Do you love The Smiths? I sure do. But while I haven’t necessarily remained the hugest fan of Morrissey’s wildly uneven solo work, I have found much of guitarist Johnny Marr’s post-Smiths’ output to be nothing less than utterly mind blowing. This past fall, Marr released his second official solo album — unless you count Boomslang, his 2003 album with The Healers, which is a work of genius — which is called Playland. It is excellent, of course.
This weeks Video Clip is for the song “Dynamo,” a song from the Playland album. It’s a “live” performance which fills me with happiness and joy. You can purchase Playland on Amazon.com and iTunes. Enjoy!
Confession: To me, a band with the name Ski Lodge sounds more like it would be one of those shitty, incessantly whining emo-core bands than a legitimately interesting band whose music indicates a worshiping at the alter of revered ’80s Brit Pop groups like James and The Smiths. Just being serious. Even though the protagonist of this video clip for “Does It Bring You Down” seems to not necessarily be living the most fun life imaginable, watching the video makes me want to ride down PCH in a convertible and then eat a big sandwich. In fact, I am hungry right now.
Another observation: What a remarkably talented rhythm section this band has! Wowy McWow! Also, they are from New York – they are not even British! With Ski Lodge, the surprises just don’t stop coming!
“Does It Bring You Down” can be found on the band’s debut album, Big Heart, which is available now where all fine music is procured. Follow them on the FaceBook at This Link. Enjoy!
The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret, starring comedian David Cross, ran for two seasons on the IFC cable channel. An absurdist dark comedy centering on the cringe-inducing adventures of the hapless title character – a criminally clueless American “businessman” living in London – Todd Margaret was portrayed as a blundering child-man, the consequences of whose utterly havoc-wreaking decisions progress from comic inconveniences to bringing about full-on global annihilation. It was a great show. One of the best parts of tuning in each week was getting to hear the Todd Margaret theme song, “Life Is Sweet,” written and performed by former Smiths’ guitarist Johnny Marr. Featuring cascading waves of Marr’s signature, chiming guitars and an adhesive refrain whose Morrissey-esque, fatalist lyrics promised “Things are gonna get worse,” the song is two minutes of pure aural bliss. For ninety-nine cents, “Life Is Sweet” is the most-valued purchase I made from iTunes last year.
Other than “Life is Sweet” and his brief, cameo appearance on the most recent season of Portlandia, I haven’t been paying much attention to what Johnny Marr has been up to, because Modest Mouse is not my thing. So, I am currently all over Marr’s new album, The Messenger, which is just insanely great. For those seeking comfort in the familiar, The Messenger sounds infinitely more akin to Marr’s definitive work in The Smiths than his previous solo outing, 2003’s Boomslang (with his band The Healers, whose rhythm section was comprised of Zak Starkey and Alonza Bevan). A brilliant collection of diverse tunes that came off like a Mancunian version of Sly & The Family Stone, Boomslang, puzzlingly, found itself on the receiving end of almost universal critical backlash, and fans didn’t seem to know what to do with it either. That said, if Marr’s guitar playing in The Smiths is what drew you in and hooked you, you won’t be able to stop listening to The Messenger.
Showcasing as much as it does Marr’s “Class of One” resonant guitar tone, this is not to suggest that the guitarist doesn’t adequately stretch on The Messenger. More here than on any previous recording I’ve heard, Marr sneakily incorporates some of his widely varied influences. The intro to the album’s lead track, “The Right Thing” sounds like it could have been lifted off The Who’s Quadrophenia before it shifts into an exuberant, sixities-esque call-and-response anthem. People are always saying that such and such a song is “like a drug,” but in the case of “The Right Thing,” it’s like an aural shot of your favorite upper. If you can’t find your groove to this song, you’re probably dead from the neck up.
The super-adrenalized “I Want the Heart Beat” dabbles in a minor chord, almost industrial feel without ever loosening its roots in pure ‘80s dance pop. “Upstarts,” the album’s first single, reminds me of those classic, early singles by The Undertones, which is probably not an accident, because those guys were sort of the Kings of Post Punk/New Wave Protest Songs, and I’m sure Marr was /is a fan. “Lockdown” is a rich, sonic blast of classic British rock, with Marr experimenting with a bit of a Big Country meets Def Leppard-esque chord progression – very nice!
Both “European Me” and the somewhat mournful, Bryan Ferry-tinged title track harkens back to the best of The Smiths (“William It Was Really Nothing,” “Panic”) with Marr’s vocals, as drenched as they likely are in reverb, as appealing and charismatic as Bono’s most earnest, pre-Messiah complex work with U2. Later on, the way Marr builds a creeping mood of foreboding on “Say Demesne” makes me think he should be (his contribution to Inception notwithstanding) writing soundtracks for James Bond films. Geesuz god, what a versatile player!
What I really love about The Messenger, as a complete work, is that it takes no initial “breaking in” period before each song claims its own identity. There are twelve tracks on the CD and each one is amazing in its own way. Unless Tame Impala release an album this year, I am pretty sure The Messenger will top my list of favorites for 2013. Johnny Marr FTW!
On this date, September 28th in 1987, The Smiths released their 4th and final studio album, Strangeways, Here We Come. The record includes two of my favorite Smiths tracks, “Death of a Disco Dancer” — on which Morrissey plays the piano, making it the only Smiths album to feature Morrissey playing a musical instrument — and “Paint a Vulgar Picture,” both of which are just brilliance distilled.
On this Date in 1984: The Smiths released their self-titled debut album. The album – which features a cropped shot of actor Joe Dallesandro on its cover – reached as high as Number 2 on the UK album charts, where it stayed for 33 weeks. This record is amazing and it’s still one of my favorite albums of all time. The Smiths rule.
On This Date, February 23rd, in 1985: The Smiths’Meat Is Murder was the #1 album in the UK. Meat Is Murder is a fantastic album just crammed with amazing songs like “What She Said,” “That Joke Isn’t Funny Anymore,” “How Soon Is Now?” and “The Headmaster Ritual,” but my favorite is “Barbarism Begins at Home.” I’m going to celebrate the spirit of The Smiths by playing this album really loud as soon as I get home today! Smiths!
On This Date in 1984: The Smiths released their fourth single, “What Difference Does It Make?” with a B-side of “Back To The Old House.” This song was my first introduction to The Smiths, a band that immediately became my over-the-top favorite band at the time. I was lucky to see The Smiths in concert probably three times (memory a bit fuzzy) and I still try to see Morrissey perform whenever he passes through NYC with his band. The Smiths’ music will always be very heartfelt to me. A bit of trivia about the photo sleeve (above) for this single: the original featured a still of actor Terence Stamp from the film The Collector. Later, when The Smiths were forced to change the photo due to a permission issue, they recreated the shot with Morrissey standing in for Stamp. In the recreation, Morrissey is holding a glass of milk, as opposed to a chloroform pad that Stamp holds in the original. Eventually, Terence Stamp allowed the photo of him to be used. The covers featuring Morrissey are now a very rare collectors item!