Johnny Marr Continues Vital Creative Streak With Formidable ‘Fever Dreams Pts I-IV’ (ALBUM REVIEW)

The decades following the fiery dissolution of The Smiths have found Morrissey often in the limelight (not always for the grandest of reasons) while the rest of the band seemed to relegate themselves to the sidelines backing up other bands. Though guitarist Johnny Marr was the musical driving force in The Smiths, writing iconic riffs that are just as memorable as Morrissey’s lyrics, Marr spent years lending his talents to other songwriters. The past three decades have found Marr playing and recording with bands like Modest Mouse, Oasis, The Pretenders, and many others. It wasn’t until 2003 that Marr put himself out as a frontman for his project ‘Johnny Marr and The Healers’ which only saw one release, Boomslang.

Even though the album held its own, it would be another ten years before Marr would try his hand as a solo artist again with the release of his debut solo LP, The Messenger. Having been the co-writer of such an iconic musical force as The Smiths, Marr has understandably long-lived in the massive shadow cast by Morrissey. Nearly a decade on from releasing The Messenger, Marr is releasing his fourth solo album Fever Dream Pts I-IV.

For his fourth release, Marr decided on releasing a double album with sixteen tracks each with its own influence. From the frenetic, electronic drum beats in the opening track “Spirit Power & Soul” the listener knows that they are in for something both nostalgic sounding and new at the same time. The driving beat, synths and reverb-drenched vocals bring to mind bands like Echo & The Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, and Pet Shop Boys. “Hideaway Girl” begins with a distorted hard rock riff that carries throughout with the exception of an epic break where almost all instrumentation drops out besides Marr’s guitar and the drums.

Marr’s signature guitar work is at its best on the track “Ariel” where his iconic jangly, reverb-drenched riffs play over solid drumming by Jack Mitchell. “Counter-Clock World” is a straight-ahead rocker with fazed-out vocals that evoke a bit of a shoegaze element that brings to mind Ride and The Jesus and Mary Chain. This is immediately followed by the post-rock “Rubicon” where Marr is providing introspective lyrics over a droning synth for two minutes before and E-bow guitar note joins in with a crescendo beating drum and guitar.

Though Marr has always been more musically creative than his former, outspoken songwriting partner, Fever Dreams Pts I-IV proves it. With such a broad array of influences drawn from in the formation of this album, there is much to discover in each track and multiple listens are bound to reveal much more.

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