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Key Tracks: “Lockdown,” “The Messenger,” “Crack Up”
There is no denying that Johnny Marr is a great guitarist. The first chords of his debut solo album, The Messenger, create an infectious opening that has the listener immediately hooked. By the end of opener, “The Right Thing Right,” however, the initial head bopping has transformed into a giant yawn.
And that is basically the best way to describe Marr’s solo effort. The guitarist has decided to escape the trap that was playing in the shadow of Morrissey in The Smiths to do what was inevitable: break out on his own.
Marr’s masterful guitar hooks are really the only thing that gives The Messenger some life. Other than that, Marr does not stray far from a monotone singing voice while the songs run together, lacking energy.
The other big downfall on The Messenger is that nothing really stands out. Granted, there are a couple songs on the album that can qualify as catchy, but nothing screams “listen to me.”
As far as catchy goes, “Lockdown” is the closest to it, as the song has a consistent beat and has lyrical value, yet it leaves a sort of sour Foo Fighters aftertaste--not to mention that at only around four minutes, the song seems to last forever.
“The Messenger” is another one of the more redeeming songs. Marr takes on a softer sound qualifying the song as great background music at a bar. But like the rest of the songs on the album, it drags on and is a little too repetitive.
Many of the songs on The Messenger pay homage to Marr’s life in London, especially “European Me” and “Generate! Generate!” The latter tends to sound similar to The Clash, while “European Me” seems to reflect The Cure in its melody.
“Say Demesne” is a slow, echo-y ballad, with Marr’s voice slightly resembling Bono’s mid-'90s inspired husk. The song's attempt to be captivating succeeds at first, but again, not to sound redundant, the listener will most likely lose interest before it comes to a close.
One of the more pleasant tunes on the album is “Crack Up,” which is a a whole lot of rhyming on top of a light, bouncy melody. Like most of the other songs on the album, it has potential, but if Marr could just add an extra push, it would turn a yawn-inducing song to something worth downloading.
With acts like The Smiths and Modest Mouse, Marr has proven that he can play a mean guitar riff. Without Marr, “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” may not exist. And that on its own will gain Marr the respect he deserves.
Johnny Marr is no doubt a great guitarist, but his solo debut is anything but exciting.
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