Johnny Marr with guitar!
Johnny Marr with guitar!
Johnny Marr with guitar!
Johnny Marr with guitar!

Louder Than War reviews Johnny Marr’s new single, Upstarts.

For many, nostalgia is a feeling more often translated into hard cash and wobbly reunion dates than artfulness and progression, and quite understandably too. Artists with sturdier back catalogues than Johnny Marr (honest, they do exist) can find the past both a shackle and a reluctant inevitability. In the case of Mr Marr, nothing could be further from the truth. Upstarts, the second public offering from the eagerly awaited The Messenger album, mines the rich well of nostalgic feelings towards ones youth, with all its optimism, vivaciousness and uncertainty, and spawns a fantastic guitar single that delights with its wealth of energy and pure hookiness.

The reference points of Upstarts are steeped deeply in the post-punk music of Marr’s youth and every oh, oh, oh and shout of defiance is propelled by a vitality completely at odds with the oft-peddled stereotype of guitar-for-hire ‘ex-Smith’ doing the rounds. When Johnny Marr took to the stage in Manchester the year before last to debut new material, it was clear that this was an important point in his progression – no doubt spurned by resurgence in appreciation following expert turns in Modest Mouse and the eternally underrated Cribs. Upstarts is part-celebration and part-rallying cry, and achieves both in a single with all the joy and compulsivity of his best work.

Like the best of Marr’s music, the guitar becomes a pop song factory in itself and the subtleties become as striking as the overt enthusiasm pulsating through the track. Vocally, Marr has a confidence that was notably absent from his previous vocal duties on 2003’s Healers album Boomslang, and the delivery as well as the richness of tone is a clear step up. Oh yeah, and them guitars are pretty good too.


Album ‘The Messenger’ is due Feb 25th 2013. Pre-Order here.

All words by Fergal Kinney. You can read more from Fergal on LTW here.

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