Johnny Marr: Call the Comet review – the light that never went out

(New Voodoo)

There’s always an elephant in the room with Johnny Marr, a lumbering old elephant Marr last worked with 31 years ago. Ahead of the release of Marr’s third solo album, said elephant had been trumpeting on about Anne Marie Waters and Tommy Robinson, but this may, oddly, be to Marr’s benefit. The dismay Morrissey has caused appears to have led some people to take the view of Marr – whose every public utterance displays a man of empathy and grace – as “the good one” in the Smiths, and concentrated attention on his music in its own right, music that is now substantially more interesting than Morrissey’s. Call the Comet is an album to take advantage of that goodwill. It’s the best of Marr’s solo albums, and while he may not have the lyrical dexterity or vocal charisma of some of his former collaborators, age shows no sign of withering his facility with melody, or that gorgeous, liquid guitar playing. Call the Comet ends with a song that embodies both Marr’s humaneness and his musicality: A Different Gun was written about the Nice attack of 2016 and was being recorded the night of the Manchester Arena bombing last year. But it’s not angry; it does not seethe or condemn.

Instead, it demands empathy with the victims and a commitment that life be lived (the “stay and come out tonight” refrain comes from Broken Social Scene’s Kevin Drew persuading Marr to appear with the band in Manchester the night after the bombing). It’s set to a skyscraping, luscious melody, a kind of Marr redux, that yearns and soars like the emotions the lyric tries to evoke. Elsewhere, there music is less conciliatory: New Dominions, Actor Attractor and My Eternal have a chilly, mechanised post-punk feel; on Rise and Hey Angel, Marr’s guitar is purposely unbeautiful, seething and squalling. Those who want jangles and arpeggios need not fear: they’re present and correct on Day In Day Out and Hi Hello, songs that sound as though they have existed in Marr’s head since 1985. Call the Comet is a terrific album in its own right. In context, it’s a triumph.


Michael Hann

The GuardianTramp

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