I’m a Johnny Marr fanboy. The man can do no wrong in my eyes. I did my best to love Boomslang… and when they told me The Messenger was *really* his first solo record I just nodded my head in agreement.
So here we are, some 26 years after the end of The Smiths and about eight months shy of Marr’s 50th birthday, finally graced with his solo artistic statement. Out next week on Sire, it’s 12 tracks of pure britpop. In fact, he moved from Portland back to Manchester to record in an effort to ‘keep it real’.
Marr has said he made this album for his fans, returning to the sound “rooted in the New Wave shows I used to sneak in to see when I left school.” Certainly good news, and a promise he fulfills with varying degrees of success. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, and occasionally it swerves into the ditch, but after all it’s Johnny Freaking Marr — let’s not quibble as we bask in greatness.
Stream it in full thanks to Rolling Stone and follow along with the track-by-track comments below.
“The Right Thing Right”
A proper opening jam, it’s got some of Marr’s more relaxed vocals, a great breakdown and magical overdubs.
“I Want The Heartbeat”
Angular and muscular, the densely layered track is weighed down by vocals that test the limits of Marr’s range. The bit where he mimics his guitar is charming and unexpected — so much so he cracks himself up doing it.
A bit of The Smiths with the edge of his work with The Cribs, this is the kind of jangle fans were hoping to hear.
The lead single, it’s rather nondescript britpop with the exception of discofied bridges that bring in just enough Marr flourish.
A simple tune that’s unremarkable but is saved by the rich tone of Marr’s fantastic lead part.
A great hook, killer bassline, subtle synths and a sweet backward solo. Oh, and handclaps. Don’t forget about the handclaps.
The first half of the song is dreadful, but the guitar interlude and subsequent solo are worth waiting for.
The closest Marr gets to a ballad, his newfound vocal confidence really shines. The emulated strings are overkill, but it’s an admirable attempt at epicness.
“Sun And Moon”
Another instance of the vocals taking away from an otherwise cracking track. One of my favorite guitar sounds on the album.
“The Crack Up”
A stand out, it’s got a bit of a Phoenix vibe and packs in the most ideas per minute.
“New Town Velocity”
The acoustic guitar strum makes this the warmest, most comforting track on The Messenger, and the chiming lead guitar begs to be paired with Morrissey’s crooning.
“Word Starts Attack”
A full on disco assault, would be better suited as a b-side than an album closer.