Review Summary: Fever dreams of a talented mind
Johnny Marr is a significant figure in rock music, even though unfortunately not one of the most high-profile. Over the course of his long and varied career he remained in the shadows of other musicians (first of all, vocalists). Until finally he released his first true solo album in 2013 (however, it was preceded by Boomslang
he recorded together with The Healers in 2003). Then two more great LPs followed. And this year, having teased the new album with two EPs (out of four announced), the guitarist released a collection of 16 fresh songs.
One of the reasons the reviewer mentioned Marr’s in-the-shadows standing is due to his unique guitar playing. He never sticks out and eclipses his teammates unlike many of his established colleagues. At the same time his fretwork cannot be called indistinguishable or subtle. His style is more like penetrating musical depths of a song, when guitar is noticeable but also manages to craftily merge with other instruments and vocals. Only when you listen in carefully, trying to mentally disassemble a track, you pick up his inherent and artful work. And whenever the guitarist takes over in the solo sections or produces memorable riffs, his high level becomes evident.
The same approach Johnny applies to his vocals. They cannot be called powerful or bright, feeling like a step back to his main specialty (unsurprisingly). However, he aptly combines singing and instruments, when one does not interfere with the other, instead perfectly fitting in to the tapestry.
And yet again it is in full swing on his new album, where the musician decided to move towards a more electronic direction.
Without a doubt the record can be called a success. Quite often the LPs containing this much material suffer from unevenness of the latter, when you can throw out a half of it, leaving only the best stuff in the playlist. Luckily this doesn’t happen on the new Marr album. Though it also doesn’t mean all of the tracks are outstanding. We see the usual picture: some tracks are great, others are decent but not bad enough to be sent to the bin. Still, there is only one critique that can be presented here – a monolithic yet monotonous flow, with one track segueing into another, and it is sometimes a task to separate them during listening. Because of that a plus of the album sometimes tuns into a minus, smoothing out the shape due to too impressive evenness of the contents. But it is truer for the first four tracks (well, except for peppy Spirit Power and Soul
). Hence it is advised to bide your time and dive in the diversity presented by Johnny circa 2021-2022.
There is a couple of bright constellations here. The delicate and mellow Lighting People
with its R&B elements is surrounded by vibrant and energetic satellites – Hideaway Girls
and Sensory Street
. And not far from them is Tenement Time
emanating rock waves to the universes of the audience's savor.
The Speed of Love
creates its mysterious, space and time expanding atmosphere, gradually filling up the ether. But then we resurface out of the contemplative state with the help of light and melodic Night and Day
, followed by colorful Counter Clock World
(a worthy nod to R.E.M.
) to boost our buoyant mood.
Having crossed the Rubicon
(referring to both the name of the track and the point of no return, when we cannot stop to listen to the record), we encounter other cuts worthy of attention in one way or another. Out of this lot the closing Human
deserves a nod. Even though it is a mellow track that at first looks dispensable, after the new wave / pop rock onslaught we swam through it feels like a relief.
And with that we get another commendable release and one more album to the slowly growing discography of Johnny Marr.