It’s so easy for an appointed “guitar god” to sit back and allow their stature and past accomplishments endlessly carry them through their respective musical careers.
But that’s not the case with Johnny Marr, the inventive and influential guitarist who rose to prominence with 1980s press darlings, British indie rock band The Smiths. Marr has remained musically active and vital since that band’s separation at the end of the decade from which it emerged; after stints as a member of Electronic, The The and Modest Mouse (among others), Marr decided to go it alone and carry the torch as a solo artist about five years ago.
Two studio albums and one live album later, Marr has emerged with Call the Comet, one of the boldest, most daring and consistent records he’s ever had a hand in creating. It goes without saying that his guitar work is razor-sharp and sublime throughout the record. It’s his vocal capabilities and his flirtations with a host of new sounds and styles — plus his engaging sense of confidence — that take center stage here.
The thumping, politically motivated rocker “Bug” busts through stereo speakers like nothing else in Marr’s vast back catalogue. The shimmering, lovely melodies that float through “Hi Hello” are infectious and guarantee this pretty ballad is sure to become an earworm at first listen. “New Dominions” is a claustrophobic, urgent, hyperactive electronic freakout that recalls the manic sound of 1970s New York City pioneering electro duo, Suicide.
But it’s “Spiral Cities” that is the true tour de force here. A bottom-heavy, R&B-fueled number complete with a soaring chorus of backing vocals that might very well be the best thing Johnny Marr has ever committed to vinyl.
While he’ll forever be known as the co-writer of all those fabulous Smiths records and the instrumental genius who lifted those songs to previously uncharted levels of intricate, sweeping heights, the time has most definitely come to recognize Johnny Marr as a bona fide and deserving solo artist in his own right.
Call the Comet is, simply put, Marr’s strongest solo effort. It’s a magnificent piece of work that serves as a true testament to the idea that Marr has plenty to offer musically at this stage of his career, and it clearly showcases his continued and ever-present vitality.
Critic's rating — 4.5/5 stars