Album review | Rock

Johnny Marr, ‘The Messenger’

In the 25 years since the Smiths’ demise, guitarist Johnny Marr has largely opted for a seemingly baffling parade of one-off session work and sideman jobs in bands like the The and Modest Mouse. He’s spent so long subordinating himself to other people’s artistic visions that “The Messenger,” his second solo album, is a bracing reminder of his talents as a sonic architect. Despite the 10-year layoff since his last record, Marr’s got spirit and vigor, charging out of the gate with the layered guitars and Motown-ish beat surrender of “The Right Thing Right,” touching on post-punk gloom with the scraping, ominous “Say Demesne,” and capturing the sighing melancholy of his old band on “New Town Velocity.” But Marr’s ease betrays his weaknesses, as “Upstarts” is such a chest-burstingly great jangler that it’s a little disappointing that he doesn’t have anything more consequential to sing about. For that, he’d need the wit or personality of someone like Morrissey. Marr would rather just play. (Out Tuesday)


ESSENTIAL “Upstarts”

Johnny Marr performs at the Paradise May 4.

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