The long wait is over for Johnny Marr fans as the legendary musician releases the final segment of his much-anticipated double album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4. This ambitious project was rolled out with three prerelease EPs, and the entire album has hit musical outlets.
Marr provides his signature guitar work throughout as he picks and chooses sonics from his varied career. A career that spans his time spent working with numerous bands, including Electronic, Crowded House, Modest Mouse and his original band The Smiths. Marr bobs and weaves from ballads to rockers effortlessly as the double album format allows him to follow his muse fully.
Fever Dreams frequently displays Marr reaching back to classic sonics and themes but always fresh. Throughout, Marr balances an outward perspective with introspection but never forgets the universality of the individual’s struggle with their lot. The record is a mosaic of styles, approaches and ideas. The Covid lockdown heavily influenced the musical journey he embarks upon, but instead of being a dour outing, the feeling is positive. Even in moments like “Rubicon”, when solemn synths call for seriousness, Marr instructs us not to let the good slip away and enjoy life. The takeaways from the album are optimism in the face of long odds and love conquering adversity.
The songs are varied but always display an artist who has never forgotten how to write a great hook. Songs like “All These Days, Tenement Time, and Counterclockwise World” support this fact. Other songs like “Lightning People, The Speed of Love, and Ariel” show Johnny Marr as effortlessly capable of getting his point across in a ballad format. A bonus feature for fans is attempting to guess which of Marr’s prior incarnations inspired the tracks.
There are “Stand Out” tracks aplenty on this 16-song offering. One example is “Hideaway Girl”, which has this attack opening that draws the listener in as Marr discusses Covid isolation and the dangers of desensitization. Fantastic drums and the classic quiet/loud technique make for a winning selection. Another track, “Night and Day”, is loaded with chiming guitars echoing Marr’s time in Electronic. The selection is bright and filled with optimism for the days ahead.
Marr saves the best for last as the final tracks of the release are some of the strongest on the album. “God’s Gift” opens the prior unreleased section of the album. This track is filled with Marr’s own proprietary guitar goodness. The lyrics examine the widespread narcissism, shamelessness and self-involvement of our time.
“Ghoster” is by far the “Do Not Miss” track on the release. Marr creates alchemy as he blends his guitar sensibilities with a Radioheadesque sonic sensibility ala “The King of Limbs” and “Kid A”. Found are tweaks, twitches, blending loops and computer goodness woven with Marr guitars and percussion accents, making for a magnificent track. “The Whirl” has a wonderful B-52’s bass line as this Punk selection wows. Marr identifies the world is always a twirl, and staying centred is a challenge. The glorious “Human” finishes off an ambitious outing. The initially acoustic track discusses the ups and downs of life and need to try our best to have our time on Earth help make a better planet, “The bad is going to come, but you have to overcome.” The track and album end with a gorgeous guitar solo.
Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 displays a performer who long ago shook off the dust of his first legendary band, turning away from promises of lucrative reunion tours to follow his muse. The double album format of Fever Dreams allows Marr a lot of canvas to display his art and feelings. A younger, less legendary artist might not be given that much latitude to create his vision. However, Marr’s magnificent longevity and incredible career now allow him to do anything he damn well pleases. His musings have once again produced an impressive result showing a master musician who shares deep insights into our human nature and its challenges. Fans and listeners can thrill at another stellar addition to Johnny Marr’s growing discography.
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