After 30 years as a gun for hire, the guitar hero finally makes a firm commitment to his solo career, with dazzling results.
At first, Johnny Marr’s move towards the centre of the stage seemed one born of necessity rather than desire. Following his sole album fronting Johnny Marr + The Healers, he retreated back into his comfort zone as guitarist for Modest Mouse and The Cribs. Marr had clearly acquired a taste for life as a singer though, launching his solo career proper with 2013’ s The Messenger and its 2014 successor Playland. But where those albums specialised in taut, stage-ready indie rock, this third solo album widens his palette, both in its more nuanced music and subject matter. Post-Trump, Marr tried to avoid politics creeping into his new songs, although it was perhaps inevitable that our uncertain times would have an effect. Rise, Call The Comet’s propulsive opener, is a defiant howl of warning against an Orwellian authoritarian regime in the vein of Bowie’s Diamond Dogs: “Now here they come/It’s the dawn of the dogs.” Later, in the Combat Rock-era Clash-ish Bug, he likens right-wing ideology to an insidious virus. But the fact that these are socio-political sentiments cloaked in great grooves and melodies means that these elements of Call The Comet never come across as haranguing buzzkill. In fact, throughout Marr paints deftly with light and shade. Stretching out into the atmospheres of the six minutelong Walk Into The Sea, he draws upon his soundtrack work with Hans Zimmer. Meanwhile, those still pining for that elusive Smiths reunion might be sated by the bright, empathic pop of Hi Hello and the shimmering sigh of closer A Different Gun, which tackles the after-effects of global terrorism with tenderness. The latter two tracks, in particular, spotlight just how far he’s come as a singer too, in terms of subtlety and passion. After 30 years as an itinerant gun for hire, Call The Comet firmly underlines Johnny Marr’s commitment to his solo career. ★★★★ TOM DOYLE Listen To: Rise | Hi Hello | Walk Into The Sea | Bug
Throughout, Marr paints deftly with light and shade.
Johnny Marr: his star is still rising with Call The Comet.