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Johnny Marr
The Messenger - SIRE / ADA
FILTER Grade: 84%

By Adam Pollock on March 21, 2013


Johnny Marr

If the prognosticators are to be to believed, the musical pendulum, that which charts the fickle tastes of the general public—and which has been spending a little too much time swinging between twee, electro and indie of late—is headed back in the direction of blokes with guitars. If that is (hopefully) the case, one of the early landmarks of the sea change will be Johnny Marr’s The Messenger.


To say that Marr’s new épée, his very first solo effort, is guitar-based will of course come as a surprise to absolutely no one. As one of the primary architects of UK indie rock in the ’80s, his guitar style not only helped define the sound of The Smiths, but has also influenced hundreds of bands since. Just ask Greenwood, Gallagher (either one, your choice) or Kapranos.


Since the demise of The Smiths 25 years ago, Marr has lent his talents to numerous great bands, and Modest Mouse, and has performed regularly as a side musician. An actual solo album from him is thus being met with frothy anticipation; we can imagine the heartwarming scene of everyone at the Gallagher household gathered around the hi-fi listening to a pre-release copy.


The Messenger does not disappoint; it brims with angular riffage, swings with sexy insouciance. Marr’s singing is emotive and strong. The album opens with crashing chords and gets right to work with an up-tempo number, “The Right Thing Right.” The energy continues at a tight clip with fuzzed-out guitars merging with jagged solo turns; Marr’s vocals soar above the cacophony. Things get a little darker and more experimental towards the end of the record; “Say Demesne” shivers with moody minor synth lines and Marr’s plaintive vocals. 


With over three decades of music-making to his credit—not to mention god-like status amongst guitar aficionados—it must feel exciting and satisfying for Marr to be delivering such an inspired debut solo effort. The feeling is mutual, sir.


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