Thirty-five years on from breaking into the industry, Marr’s still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve and certainly proves it on his best and most interesting solo album yet.
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With nearly a four year gap since his last studio album ‘Playland’, it’s safe to say that Johnny Marr’s latest offering ‘Call The Comet’ has been one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year. Though of course in true Marr fashion, those four years saw him harder at work than ever; with an extensive touring schedule and the release of both his live album ‘Adrenalin Baby’ and autobiography ‘Set The Boy Free’. The writing process for ‘Call The Comet’ saw Marr escape from the harsh realities of life by locking himself in Crazy Face Factory, his studio on the outskirts of Manchester, and the result is his best and most interesting solo album yet.
Marr announced ‘Call The Comet’ back in April, alongside the release of its cinematically tensive and bass driven lead single ‘The Tracers’, loaded with inspiration from his work with Hans Zimmer. This intense and brooding theme continues on the album with the psychedelic ‘Actor Attractor’ and breath-taking ‘Walk into The Sea’, with the latter echoing ‘Say Demesne’ from Marr’s debut album ‘The Messenger’. The second track to be released was the melancholic ‘Hi Hello’, which triggered an explosion of positive comments from fans on social media, as they revelled in the shimmering melodies that sound as if they were penned back in his Smiths days.
Featuring some of Marr’s most personal lyrics yet, as well as guitar riffery that closely resembles ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’, you’d expect ‘Hi Hello’ to be the catchiest track on the album, up until you’re blessed with ‘Day In Day Out’ and ‘Spiral Cities’. ‘Day In Day Out’ boasts a perfect combination of sing-along lyrics and upbeat acoustics, before briefly taking a dark turn for an exhilarating solo from everyone’s favourite guitar wizard about two thirds of the way through. ‘Spiral Cities’ is another perfectly crafted track that became a fan favourite when it was given its live debut at Marr’s Wakefield Warehouse gig in 2015, as well as on his ‘Adrenalin Baby’ tour later that year. Its pummelling beats from drummer Jack Mitchell and sublime lyrics have lived in the form of fan videos on YouTube for the last few years, with the recorded version certainly living up to everyone’s expectations.
Visibly different and often rawer than any of the many front men that he’s worked with in the past, Marr’s vocals are often overlooked – they impressed on ‘The Messenger’ and it’s follow up ‘Playland’, but they well and truly shine on ‘Call The Comet’, particularly as he croons through opening track ‘Rise’, alongside a pulsating guitar line that sets the energetic tone for the remainder of the album. Emotive album closer ‘A Different Gun’ is perhaps his strongest vocal effort of the album, as he glides through sensitive lyrics relating to the terrorist attacks in Nice in 2016 and Manchester last year. ‘Bug’ is another track that reflects on real life events, as Marr compares the surge in right-wing politics to a virus that needs to be obliterated; “took all our privilege, nah nah no more.”
‘Call The Comet’ is a perfectly crafted album and though there’s a heavy emphasis on atmosphere that demonstrates Marr’s wealth of creativity, there are still plenty of hooks that easily place it as a high contender for the best guitar album of 2018. Thirty-five years on from breaking into the industry, Marr’s still got plenty of tricks up his sleeve.