The Joup Friday Album: Johnny Marr – Call the Comet


As someone who always wanted to be able to play guitar well but never had the self-discipline to learn more than a handful of chords, I have always been in awe of my chosen guitar gods. My big three are the Cult’s Billy Duffy, John Squire from the Stone Roses, and Johnny Marr. Marr has spent the last 30 years standing around waifishly with a “Will strum for food” sign. Dozens of artists took him up on it, from alternative icons like Bryan Ferry, the Talking Heads, and The The, to bands whose profile he raised by signing on (Modest Mouse, the Cribs). Over the last five years he finally embarked on a solo career, releasing three albums under his own name, including the recently released Call the Comet. Oh, and he was also in the Smiths.

Call the Comet is as good an album of British guitar rock as you’re going to be able to find in the 21st century, and that shouldn’t really come as a surprise – it’s jangly British guitar indie from the guy who invented the genre. This is what Oasis wish they sounded like. Though there’s no major vocal virtuosity, Johnny Marr has a perfectly serviceable indie rock singing voice. One can’t help but wonder why he waited so long to use it. There are also no significant lyrical achievements but that’s fine by me – they’re just the noises that the voice-instrument makes. It could be random Cocteau Twins gibberish and I’d still like it. Staggering works of lyrical genius aren’t what I came for.

Riffs. Riffs is what I came here for and Marr delivers. “Rise,” “Hey Angel,” “Bug,” are all driven by basic power chords with occasional flourishes that remind you you’re listening to arguably the greatest alternative rock guitarist of all time. Disagree? Fight me.

Call the Comet doesn’t rely heavily on that signature Smiths sound and I’m OK with that. Coasting on past glories is more of a Morrissey thing. The jangle is almost completely absent, but not absent entirely as demonstrated by “Hi Hello” – the Smithsiest sounding song on the album. Jangly guitars and that melancholy, mid-tempo, minor key sound are all you really need. “Day In Day Out” provides a bit of jangle as well, but a bright, upbeat chorus keeps the Smithsiness at bay.

From an album by a guitar god, there are more keyboard driven songs on Call the Comet than I would have expected. “New Dominions” opens with a sequencer-provided beat that makes me expect it to turn into a Kraftwerk song. The guitars arrive a bit later to provide some atmosphere. “My Eternal” combines keyboards and guitars in a way that would have been perfectly suited to the 80s, but more in line with the Cure than the Smiths.

The album’s closing number, “A Different Gun,” is probably my favorite song on the album. I usually go for songs that rock harder than this mid-tempo number, but the pieces all fit together perfectly on this one. The guitars swirl around pleasantly and Marr’s voice rises above just OK on this one, achieving “quite lovely” on the official Amy Vocal Rating Scale.

I admit, I was predisposed to love this album. I am not one to give my beloved artists a pass when they release a crap album, but Johnny Marr would have to really shit the bed for me to find fault. Fortunately the bed remains unshat, and Call the Comet provides just the kind of British guitar rock that I’ve been starving for.

Tagging Chester.

One Response to The Joup Friday Album: Johnny Marr – Call the Comet
  1. Shawn C. Baker Reply

    Listening now. Great pick and fantastic write-up, as always Amy! Thanks for making my Friday Marr-velous (sorry, couldn’t help that one). Fight me.

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