[pullquote1 quotes=”true” align=”center”]The Messenger promising debut album for talented indie-pop guitarist[/pullquote1]

Contributing Writer

Johnny Marr’s long-awaited solo album The Messenger was released Tuesday, and has been continually referred to as the album of the week. The Messenger reflects the versatility of Marr’s musical styles that he has accumulated over the years in an almost autobiographical form. He is most notably known as the guitarist of The Smiths, a 1980s English alternative rock band. Believed to be one of the founding influences of the indie-rock movement, the band’s eventual split did not end Marr’s musical career in the slightest. He went on to work with The Pretenders, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, and Electronic to name a few.

For roughly 25 of his 49 years on Earth, this guitar genius has accumulated a multitude of musical experiences that explain the diversity of each song on The Messenger. For those looking for an excellent guitar album, Marr certainly has you covered.

The immense success and legacy following The Smiths cast a rather binding shadow of expectations for these musical geniuses both positively and negatively. Rather than allowing his past to determine his future, Marr has collaborated with a multitude of comparable musical talents in order to nourish his already well-endowed fine figure of fame. In an interview he stated, “I just reached a point where I didn’t want to be in another band — or someone else’s band — any more.”

Serving as a musical memoir, The Messenger demonstrates the influence of Marr’s various experiences on his songwriting; however remaining entirely and undoubtedly Johnny Marr in sound. Although created a quarter of a century after The Smiths split, it is clear that the period of intermission was time well spent; The Messenger is a forward-moving display of musical capabilities. The album gets better with each track, ending on “Word Starts Attack,” that compiles all of his influences and critiques on these influences into something new, yet inherently very Marr.

Marr has exemplified the move from lead guitarist to full band. His entirely self-created and self-produced album demonstrates a compact illustration of his musical capabilities. Drawing from all facets of his career, Marr’s guitar virtuosity with extraordinary guitar riff and chord progressions formulates the foundational core of this pop-rock solid album. Constantly floating from one band to the next and even contributing to the Inception soundtrack by Hans Zimmer, Marr finally pins down all of his past influences into a confined memoir of these experiences. The album is ripe with his personality, and interweaves his musical history in the stylistic differences of each track.

The Messenger is Marr’s critique of what he has experienced musically, and how he would formulate these styles into his own. He is able to interlace the album with both the plushness of pop and the edginess of punk. A record infused with energy, Marr reminds us to be constantly aware and actively apart of the life we live. In an attempt to muse on modern societies lack of identity and values due to consumerism, he may lack in a poetic portrayal of his opinions. But fans must keep in mind that Marr is a guitarist and not Allen Ginsberg. In the track “I Want A Heartbeat” Marr discusses how technology is beginning to rule the lives of modern society. Then there are other tracks such as “European Me” that are a celebration of being European. The track “Generate! Generate!” references 17th century philosopher Descartes’ famous statement “I think, therefore I am” in the line “Cogito ergo dun” meaning, “I think, therefore I am stupid.” Whether his social consciousness makes any impact or not, it is clear that his decisions in the album’s construction have meaningful intentions.

Unfortunately, a lot of attention has been directed towards his lyrical and vocal shortcomings, bashing them in comparison to Morrissey’s. However, the first track of the album, “The Right Thing Right,” seriously calls these doubts into question. Although having a rather Bono/U2-esque sound, Marr’s extraordinary guitar core produces a modernized combination of The Smiths and U2. This eclectic compilation reflects the variety of styles he worked under during the past 25 years. For example, the title track, “The Messenger” evokes his Modest Mouse influences with its rawer, edgier guitar riffs. Additionally, tracks like “Generate! Generate!” and “European Me” demonstrate the iconic sounds of The Smiths. However, the final three tracks, “The Crack Up,” “New Town Velocity,” and “Word Starts Attack” are notably different from the previous eclectic compilation and exert a fuller representation of Marr’s musical individuality. Where his lyrics or vocals lack, his guitar excellence and fluidity of diverse styles more than make up for tenfold.

[three_fourth]Overall, Marr has proven the inevitable with The Messenger. I wouldn’t mark this album as groundbreaking, but rather, it fully displays Marr’s talents and accomplishments throughout the years. This guitar-driven indie-pop album paves way for a hopeful solo career. Tracks to look out for are “Upstarts,” “The Right Thing Right” and “New Town Velocity.”[/three_fourth]

Review Rating:
The Messenger allows Marr to show off his musical versatility.


Questions? Email Julia at jbyrnes@fandm.edu.

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