Johnny Marr Reinforces his Signature as Songsmith on ‘Fever Dreams Pt. 1’

Johnny Marr Fever Dreams Pt. 1 review - Courtesy
Johnny Marr Fever Dreams Pt. 1 review - Courtesy

By AVA LIVERSIDGE

Johnny Marr’s latest solo project, a double LP entitled Fever Dreams, is to be released on New Voodoo Records early next year. Marr has taken a new approach to record releases as he dropped the EP, Fever Dreams Pt. 1, four of the upcoming album’s new tracks.

Fever Dreams is Marr’s first solo work since his focus shifted to penning the score of the latest Bond film, No Time to Die, with Hans Zimmer, one of his many high-profile collaborators.

On Fever Dreams Pt.1, Marr is waxing electronic with each of the pulsating, cyber-rock flourishes that permeate the EP’s four tracks.

The release’s lead single, “Spirit, Power & Soul,” is a far cry from the lament that has throbbed over much of this year’s new music. It launches into what is essentially a dance song imbued with the new wave, fuzz-laden sound that marked much of the 80’s alternative scene — in which Marr occasionally resided.

His earnestness in looking to introduce the EP with something to offset the time’s overarching morose previewed Fever Dreams with a synth-driven romp — a balance of space-age and sugary.

On track two, “Receiver,” something noticeably dark hangs over, despite its undeniably pop-y melody. Next, “All These Days” features a formidable vocal performance by Marr over an ever-stretching swath of his pulsating riff.

Marr lends himself to a digitized soundscape throughout, but as the EP closes, he offers the signature songsmith that has remained steadfast throughout the many guises of his musicianship. “Ariel” opens with a serial arrangement followed by synth runs; the track contracts and expands into a fully-realized pop cut.

But, “Ariel” derives its dulcet tone from Marr’s underlying ambition: To create something for someone he “wanted to make feel better.” His mind drifted to Sylvia Plath, the tragedy of the tormented genius, and, thus, the track was named “Ariel.” Marr’s ability to weave such intimate, visceral aspects of artisanship whilst dedicating himself to a modernized, uplifting record is Fever Dreams Pt. 1’s greatest success.

Johnny Marr is an artist with a rich history of collaboration. His music-making partners include those in the highest of alternative echelons– besides his time with Morrisey, conceiving one of England’s most celebrated feats of alternative music via the Smiths, Marr has lent a hand to the works of New Order, The The, Electronic, and, most famously, Modest Mouse, among others. His legacy is one of a master collaborator; a supplemental force. This foundation has always guided the indie statesmen towards sonorous solo projects.

Johnny Marr Fever Dreams – Courtesy

So, on Fever Dreams Pt. 1, we can pick up threads from past projects as compelling, sometimes disparate elements– New Order’s electro-pop beats, the Smiths’s undying sensitivity, Modest Mouse’s experimental acumen, and The The’s avant-garde. Marr embodies the artistic processes he has been privy to, something admirable for a musician of his stature. He’s still open to learning.

Part One was meant to lift us out of our dour milieu; we can only guess where parts two, three, and four of Fever Dreams will take us. One hopes that Marr continues to acquiesce to the whiff of cyber-esque experimentalism present in Part One; if so, Fever Dreams will mark the beginning of yet another age for Marr.

Marr is neither resistant to the time he occupies nor is stagnant in his musicianship — ever-growing, Fever Dreams is postured to unfold into anything.