With the release of his debut album The Messenger on the 25th of February, iconic guitar legend and former Smiths member Johnny Marr has evidently returned to the musical fray. Inevitably, then, considering his past musical affiliations, Marr’s first solo effort certainly has a lot to live up to. It is well known that solo efforts are a notoriously risky business; there is the ever-present danger that such albums can be perceived as mere spin-offs. Marr’s The Messenger however, quite bucks this trend, and the results are tremendous.
Marr dispenses with any perfunctory introductory textures at the beginning of the album, diving straight in with opener ‘The Right Thing Right’. Fast-paced and pounding, this proves to be a wise choice; indie-rock rhythm couples with ol’-fashioned, rock-n-roll drums to create an intense and promising start. ‘European Me’ is far more complex in its musical anatomy, echoing back to Marr’s time with the Smiths, but with a refreshing angle. Fears of a novelty album are cast aside at this point. From the first three tracks, it is quite clear this album can hold its own in the vicious musical arena of indie-rock.
Things get heavier with ‘Upstarts’ and ‘Lockdown’, Britpop bangers which rely on Marr’s flawless compositions rather than production wizardry. The title track slows the pace to a degree, with more versatility in Marr’s musical style, but things shudder slightly with ‘Generate! Generate!’, which isn’t nearly as an exciting song as the title would have you believe. The next highlight comes from ‘Sun and Moon’, with some terrific contrasts between the dark bass line and the furious guitar work. The album carries on solidly, but lacks the variation needed to really bring the album to a resonant end.
While some of The Messenger’s songs lack the simplistic beauty of the finer pieces of Smiths-era Marr, this album is nevertheless a terrific solo debut, and once again marks Marr as a powerful musical presence in the world of modern music.