songs like L.L. Cool J's "Illegal Search" and "One Time Got No Case" by Sir Mix-a-Lot, to seething denunciations like X Clan's "A Day of Outrage, Operation Snatchback" and Ice Cube's "I Wanna Kill Sam." But the appeal here isn't just talk, as even those who disagree with the album's politics will have a hard time denying ++ the music's potency.