Johnny’s The Messenger LP in the spotlight.

It took a while for Johnny Marr to ‘go solo’ and I get a sense that it was something that finally happened rather than this being what the world was waiting for. As it happens, the world has had Johnny in all kinds of forms already even if we didn’t always know; he plays a rather classy bit of guitar on a Girls Aloud song or two, plays in this band and plays that riff on that song you like from that fella who did that album once upon a time. He also grabbed the blonde fella from the band Joy Division never were and we all got the message, he’s been everywhere man, and very nearly a Happy Monday too.

On The Messenger Johnny does have something to say but its not some mad lunge for the spotlight made because no other vehicle is good enough to carry the idea, Johnny Marr is always looking for things to get excited about and solo was what’s next.

The Right Thing Right leaves the intro long enough to let you get your seatbelt on and it drives along, punchy and fidgety but in the best possible way. Lyrically it seems to be about consumer society, maybe youth, “way too smart, short on innocence… I believe it all but I don’t feel it”. If it is about the way society is heading it’s not pessimistic or condescending in any way, the guitar break is glorious, it all comes together to create this defiant picture of someone who has had enough of listening and is not going to sit back anymore.

I Want The Heartbeat keeps up the same kind of pace and again seems to be a comment on technology ruling the world, when you read the words there seems to be some kind of Frankenstein’s monster idea where someone is literally trying to create something out of a machine instead of finding it in real life. In the time it takes you to figure all that out though, the blistering song is done.

European Me starts with a jolt, lyrically it’s about transplanting from one place to another in search of better life and the guitar work is beautiful. I feel like sometimes Johnny’s guitar work cradles what’s going on musically and at other points the music is an alternate conversation to the one his lyrics show us,  this happens here. Listen to the instrumentation when there’s no vocal and when there is, two different things happen, chemistry. The vocals are full of promise and the guitars are dreamy but then the lyrics are somewhat uncertain and the guitar and drums gets all menacy and shadowy. “I was outside and I’ve still got a place to go” becomes “…Have we still got a place to go?” at the end.

Upstarts is a stomp, another tune of rebellion against whatever the man has, probably. Who doesn’t love a bit of protest and it’s catchy but my heart well and truly belongs to the next track, Lockdown. I feel the same kind of protest and defiance as at other points of the album but on Lockdown it comes with guitar work I am unashamedly in love with. Like when you heard the Take me back to dear old Blighty and the drum loop at the start of The Queen is Dead and you thought (I assume), “oooh bloody hell this is going to be brilliant”, Lockdown has the same kind of quality to me – it’s a bit Weller but it makes you want to stand up and shout YES, YES, THIS IS WHAT MUSIC CAN DO! That’s powerful, let me tell you, because I can’t even stand up – Look out everyone, pushed hard for too long? Not happy with the way you or it is seen? Take it back! Look back but break out at the same time. I get all of this from just short of four minutes of musical perfection. Did I mention the guitar, the drums? No? Just, listen.

Lockdown is actually about walking about towns and being proud of where you are from even if outside people think it’s a shit hole. It’s an ‘up yours’ answer to a guy that wrote a book listing Britain’s crappest towns, seaside mostly, but, the rest is there too. In buckets (and spades).

The Messenger drifts in with the idea that everyone is one, even if they don’t know they are giving out messages or someone doesn’t want to hear what they have to say; communication, lack of it and knowing when to step in and help even if assistance isn’t welcomed. We’ve all been there. If that doesn’t grab you it will musically.

Generate Generate kicks down the door and it is seemingly a half apology from someone (maybe Johnny) for being impatient or hyper – I say half apology because it’s a bit of a this is me, take it or leave it – sorry not sorry. “I blaze by and I wonder why, calculate, calculate,  calculate…. I come by let the atoms fly, Generate! Generate! Generate!” In the best sense of the word this song is instant and punky and not over thought, there’s even a nod to the dangers of overthinking in the lyrics…

Cogito ergo dumb – I think therefore I’m dumb.

Say Demesne is very filmic, starts off all dark and sinister but it really soars, Sun and Moon is about media, television and culture, it’s also about a thundering drum track and more guitar.

Johnny Marr does manage to thread together an album that sounds instant and fresh but also has cleverness and a common message. He isn’t taking his god like status too seriously and he isn’t using that as a stage to go and preach from. When he’s talking about being bombarded by instant social media (on the final track, Word Starts Attack), or television guilty pleasures, he’s celebrating it at the same time as mocking it. I come in to the lounge when my flatmate’s watching Jeremy Kyle and I feel obliged to say “get this shit off the telly, not him again?” knowing full well that I’ll be offering social commentary on it an hour later in my house and then on twitter with everyone else.

I’ll save the final words for New Town Velocity the penultimate track, it’s one for your headphones, it’s one that sounds great while you are moving through your own world, your day, it sounds like open spaces and wandering.

“Left home a mystery”, sings Johnny; Jesus, doesn’t everyone?  This song is a testament to knowing you have to make something happen, not knowing if it will all work out but believing it will. Theres a bit of melancholy here but not enough to drag it down, “can I get the world right here?”, he did pretty well in that regard didn’t he? My advice is to just turn it on and go. If that sounds too wishy washy then you have my apologies, language is an annoying necessity and sometimes words do get in the way but they are all I have. Over a thousand words are used here to tell you to LISTEN to the Messenger.

Johnny Marr brings with him an avalanche of musical history, he has never hidden from it so much as run in the opposite direction, running to the next thing and never keeping still; there’s movement here and if it all goes too fast you can press play and hear it all over again.

© 2015 Simon A. Moult / Moultymedia Images © Twinkletoes / CJL

This week right here in Manchester I had a return date with five boys from Boston. Longer ago than I care to remember I was in Manchester with thousands upon thousands of screaming girls; New Kids were my first crush band although I didn’t know that at the time. I remember being confused that others were confused; I couldn’t like New Kids? It was a girl thing was it? Well I got all merch’d up and believe me, they deserved every single one of my screams and every single one of my (Dad’s) pounds on souvenirs.

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Elbow Tour 2014 – London Set List

Posted: April 21, 2014 in Elbow Music, Live

Wednesday 16th April 2014, The O2 Arena, London

This Blue World instrumental


The Bones of You

Fly Boy Blue / Lunette – trampoline. End of.

Real Life (Angel) When someone is hurting and you cannot do anything to help, all you can do is suggest they drink rather a lot.
The Night Will Always Win –  Same vibe as above, although I didn’t cry this time. Guy spoke of the how to cope when someone has died, the importance of missing them in a room with people who also miss them, often with a glass of the person’s favourite tipple. 
New York Morning
The Loneliness of a Tower Crane Driver
Great Expectations
The Blanket of Night – About how people fleeing their homelands and coming to this country are vilified as if they are pirates coming aboard your ship and stealing your gold.
The Birds
Grounds for Divorce – obviously this one gets everyone off their arses and dancing.
Elsewhere Guys usual invitations to clap and wave along don’t seem to be as instantly accepted as other venues. But we do get a brilliant moment where he asks everyone to sing out names of lizards, I’m doing it no justice but seriously when you hear thousands of people sing back the word “Chameleon”, you have heard it all. It actually sounded a lot like a collective  Brian Blessed (Gordon’s Aliiiiive) impression.***


My Sad Captains

Beautiful things happen when Guy thinks about friends and alcolhol. Wonderful songs about lost opportunities, missed trains and absent friends can result. Long may Guy Garvey continue to ponder and look and muse, and long may this band continue to give his words the music to float on.


Lippy Kids

One Day Like This

All these songs mean something different, I can tell you that exactly but I don’t think that is what it’s about, it’s about what they mean to everyone who hears them on a personal level. It doesn’t really matter what song was written about a girl on a bus who didn’t even realise, it resonates with people because we’ve all tried to act like we haven’t dreamed of what if. We’ve all  been suddenly hit with romance like the horn crashes in Starlings and we have all felt what happens when that love goes away.

As this is the last night of the tour this will probably be the last word I say on the album too. It got to number one you know. Isn’t that good? Tour wise, they went with the last three albums and not so much with the first three but the songs they chose fit the theme of the tour (and the Take Off and Landing… album as it happens; friendship, love, past, future, hope and loss and regret. Never too much of one, never too little of the other, balance;

The take off is just as important as the landing, after all.

There will be more from Eden in the summer but for now, I’m knackered. Hello Prestwich, hello bed.

*** If you know who that is, good. If you don’t, that’s fine but you should probably watch more telly.

Elbow Tour 2014 – London Part 2

Posted: April 21, 2014 in Elbow Music, Live

The O2: Wednesday 16th April 2014

Hard as it may be to admit this, the O2 is better than the Nynex, the MEN, the whatever the Manchester Arena is called now. It just is, the view is better even though you are further back, apparently the seats are nicer too but I brought my own so I can’t really say. Set list wise there it was much the same though with this being the last night everyone was determined to go out with a bang (and balloons again, obviously).

Guy got the crowd to do the Mexican and reverse Mexican wave again, it looked amazing as it did in Manchester. It seemed a little bit harder to get interaction from the crowd here though, in terms of clapping or singing back to Guy it’s possible they weren’t as forthcoming as elsewhere in the tour. Grounds for Divorce still got them dancing though, One Day Like This brought the curtain down and the aforementioned balloons,

Musically the boys are as tight on stage as they are on record, and the vocals are perfect. Live too, vocals that were probably layered by just Guy in the studio, are sung by a combination of Mark, Craig, Richard and Pete on stage so you get a real sense of performance.

Rather than give me a sense of repetition, this tour has given me more appetite to see them live at the festivals this summer.

That’s the landing sorted. See you in a few months. Now, how do we cross that bridge? Taxi?

Elbow Tour 2014 – London Part 1

Posted: April 21, 2014 in Elbow Music, Live

This Blue World: Wednesday 16th April

Whoever decided to try and get me somewhere to travel before noon, is either brave or stupid. The person in question is very important to me and has been responsible for quite a huge amount of the happiness my life has seen, so it’s not stupid…. must be brave. And we are going to that London, where folk stare at me more than usual and not for the same reasons as at home either, in London I found that folk’ll stare at you for saying hello and appearing happy.

A few hours into London and the happy bouncyness drains from me. It’s warmer down south, so I’m going around in my Elbow t-shirt (free advertising, as I was later told by Jupp). No wonder everyone looks miserable here though, everyone’s in a rush to get somewhere and no one has a clue how to get their. Also, I’ve never seen so many people on one side of the road waiting to cross, it’s like some epic Abbey Road remake where the four Beatles have been replaced by thirty tourists with cameras, add a few proffesional types with phones stuck to their ear.

Wonder if the Queen is in. Bet she knows the way to the Ibis. For the record their are loads of Ibis hotels here and we must have found all of them before finding the one we needed.

Apologies if you were on the overground, or the underground (I cant remember which) and you saw a crabby bitch of a Bury lad and a blonde with a map. We had our own conversation and I stopped at one point to find a bemused German couple staring at me with a half smile. Of all the people we met today, those two probably had the clearest perception of what was going on.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to shift around London? It’s pretty simple as it goes, until you ask people, then it gets harder. It turns out that being ‘from there’ gives you no geographical advantage whatsoever. We did well, we only got lost twice, but we asked the transport people who are supposed to know these things and one fella was more interested in my map than he was in telling us how to get places. My map was apparently better than the ones he gives out because it was a wheelchair access of the tube. Dude, love that you haven’t seen the map before, I mean, you work for the company so what’s that about but… I’m very tired I’ve been wheeling around this place for hours and if we don’t get to the hotel soon I’m going to miss Jimi.

The boys got down here earlier in the week so they could do Jools Holland. Jools had some weird pronunciation of the bands name though, he kind of stressed the second part and it sounded like some new wave weird Spanish one man band; el bow.

They performed My Sad Captains and New York Morning and Guy wore his glasses. They recorded Real Life (Angel) and Charge and I think they are going to be on later in the week or month. At this point I have no idea, I’ve gone over too many cobbles and my mind is mushed.