Does Johnny Marr deliver for Smiths fans?
As someone who grew up in the Manchester area in the 1980s, it would be difficult for me to overstate the cultural significance of the Smiths.
Although they were only together for five years, to northern children like me they not only seemed ubiquitous but all-important – and were revered like no other band. And this reverence only seemed to grow after they’d split, when bands such as the Stone Roses, Blur, Radiohead and Oasis all cited them as a key influence.
The Smiths were arguably the first modern “indie” band – and there’s no question that they changed the course of modern British music.
So I, like millions of others, was excited to hear that the Smiths guitarist and co-songwriter Johnny Marr, after years of playing with bands such as the Pretenders, The The, Modest Mouse, the Cribs and the Pet Shops Boys, was finally set to release his debut album as a solo artist.
And I was relieved to discover that The Messenger, due out on 25 February, is well worth the wait. A masterpiece of angular art rock, it manages to sound close enough to the Smiths to please the band’s many fans whilst also harking back to the sound of a post-punk, pre-Smiths era and, in a particularly clever twist, referencing the many post-Smiths acts who perhaps wouldn’t have found the inspiration to come together if it weren’t for Morrissey, Marr, Joyce and Rourke.
Yesterday I travelled to Manchester to meet Johnny Marr in a break from rehearsals for his upcoming tour – and took him back to the Ritz nightclub, where the Smiths played their first ever gig in 1982.
Here’s what he had to say…