on 26 March 2013
Godlike Genius Johnny Marr returns from a 10 year solo absence & lives up to his title with "The Messenger" which delivers in all aspects. The classic Marr guitar riffs, catchy melodies all encompassed by that retro indie/ modern sound ticks every box.
Personal favourite is "New Town Velocity" reminds me of New Order and similar bands of that era which is rare in today’s music. I can thoroughly recommend this album to all those who love Marr's previous work and can guarantee you won't be disappointed!
on 28 November 2013
Having been part of Manchester's finest song writing duo, Johnny Marr's legacy is fitting, as is his recent NME Godlike Genius award. Having released `Boomslang' in 2003 under the banner of Johnny Marr and the Healers, The Messenger is seemingly his first actual solo album and in times where we are desperate for good guitar music, Johnny's done well.
The album opens up with `The Right Thing Right', which instantly gives the record an upbeat opener, and yes the man can sing. However, that "wooo!" could've had a little more velocity, Johnny...
Next is "I Want The Heartbeat" and the regular English Indie side starts to show slightly before a repeat chorus of the title. Then comes "European Me", with almost a Smiths-esque guitar intro, though the vocals don't immediately continue the immediate promise, but a pleasant chorus makes for enjoyable listening and the following verse continues that trend giving the song a boost.
The 2nd single from the album is up next with "Upstarts", and again it makes for enjoyable listening. It also makes sense that this was the follow-up single to `The Messenger', which follows the next track, `Lockdown', which itself highlights Johnny's vocal and abilities and of course his renowned guitar prowess. The title track however is the best song on the album and it is clear why this was the lead single from the record. Somewhat ignorantly of me, I was unaware that Johnny could sing prior to hearing this song a couple of months or so before the release of the album, having not been aware of The Healers or his live performances. The lyrics are limited here but this song didn't need an essay as the lyrics suffice perfectly with Johnny's vocals and harmonies as well as the instrumental element of the song.
Then we have `Generate! Generate!' and `Say Demesne' with the latter being the longest track on the album at over 5 ½ minutes. There is almost a Kraftwerk-esque sound to `...Demesne', with the song picking up at around 1:40 before switching on a reserved/strong trend for the remainder. `Sun and Moon' follows, and dare I say it we hear punkish drums, though the song itself is nothing to shout about but isn't bad either. `The Crack Up' is next and it reminds me personally of solo-Ian Brown and it works, with the chorus in particular reminding me of Brown's 2009 single `Stellify'.
The penultimate track is `New Town Velocity' and it's a good lead into the finale, `Word Starts Attack'. The closing track isn't bad - this isn't a bad album! - but thinking back, I can't help but feel that `Lockdown' would've made for a perfect ending to the record.
Overall, this is a good solo album by one of Manchester's finest sons and while it doesn't tear up trees, the highlights are immensely enjoyable and while guitar music continues to suffer and a Smiths reunion peters away as the years go by, it's nice to know that records like this can come along.
on 2 April 2013
I'm a big fan, and I really want to love this collection of songs, but in the end I think Johnny Marr needs an ace collaborator to deliver his best. There are some good tunes on this album, and if you like anything Johnny Marr ever did, you'll get your money's worth, but it just isn't on fire, and by the time I knew my way round, it had started to irritate me a bit. But I'll look forward to the next one.
on 25 February 2013
When The Smiths split in 1987, front-man Morrissey released his first solo album Viva Hate within six months - it has taken guitarist Johnny Marr over two and a half decades to release his effort, The Messenger.
Granted, he meandered around the indie scene, dipping into projects that interested him, including Electronic, Modest Mouse, and, most recently, The Cribs, but the prospect of a solo album from the man himself is something that many fans of The Smiths have been anticipating for a long time.
The Messenger bursts opens with the indie stomper `The Right Thing Right'. The first thing that strikes you about this song is its vitality - this doesn't sound like the afterthought of a veteran musician looking to cash in on his legacy, but rather feels like something quite fresh and exciting.
I Want the Heartbeat' is dark and urgent, with off-key guitar riffs that seem to swirl with twitchy paranoia around the edges of the mix colliding with an intense driving bass-line that could have been lifted from one of the Libertines' more punky numbers. The mood is lightened by `European Me', a track held together by an infectious pop vocal melody that could easily find itself on a New Order record - this isn't a criticism, Marr's delivery is excellent.
`Upstarts' is rather dull and marks a low point on the album with its verse that seems to plod along aimlessly and a chorus that echoes that disco-tinged indie that was all the rage in 2005. Things improve slightly with `Lockdown', but again the music is incredibly generic and doesn't do anything to showcase Marr's talent as either a guitarist or songwriter.
The title track The Messenger has been a mainstay on BBC 6 Music's playlist since the end of last year and is an excellent song. Again, we hear hints of Bernard Sumner's understated vocal delivery combining with the gentle melodic guitar style of Green-era REM. There's a great contrast in this song between the sharp guitar stabs of the intro with the laid-back funk of the song's bass-line. It's a well-deserving first single.
`Generate! Generate!' is bristling with prickly urgency. With stop-start guitars and punchy vocals, it's a song that instantly grabs your attention. There are elements of this song that could easily fit in with some of The Smiths' later tracks, but there is a harmonic quality to the song's chorus that was lacking with The Smiths.
On `Say Demesne' we hear something akin to the scratchy guitar sounds of Modest Mouse. The song is excellent, and Marr gives his strongest vocal performance on the album, with his voice possessing the same rich quality as Richard Hawley. Indeed, the Hawley comparison doesn't end there; this is a track that could have easily fit onto last year's Standing At The Sky's Edge, with its epic guitars and echoic keyboards creating an almost otherworldly atmosphere.
`Sun and Moon' is held together by a ramshackle bass-line that would make New York feminists Le Tigre proud. It's a great song that culminates in a crescendo of heavy guitar distortion that verges on white noise. Things get a bit more laid-back with `The Crack Up' - a song that leans a little bit too much towards the bouncy reggae-tinged indie of Hard Fi for my liking. Luckily, there's enough charm in the song, however, for it not to register as completely dull.
`New Town Velocity' is a piece of music that grabs you with its subtlety. On the first few listens, it's one of those tracks that feel like filler, but its melodies are quite stunning and the chorus sounds better each time you hear it.
The Messenger closes with brash stomper `Word Starts Attack', the music to which sounds as though it could have featured on Franz Ferdinand's debut, with its tinny guitar riffs and deliberate drum patterns. It's a pretty decent track, but you feel a little bit disappointed.
There's a lot of expectation and anticipation riding on this album, and sadly it doesn't quite deliver. There are a few too many nods towards the mid-2000s indie scene for the album to sound original or even that relevant, but there are some parts of the album that are truly excellent and it is definitely an album that improves with each listen.
What is perhaps most surprising about The Messenger is just how good Marr's vocals are. He has spent much of his career shying away from centre stage, but his performances in tracks like `The Messenger' and `Say Demesne' make me wish that he'd made a solo album sooner.
on 7 July 2013
Sounds all right but Johnny still can't touch The Smiths, talk about millstones, albatrosses, etc. Electronic were all right, I've never really heard the Healers or any of the other bands he played in, apart from The The and B. Bragg, both of which were great by anyone else's standards, but not Smith's great. It must have been the chemistry cos Morrissey's never been close either. A Beatles type thing. Plus which his lyrics are mighty odd, either v. obscure or pure nonsense. Solo wise I think his Todd Margaret stuff is his best, and he never should've lent N. Gallagher a guitar.
on 3 February 2014
Marr has a definite sound: there are chord progressions, chiming sounds, that whole rhythm-as-lead thing, that are unmistakably him. And they're all there, on The Messenger. But there's a lot more besides. The diversity of his collaborations over the last twenty five years (yes, it really has been that long, Smiths fans) has left its mark, so much so that it's tempting to play "spot the era" with each of The Messenger's twelve tracks. You know, that sounds like Electronic, that's a bit Cribs-y, that could have been on Strangeways... It's tempting, and it's dangerous, because yes, whilst I'd love to know what Morrissey would have sung over the top of The Right Thing Right and, especially, Say Demesne, that is to detract from the lyrics that Marr has penned, and delivers in a pleasantly surprising, strong voice. Whereas so many of the Mozfather's lyrics were introspective, Marr has a broader, outward-looking perspective. In tone and content, this alone should be enough to prevent comparisons between Smiths tracks and those on this new album. So I'll just limit myself to one more, because New Town Velocity is blessed with quintessential Marr chord progressions and shimmering guitar, so much so that I cannot listen to it without imagining Steven Patrick crooning over the top... especially in the last 35 seconds, when the backing vocals are crying out to be sung by Kirsty...
on 28 February 2013
There is a definite sonic sound to the album poaching inspiration from Electronic, and his two most recent collaborations with Modest Mouse / The Cribs.
25 years to produce a solo album what`s that about, not sure if the album is a stomper, but a good album never the less, the lead single The Messenger being a top tune.
on 13 March 2013
With each play these songs give up more and more of their treasures. Utterly modern yet deferring knowingly to the past, early triumphs deftly referenced with a ringing chord sequence here, chiming layers of guitars there.
A melodic charm so effortlessly sublime but just why is Johnny Marr's music so beguiling?
'Genius' is a word much devalued these days, too often bestowed on the unworthy or insincere. The simple truth is Johnny Marr really is far more gifted as a musician and songwriter than everything that word can signify. This beautifully crafted record testifies to a keen musical intellect, a uniquely breathtaking talent that he, to his everlasting credit, is entirely faithful to and wears with a modest grace and swagger.
There is a deep and dark magic at work in the mesmeric folds of these songs. Something ancient and mysterious is channelled, yet vitally present and potent.
on 28 February 2013
Its taken a few listens to begin to unravel some of the qualities of this fine album.
The first thing that hit me was how rockin it was.. I had heard a few suggestions of some tracks pleasing Smiths fans which I can hear at times, particularly 'New Town Velocity' but it also has many of the sounds of Johnny's post-Smiths and new post-punk experiments. It really sounds as though the smart moves of intensive touring with Modest Mouse and Cribs have reinvigorated Johnny writing and playing with a real live energy.
As we've come to expect, the songs are highly melodic and intelligently arranged with just enough layering to make new discoveries on each listen. There are plenty of really catchy riffy hooks that once ingested stick with you. 'European Me' is particularly melodic and gorgious with the man's daughter singing the backing vocals. The album ends perfectly with a great arpeggio solo which, in true Johnny character, on first listen makes your head turn with an unexpected note bend. Only Johnny is this brave and original. The man is ceaseless in his ability to reinvent and challenge expectations of what people expect from him and come out with something this good..
He's talking about writing more solo work, I certainly hope so. Cant wait to see him play this live in a fortnight..
on 25 February 2013
Received this on vinyl this morning and it hasn't been off the turntable all day. I'm genuinely hard pressed to think of another modern record that has the guts, musicianship and quality that The Messenger possesses. I was excited to receive the album greatly especially as I got tickets to see Johnny live for Xmas. Don't expect The Smiths as Johnny's vocals are TOTALLY different to those of Morrisey but do expect some punchy riffs, incredible energy & some dulcet tones from Johnny (YES! He CAN sing...) Those of you who are familiar with Johnny's work with Neil Finn will know he has a great voice but it's noticeable how he has been working on getting it perfect for this album & I think he's really come into his own on. Just buy it - on vinyl if you can!