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Johnny Marr - Call The Comet (Album Review)

Thursday, 28 June 2018 Written by Graeme Marsh

After a short lifetime serving as a firecracker sideman while others took centre stage, guitarist Johnny Marr stepped out on his own with the release of an impressive debut solo album, ‘The Messenger’, in 2013. It was quickly, and a little disappointingly, followed by 2014’s ‘Playland’, a sequel that felt like a selection of b-sides. Thankfully, on ‘Call The Comet’ – his third album in just five years – Marr reverses his fortunes and raises the bar again.

In a similar manner to Arctic Monkeys on their recent ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’ LP, Marr focuses on the future here, with particular reference to “the idea of an alternative society”. The key difference is that Marr’s roots in straightforward rock ‘n’ roll haven’t been jettisoned in favour of a mediocre space-lounge detour.

Single Hi Hello was awarded significant radio airplay, and for good reason. It’s possibly the most Smiths-like track Marr has put his name to since those heady days, with its mellow format capable of sitting proudly alongside melancholic classics such as There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.

By way of contrast The Tracers – another pre-album single – races along with some electrifying guitar touches that are more reminiscent of Marr’s Electronic days. It even boasts a Rolling Stones-esque “woo-woo” for good measure.

‘The Messenger’ was guilty of front-loading its best tracks at the head of the album, although the quality remained high enough throughout. ‘Call The Comet’ could be said to suffer the same fate, with both singles and two major highlights - the opener, Rise, and the darker Hey Angel, where some of the album’s best guitar riffs appear - among the first four tracks. But Marr has a few tricks up his sleeve.

Best of all, perhaps, are the epic six minutes of Walk Into The Sea, where a funereal beginning is followed by an intricate hook, and the excellent Spiral Cities. Here, glittering guitars recall the sparkling Simple Minds gem Someone Somewhere in Summertime. Elsewhere, there are touches of the Stone Roses’ Waterfall on Actor Attractor, and some ‘80s keys on the upbeat My Eternal. Day In Day Out creeps into existence on the back of an acoustic guitar before a belting chorus kicks in, but it’s the song’s synth backed-riff that steals the show.

It’s a reminder of why we love Marr, but you can’t help but feel it is all a little too easy for a guitar genius like him. Then there are sone outright mis-steps. New Dominions is an unconventional but bland dip into electronica, as is the closing wind down A Different Gun. They at least show that that Marr is still happy to step outside his comfort zone, but his limitations as a vocalist are also clear at times. These shortcomings are unsurprisingly offset by his skill as a guitarist, but even then he appears to have dropped a few gears since the dexterous playing that lit up This Charming Man.

These complaints largely feel like picking holes, though, because ‘Call The Comet’ truly does stand as one of the best collections Marr has been involved with for decades. We may well wonder where the hell he’s suddenly found so much inspiration, but let’s enjoy it while it lasts.

Johnny Marr Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Thu November 01 2018 - BELFAST Ulster Hall Belfast
Fri November 02 2018 - DUBLIN National Stadium
Sun November 04 2018 - NORWICH Nick Rayns LCR
Mon November 05 2018 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Institute
Tue November 06 2018 - BATH Bath Forum
Thu November 08 2018 - CARDIFF University Great Hall
Fri November 09 2018 - BRIGHTON Dome
Sun November 11 2018 - LONDON Roundhouse
Tue November 13 2018 - SHEFFIELD O2 Academy Sheffield
Wed November 14 2018 - NEWCASTLE O2 Academy Newcastle
Thu November 15 2018 - GLASGOW Barrowlands
Sat November 17 2018 - LIVERPOOL O2 Academy Liverpool
Sun November 18 2018 - MANCHESTER O2 Apollo

Click here to compare & buy Johnny Marr Tickets at Stereoboard.com.

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