Johnny Marr is a man who really needs no introduction. He's played in a myriad of bands spanning his thirty year career including Modest Mouse and The Cribs as well as a little-known Manchester band called The Smiths. He has an impressive total of 18 studio albums already under his belt with forthcoming album The Messenger, his first outing as a solo performer, making it 19.
The album opens with 'The Right Thing Right'. A Pete Townshend sounding guitar fills this song from start to finish and is easily the highlight of this song. Marr's vocals are perfectly adequate but there is obviously a reason he plays guitar more than he sings. Despite the punchy guitar riffs and an effective solo the song seems to fall short. The first track on every album needs a sense of immediacy, something that grabs you; draws you in. Ironically, lacking that, 'The Right Thing Right' just feels wrong.
The first single taken from the album is 'Upstarts' and thankfully it fairs better than some of the tracks on this album. There is more energy and urgency here. Drawing comparisons with the likes of fellow Mancunians Buzzcocks. Marr's vocals are an improvement here, sounding almost Ramones like, especially in the chorus. Following track 'Lockdown' is again another impressive effort and features an incredibly nostalgic guitar, however, you can't help but feel that the song wouldn't benefit from Morrisey'swarbles if not his lyricism.
'Sun and Moon' is another stand out song on the album. A ballsy bass riff rumbles along propelling forward a track which is all out sleaze. The abrasive solo is a particular highlight, as well as Marr's vocals, surprisingly enough.
This isn't strictly a bad first effort from the former Smiths' guitarist, there's some solid songs featured across the course of the 12 tracks. However, maybe it's because of the buzz surrounding the album and it fell victim to it's own hype, but it just feels a little flat. Marr's guitar playing is obviously on top form. It's a nostalgic return, in most part, to his jangly roots, and that is something for which we can be thankful.
Unfortunately there just seems to something missing from The Messenger. Like 'The Right Thing Right' there's nothing here that particularly grabs your attention; there's nothing you've not heard before. It was a case of starting as you mean to go on for Marr which is a shame given the average nature of the song which set the standard. At least he's consistent if nothing else.