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Johnny Marr - Fever Dreams Pt 1 (Album Review)

Monday, 01 November 2021 Written by Jacob Brookman

Photo: Andy Cotterill

For Johnny Marr’s latest musical epistle the former Smiths guitar legend offers up a four-track EP as a precursor to more substantial recordings in the new year. It’s chunky, grooving music with the Mancunian’s vocals sounding confident and laconic, and his hugely influential playing style dancing round the record like an old flame.

We open with Spirit Power and Soul, a trudging ‘90s dance track that recalls his work with New Order’s Bernard Sumner in the supergroup Electronic. Though a satisfying groover, the song feels a little throwback, possibly even dated. There is always a delicate line to be walked with older artists: should they rehash their past sound or completely break new ground? This track doesn’t have a terribly convincing answer.

A stronger song is Ariel, which marries ornate 12-string playing with a swinging rhythm and open, compassionate words. Here Marr demonstrates his aptitude for weaving complex guitar parts into simple sounding indie-rock. It’s music of a high quality, but the lyrical performance is unlikely to turn heads.

Like Noel Gallagher with Oasis, Johnny Marr’s post-Smiths career is a bit of a hybrid. As a music industry grandee, bandleader-arranger and enabler of new artists, his role is cherished and secure. As a solo artist, his output is less so. You might mention that he has a new record out to someone, but it's unlikely you'll dash to the nearest computer to find it.

As such, ‘Fever Dreams Pt 1’ is probably as interesting as it needs to be, but it doesn’t really feel very current, even if Johnny Marr, the musical grandee, does. Actually, the fact that he will never submit to being a legacy artist may bolster that primary role of  beloved good egg. It sounds the wrong way around but the world is an odd place sometimes.

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