Thursday, May 2, 2013

CD Review: Johnny Marr - The Messenger


Note: This review originally appeared in the Illinois Entertainer

Johnny Marr has kept a busy schedule since The Smiths broke up over 25 years ago, but amazingly, The Messenger is his first full-fledged solo release. It's immediately evident that collaborating with artists like Modest Mouse and The Cribs on their efforts hasn't sapped his creative energy, as these 12 songs brim with strong melodies and Marr's signature guitar playing. As with Boomslang, the 2003 album from Johnny Marr & The Healers, The Messenger gives him an opportunity to handle lead vocals.

Marr’s expressive voice is well suited to the material, which captures the allure of 1980’s cutting-edge bands without getting submerged in that era. There’s a running theme of fighting an oppressive society while simultaneously ridiculing it, especially on the energetic “Sun And Moon” and Beatlesque “Lockdown.” The title track is more atmospheric and soulful, while the exuberant first single, “The Right Thing Right,” with an arrangement reminiscent of The Who, should draw a lot of attention to Marr’s worthy solo venture.

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