Morrissey and Marshall - And So It Began
Picture this: a cold and wet Friday night in early 2013. A pub. In glorious Oldham. A pub bravely straddling that fine line between ‘homely’ and ‘shit tip’. A pub that, no surprise if you knew it, is no longer there. A pub that for two nights, due to the ingenuity of a pair of local promoters, is playing host to The Magic Numbers. Pitching up in the middle of nowhere to road test material from their forthcoming album, they fill the place with ease, tickets gone in minutes. An expectant crowd gets in early and after bass player Michelle Stodart charms with a solo set, a couple of likely lads clutching acoustic guitars take the stage. “Hello. We’re Morrissey and Marshall." You think, 'Here we go...' There’s a fiver in your back pocket says these local buskers will be knocking out ‘Wonderwall’ before you’ve finished your pint.
And then they start to play, and the room goes quiet. Half a dozen songs lovingly delivered and classically wrought, some smart, dextrous guitar playing and a pair of voices with just a hint of Phil and Don. It’s folk pop but with shades of history – a hint of psychedelia and a sliver of 60s beat pop lifts it above the scraggy norm. They’re smart lads, recently moved from Dublin to London, and eager to chat with the queue that forms afterwards to buy their self-financed EP. If you’re lucky enough to have a copy, guard it with your life. Because on this evidence, you’ll not hear Darren Morrissey and Greg Marshall like this again.
And So It Began has been given The Works – full-on arrangements and a fat production job that veers towards the sugary. It’s reminiscent of the hatchet job Mark Knopfler did on the young Roddy Frame with Knife: if in doubt, throw the lot in. The likes of ‘In Need of Guidance’ and ‘You Are Who You Are’ have enough melody and bittersweet soul to remove the need for over-adornment but, throughout, producer John Reynolds bulks them up, stomps on the tender beauty at their core. And with much of the newer material coming across as a little too rabble-rousing and eager to please (the rattling title track is generic XFM fodder), you can’t help feeling that, despite the pair’s undoubted talent and genuine likeability, somehow, somewhere, someone really fucked up.