Dreaming of a better tomorrow, rather than obsessing over the past – that’s been what has kept Johnny Marr alive and forever relevant in his life after The Smiths. That spirit is in-built into the manifesto of the guitar legend’s upcoming third solo album, ‘Call The Comet‘; to the degree where his restless creative impulses can’t even exist within the present.
“This time around, I had to imagine a society, rather than just report what I see,” Marr told us of his inspiration behind the record. “There’s some H.G. Wells in there. I’ve been reading a lot of interesting stuff from the early 20th Century. It’s not quite utopian, but it’s imagining a new kind of society. That’s how I felt going into it at the start of 2016.
“Rather than feeling like it was too bleak as reportage or commentary about what I see outside, it’s kept the psycho-geography of the first two records but I had to reimagine it. I don’t want those fuckers contaminating my creativity.”
So come with us, as we take the first exclusive walk through Marr’s brave and bold new world….
Marr’s bright and idiosyncratic guitar riffery hits you like sunstroke, but what enhances it all the more here is the sheer opulence of his songwriting. When he talked about H.G. Wells, you can’t help but hear that translate into this searing sci-fi rock soundscape as Marr in his fullest and finest voice calls upon you to “hear the truth”. Preach.
2. ‘The Tracers’
Johnny’s own personal favourite on the record, and we can’t help but agree. Loaded with “woops”, hooks and a constant rumbling tension, ‘The Tracers’ is the perfect balance between his knack for pop and the cinematic mastery he’s demonstrated with his pal Hans Zimmer. It’s like a runaway train to the future, and we don’t want to get off.
3. ‘Hey Angel’
With the glam-stomp of T-Rex and a driving Britpop swagger, ‘Hey Angel’ is a gift of pure rock n’ roll satisfaction. This is going to be an absolute beast when Marr takes to the stage.
4. ‘Hi Hello’
The man himself admits a resemblance to Patti Smith’s ‘Dancing Barefoot’, as well as the pace and instrumental melody appearing to be a very, very close cousin to ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out’. It’s a gem in its own right, but what it borrows from both is that timeless, crystallised, aching melancholy that Marr has turned into an art form.
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5. ‘New Dominions’
You can sense the muse of Depeche Mode running through this simmering dose electro-noir, as Marr romantically croons for “the only lovers left alive”. It’s a left-field surprise that punctuates the record, and proof again that the man can still conquer new ground.
6. ‘Day In Day Out’
There are echoes to ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’ and ‘The Headmaster Ritual’ in the sweet but haunting guitar refrain. As he sings “now is forever, now is an old re-run”, you get the feeling that Marr is perfectly comfortable in not shying away from his past, but using the full palette of his experience to paint a picture that’s entirely new.
7. ‘Walk Into The Sea’
Dissonant pianos and sombre post-rock guitars see us into one of the most experimental peaks of the album, as ambience and subtlety are utilised with devastating impact as Marr contemplates his escape to “stumble and glide into the wide white tide”. It’s breathtaking.
One of Marr’s most mesmeric guitar lines in recent memory ties you up in its tapestry, before a killer chorus that turns a lament for the ‘sick and shaking population of the world on the edge’ into an arena-ready banger.
9. ‘Actor Attractor’
A John Squire psychedelia glides over a syncopated kraut-rock beat. Another moment of beautiful sonic departure, ‘Actor Attractor’ is the manifestation of Marr’s dream society: “forever we can live to the limit, forever we can give to the limit”.
10. ‘Spiral Cities’
Just as he did on solo debut ‘The Messenger’, ‘Spiral Cities’ is Marr plotting an architectural landscape onto music. It’s a mid-tempto journey of a man searching for hope through sensory overload of urban life. If only city living really sounded this sweet.
11. ‘My Eternal’
With the haunting synth romance of Soft Cell or Eurythmics, ‘My Eternal’ feels like an artist skirting on the edge. Will he cross over before the end?
12. ‘A Different Gun’
A blissed-out full stop and resolution to an album that fires back at the questions of the present with answers from an imagined future. Maybe there could be a happy ending after all.
Johnny Marr releases ‘Call The Comet’ on June 15. Check out details of the record and Marr’s UK tour here.