Much more than an ex-Smith
Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4, Johnny Marr's fourth solo album, proves that he is much more than just the guitarist and main songwriter of the Smiths, and that he has carved out a much more varied career and sound since leaving the legendary band 35 years ago. And this album sounds like Marr all over, not just only the genius who gave us the riff of This Charming Man, but the guy who mixed indie music with electronica in Electronic or the guy who went on to become a full-time member of Modest Mouse.
Marr wrote this expansive double album during the time of the pandemic and he did so with a clear goal in mind: "I wanted this record to sound classic and universal. That's what I felt. I wanted to look inward, but make music that was really outward looking.” Mission fully accomplished with an album in which he shines in the two things he has always shone in, as a guitarist and as a songwriter, but in which it is also clear that he is becoming a more and more interesting singer.
The album begins with Spirit Power and Soul, a great electro soul track in which we can feel a connection to his days with Electronic, the project he shared with Bernard Sumner of New Order, in which he mixed guitars and electronics, in this case with strong gospel roots. Although in the video for the song he appears with a custom-made Strat with nine pickups, the main guitar he has used on the album is his Signature Johnny Marr Jaguar, which he puts to great use on Counter Clock World, one of the best on the album, in which Marr colours the song perfectly with the six-string.
Another great song is the powerful Hideaway Girl, which features his son Nile on backing vocals, a track that shows that Marr is still a master when it comes to building rich, cinematic soundscapes with his guitar, although on this album the keyboards are also part of that sonic tapestry, as can be appreciated on the Depeche Mode-like track Sensory Street. Another example is Night And Day, which, despite beginning with one of those characteristic guitar licks, then takes a path closer to the dancefloor (it seems clear that Marr never had the intention of "burn down the disco and hang the DJ").
Of course, there are also songs close to the spirit of the Smiths, like the closing track Human, and not just because of the acoustic beginning that links it to Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want, but because of the whole song itself, with its message of hope and humanity. It's a great end to an album that shows that Marr, as well as continuing to be an impeccable guitarist, and with one of the most personal styles, is also capable of creating a cohesive album in which influences of Depeche Mode, T. Rex and touches of soul are unabashedly mixed; sounding at the end of the day like his own man, someone with a total mastery of his craft and without symptoms of artistic stultification.