Fever Dreams Pts. I-IV is the fourth solo release from acclaimed and influential English guitarist Johnny Marr. Written and recorded in the last year, this double-length album offers a wildly diverse mix of styles spanning Marr’s entire career from the Smiths to The The to Electronic to his solo albums of the 2010s, incorporating synths, electronica, and a touch of soul and gospel. Upon initial listen, it instantly sounds like a Johnny Marr album. Once you start peeling back the layers, you get a look into Marr’s love of soul and gospel and how he can blend that into his vision of rock & roll.
You can hear in the lyrics how our current trying times have influenced the album. This isn’t a dour album about how awful and depressing lockdown life has been. Instead, he has a much broader view of the world with an eye on life in the future and, dare we say, hope. Musically, he is in an adventurous mood, pulling in different styles and blending them into a harmonious and cohesive album. Nothing on this album feels out of place or a misstep. His guitar is as layered and as textured as ever, weaving in and around everything and never overpowering his vocals or anything else going on. His long-standing backing band are up to the task of what Marr is envisioning on every song and never play second to his guitar or vocals. Primal Scream’s current bassist Simone Marie even guests on several tracks.
Tracks like “Spirit Power and Soul,” “Tenement Time,” and “Hideaway Girl” show the more muscular, guitar-driven side of Marr’s work while songs like “Sensory Street” and “Lightning People” show a more electronic-driven side, with the latter providing gospel-tinged choruses. Then mixed in there you get lovely tracks like the Joy Division/early New Orderesque “Counter-Clock World” as well as the wonderfully lush synth and piano track “Rubicon.” The flow of the album feels like great thought was taken into the track order and this is meant to be listened as whole. Overall, this is an excellent album and fits nicely in with Marr’s string of excellent solo releases.
Songs from this album are going to translate incredibly well to a live setting. Touring starts in April through the UK and a few select European dates, and from August through October he will be opening for The Killers on a North American tour. That is a bit of a disappointment for those that would rather catch a full Johnny Marr set, which is an incredible experience. But if this helps him gain a broader audience one can’t begrudge him that. The Killers with Johnny Marr will be here in St. Louis on September 18 at Chaifetz Area. | Michael Koehler
Stand out Tracks: “Spirit Power & Soul,” “Hideaway Girl,” “Counter-Clock World,” “Rubicon,” “Human”