The ex-Smith proves his greatness on a spiky live album
Johnny Marr has had a long, distinguished, deliberately diverse post-Smiths career, but it’s only since becoming a solo artist that he’s really come face-to-face with his audience. The two albums released under his own name (The Healers’ 2003 debut seems to have been chalked up to experience) have sparked an unexpected late-career renaissance, and the shows he’s played in support of them – wonderfully energetic, celebratory affairs – have been a way for him to honour past glories whilst establishing himself as a force to be reckoned with in the present.
‘Adrenalin Baby’, recorded at shows in Glasgow, Manchester and Brixton over the last couple of solo tours, is a live document of that, and a pretty entertaining one – if tracks like ‘New Town Velocity’ or ’Easy Money’ passed you by, this is an opportunity to reacquaint yourself. The Smiths songs, of course, will be of particular interest: part of the motivation behind doing this record was to make his versions of them available, and his distinctive guitar work is as much an imprimatur of their greatness as Morrissey’s wit. When you hear the riff for ‘The Headmaster Ritual’, you can tell instantly that it’s Marr playing: there’s just something more sure-footed and authentic about the way it sounds. His arrangements are generally pretty faithful to the originals – you can’t mess around too much with ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ or ‘How Soon Is Now?’ – but when he affords himself some license on Electronic’s ‘Getting Away With It’, the result is an angular punk-funk epic that underlines Marr’s greatest strength, where as a sideman or a focal point: his chameleonic sense of adaptability.
Record label: Warners
Release date: 09 Oct, 2015