Jim James + Johnny Marr | Tracks
My Morning Jacket’s frontman flies solo. A belated debut from the Smiths’ guitarist.
Published: November 22, 2012
If the announcement that Johnny Marr was releasing his debut solo album, at the ripe age of 49, raised some eyebrows, “The Messenger” goes a long way toward allaying any concerns that the former Smiths guitarist may have made a misstep. The track plays up his strengths exquisitely, mainly his ability to coax bell-like tones from six strings. Of course Modest Mouse and the Cribs wanted him in their bands. Who wouldn’t? Marr’s the model of cool, his guitar slashing away at a disco bassline, inciting brooding, bookish types to reclaim the dance floor. It’s as if the Thatcher era never ended, and for a few nostalgic minutes that doesn’t seem so bad. (Consider that he’s owned this aesthetic for the last three decades.) Yet it’s his voice that’s a revelation. Marr sings well enough that you wonder why he’s kept it a secret for so long. “Who wants to be the messenger?” he asks wanly. He may be a reluctant frontman, but he’s got a new record deal, which is more than Morrissey can say.