On his third solo album, Call The Comet, The Smiths’ guitar alumnus Johnny Marr creates a futuristic narrative while giving fans the old-school post-punk sound that they have come to expect from the veteran. The 13-track album shows Marr’s instrumental and vocal range as the songs vary from airy rock ballads like “A Different Gun” to fast-paced, guitar-driven cuts like “Actor Attractor.” Marr elaborates on the inescapable idea of destiny that accompanies the future on Call The Comet, which is a further testament to his skill.
Call The Comet is structured as an exploration of the possibility of a future “alternative society” with lyrics that certainly create a sense of altered reality. Glamorous opener “Rise” and the harmonic flair of “Spiral Cities” both tell stories of an unrelenting, uniquely new future that will arrive, whether we’re is ready or not. “Rise” talks quite literally about destiny on the doorstep as a drum and electric guitar combo accompany a warning about the inevitability of time. In contrast, “Spiral Cities” features dominant guitars and paints pictures of vertical streets and a world that exists far above the heads of the people in cities that seem inaccessible.
While the album was designed to tackle the future, Johnny Marr’s sound on a number of tracks is reminiscent of heartland rockers like Tom Petty. “Hi Hello” and “Day In Day Out” both feature acoustic guitar sections that follow similar pacing and chord progression to that of ’90s Petty. The airy, deadpan quality of the vocals also exhibits the post-punk dreariness one should expect from this style.
Marr is no stranger to the synth, which is readily apparent with a multitude of songs from Call The Comet that emphasize keyboards to a tremendous effect. Whether on the up-tempo, drum-heavy “My Eternal” or the haunting “The Tracers,” electronic ambience takes the foreground to create a distinct post-punk feel with hints of old-world rock and roll. But Marr continues to use his guitar to interplay with the dominant synth.
Marr’s artistry excels on the instrumentally complex and vocally dynamic “Walk Into The Sea.” Simple piano chords slowly crescendo as a steady drumbeat, celestial synths and powerful guitar progressions combine to create an intricate Swans-meets-U2 aura. Marr’s vocals remain interesting throughout the track as he plays around with his range. At times he sings, at times he speaks like a slam poet—providing a great snapshot of the dynamism around which Marr has built his incredible reputation within the indie rock community.
Call The Comet showcases Johnny Marr’s ability to create a futuristic vibe while staying true to the roots that got him to where he is today. The album comes together as a hybrid treasury of heavy synth overtones and the occasional slow ballad, proving that Marr has no trouble combining his realities into a uniquely cohesive piece. As he tackles the idea of a not-too-distant future, Marr proves that he’s still that same musical brainiac following his destiny.
Follow writer Piper Westrom at Twitter.com/plwestrom.