Call The Comet is the third studio album from the ex-Smiths guitarist, with the live Adrenalin Baby bridging the gap between this and 2014’s Playland (2013’s The Messenger was his debut). Marr has spent his post-Smiths time doing significant session work and working with/joining bands as diverse as The The, Modest Mouse, and Yorkshire’s The Cribs, as well as forming his own band, Johnny Marr and the Healers. With this in mind, it’s surprising that he hasn’t ventured into the solo album space before 2013, although those were adequate but inconsistent albums. This, however, is a significant step up and is his best work by far.
The album starts with Rise, a stomping progression with a cool repetitive guitar riff linking verses together, and a fists in the air type chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on a Kasabian album. We then go into the single The Tracers which ups the pace and is the song which supplies the album’s title within its lyrics. Marr has never been the strongest vocalist but the production on this album ensures that the listener isn’t distracted by that fact, and The Tracers is certainly testament to this as even his high register notes sit comfortable in the mix. The third song, Hey Angel, tops off a fantastic opening trio of songs and is possibly the strongest song on the album. At this point, anyone returning to Marr for the first time since he left the Smiths may be surprised at his style. No jangly guitar, the use of power chords, and anthemic choruses. But then, from nowhere, Hi Hello, the second single, sees the return to what we think of when we think of Johnny Marr the guitarist. This seems an odd single to be released given the strength of other songs but maybe it’s the link to the past that the record company felt would capture old Smiths fans’ imagination.
The one thing that is clear is Marr’s improvement in his lyrics from previous albums. You certainly get a sense that the current world state is seeping into his thoughts, either consciously or not, and that he’s planning for a better future. The album does have a dark thread throughout but thankfully lacks a single point of reference. It isn’t samey. Whilst genre hopping is a little strong (I mean he isn’t Beck or anything), the album doesn’t get stuck in one groove but instead extends to those influences gained in his pre-solo career, to keep the listener interested. The openers provide stomp, New Dominions sees Marr take on a new direction with an electro feel, Walk Into The Sea provides atmosphere and depth, while Bug provides a surprise (in the context of this album) with it’s poppy-style chorus that again shows an improvement and confidence in his vocal capabilities. Although constantly having his work assessed in the light of his old buddy is paying Marr a huge disservice, anyone hoping for a Smiths-type song really doesn’t need to look past Day In Day Out. The aforementioned guitar style is there, and I can actually imagine Morrissey singing this. Or maybe that this is just wishful thinking on my part!
The album is full of great tracks and will hopefully place Marr into a spotlight worthy of his talents. Only the album’s weakest track, Spiral Cities (straight from mid-80’s Simple Minds) distracts the listener slightly, and creates a worry that the album would peter out, but then The Eternal returns us to the heights as A Different Gun rounds out a fine album. Marr has obviously thought about how he wants to present this collection and as a result has produced an album that has contrasts from song to song but flows nicely as a package. An excellent album for those new to Marr, old Smiths fans, and everything in between.
Album Review by Justin Evans