Johnny Marr's first solo LP evokes work with The Smiths

Feb 19, 2013

It's taken 26 years, but guitarist's solo disc is full of 'sparkling notes and tumbling chords'

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Johnny Marr

JOHNNY MARR, the guitarist who gave seminal British band The Smiths their distinctive sound, has finally given fans a "proper introduction" to his singing and songwriting skills by recording his first solo album.

The Guardian points out that Marr, 49, has played with a host of bands including Electronic, Modest Mouse and the Cribs, since The Smiths split up in 1987. But The Messenger, which is released in the UK on 25 February, is entirely his own work and features "sparkling arpeggios, soaring choruses and endless spidery guitar parts of the kind that would only ever appear on a Johnny Marr record (mainly because only Johnny Marr could play them)", the paper says.

The Messenger is "filled with Brit-pop melodies and reverbed post-punk jangles," Rolling Stone says. But Marr varies the pace by switching from slower songs to compositions "splattered with sharp, aggressive riffing".

The Australian website The Music says the new album will remind listeners of The Smiths because it "defiantly signals a return to those original tumbling notes and familiar sparkling chords". The guitarist’s singing voice is "competent", it says, but there are a occasions when listeners won’t be able to stop themselves wondering "what [Smiths' singer] Morrissey's voice would sound like over the top [of the music]."

The Beats Per Minute website is more enthusiastic about Marr's "vocal talents" saying his voice "is not a stereotypically perfect, angelic voice, but it's good enough to make you wonder why he didn’t contribute more vocally to the Smiths".

The BBC's Tom Hocknell is less convinced by the album's merits, saying it's a shame that one of "the instrument's leading lights" lacks the "shine on his own solo album that he's successfully brought to other bands’ records".

But most reviewers seem convinced that Marr has made a convincing solo record and the 26-year wait has been well worth it.

"Marr lets simplicity pervade the lyrics to the song, letting the music do the talking and leaving the listener to do the thinking," says Beats Per Minute. "For a man used to playing to the left of the spotlight, Marr's foray into the centre looks very promising."

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