Johnny Marr – Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4 Review

Controversial or even redundant it may be to follow the argument that Johnny Marr is a better singer than Morrissey, there is still a glimmer of interest in thinking that way. His live covers of songs from his tenure in The Smiths usually sound quite good, but that may be because of his guitar work. He is certainly the last great guitarist of his generation and that skill has not wavered. The guitar work, not the lyrics. Two very different ballparks for the one-time Talking Heads collaborator. His solo outings have been a mixed bag of indie rock and jangle pop, with a knack for both but a focus for neither plaguing his albums with the general ups and downs expected of someone finding their feet, not of someone who was the lead guitarist in The Smiths. Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4 at least allows for another album of Marr’s experimentation and instrumental talent.

But even with the strengths of Marr’s handiwork on guitar, nothing is stopping some of the tracks on Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4 from feeling like ready meal music. Instant gratification without the texture or taste of stronger tracks he made all those years ago. Receiver is the best example of that. Guitar work that sounds gratingly similar to the track that preceded it and those to follow, but the sound itself is good, despite the lyrics and their aversion to quality. All These Days has a good vocal to it but a lacking and unimaginative procurement while Ariel sounds very Smiths-influenced and not in a good way. Like a demo that never saw the light of day, repossessed in the band’s divorce.

Unsurprisingly doused in that spirit of The Smiths, Ariel is one of the better tracks on the album. It doesn’t feel personal or specific, but the broad scope of it and the warbling tones Marr can produce are enjoyable if a bit forgettable. That is the common theme for Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4, an album that can craft some solid guitar music but will struggle to be remembered outside of the very stringent album structure. These are tracks that will never breach the fold because they sound less than the equivalent or current musical partnerships. Marr is still a talent, but he is dabbling in shallower waters these days.

Despite the urgency of the music, the voice of the lead singer and the instrumentals behind it, Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4 never manages to break out of its background music style. To listen in deeply and intently to the lyrics is an act of courage very few will have because they’ll realise Marr is running somewhat on empty. Just take a listen to track opener Spirt Power and Soul and what you have is a representation of the whole album. The pretext of depth, the strength of a supremely talented guitarist, but nothing bubbling underneath the surface that, if breached, reveals nothing personal, interesting or even that great. But it is good in that lighter tone Fever Dreams Pts 1 – 4 is seemingly on the path of. Nothing to come back to, nothing to regret listening to.

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