Johnny Marr - The Messenger

Is Johnny Marr the nicest man in pop? Now more than three decades into his musical career and it's hard to find anyone with a bad word, meaning that the response to his first proper solo work will almost certainly be nice, even if it struggles to escape beyond its mainstream indie pop rock confines. He was of course, partly responsible for sketching out what the term indie band came to mean for many, although if others took nothing but surface from The Smiths (four blokes playing melodic, guitar-based pop) and none of what was underneath (the funk, the humour, the charm) he comes out untarnished. No, we can't blame him for all that.

Which makes The Messenger a little disappointing. Had any other name been attached, 'landfill indie' might get bandied about. Some of what's here lacks much in the way of character, especially when you could once identify Marr-penned material within a couple of bars. 'Is this The Ordinary Boys? Hard-Fi?' you may find yourself asking. 'Upstarts' shines for suggesting his time with The Cribs put a little fire back in his belly; the title track has a fine, Autumnal air that carefully marries classic Marr guitar play with chiming Peter Buck-style picking. Otherwise, it's a little anonymous, not aided by Marr's support band level vocals. Solid, if unspectacular effort from one of the good guys.



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