Are there any Smiths fans among us? If you lived through the 80's and didn't get even a little excited over a Smiths/Morrissey air play, you're just not human. If your knowledge of The Smiths is limited to "The Charmed Song" I feel sorry for you. I will however forgive you if at the very least you appreciate the individual achievements of the individuals behind The Smiths. I'll do a Morrissey pick sometime much later this year, but with a great single released this past Record Store Day, and having lucked into his first solo release I have to pick Johnny Marr's 2013 The Messenger.
Johnny Marr, in my opinion anyway, is among the greatest living alternative guitarists right now. He was the other half of the lyrical genius that was The Smiths, and was responsible for the soaring technical riffs as the groups lead guitarist. Check out The Smiths Girl Afraid.
It also wouldn't be a career unless Johnny was part of a super group. Soon after The Smiths imploded sometime around 1987, Johnny Mar got together with what is essentially The Pet Shop Boys, New Order and Kraftwerk to form the group Electronic. That collective hotness gave us 4 albums and a ton of singles both recorded and bootleg between 1988 and 1999. You'll want to listen to Get The Message from their first album, and you'll have to listen to Tighten Up as well.
Ahead of his solo release in 2013, he dropped the single Upstarts which teased what he was capable of on his own, and it was nothing short of incredible.
Upstarts - The Messenger
The Messenger is probably best classified as Indie Rock, somewhere out there with Echo and The Bunnymen, The Smiths obviously, and to a degree shades of late in life New Order. While nowhere near as dark, it's still just as deep. With Johnny destroying tracks on this album it also kinda makes you wonder if this dude ever even ages.
We're not stopping here though. This past Record Store Day a few weeks ago, he released a 7" vinyl, I Feel You which is his cover of Depeche Mode's epic 1993 album Songs of Faith and Devotion. Frankly Marr's version is significantly grittier and his guitar work is just plain filthy. I mean, listen to both versions and you tell me. On the flipside of this single is Marr's take on a Smiths classic, Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want. Again, when left alone, without the group and Morrissey bring him down, Marr wreck this track something fierce.
I Feel You - I Feel You 7" Single
Please Please Please, Let Me Get What I Want - 7" Single Live
All things considered, if you never knew how good Johnny Marr was outside of The Smiths, you need to get to know it now. I'm not going to suggest you run out and grab The Messenger on Vinyl right now, though you can get it fairly cheap new, I would encourage you strongly to find copy of I feel you ASAFP! Trust me. You will, like me, wear this out. I really wish I had a 2nd copy. Damn. Next week, more RSD hotness hologram style.