It’s another relatively quiet week for new albums, but there’s still some noteworthy releases.
The big news of the week has to be The Messenger from former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr. Although billed as his first solo album, he did have a record in 2003 under the name Johnny Marr and the Healers. Semantics, I guess. Given that the Smiths released five albums in just over three years, the fact that he’s only had two discs in the 25 years since that band’s dissolution is head-scratching.
It’s not that Marr hasn’t been busy, as he became the THE British gun for hire. Even before the end of the Smiths, he appeared on records by Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Talking Heads, Bryan Ferry and many more. After the band broke up, he appeared on recordings by the Pretenders, The The, Electronic, and did tours as a member of Modest Mouse and the Cribs.
If you’re a fan of Marr’s inventive guitar work with the band he helped make famous you’ll love The Messenger. While the production at times borrows a bit too much from the 90’s Britpop bands he originally influenced, this album is probably the closest to a new Smiths album you’ll ever hear…and without the wacky whine of Morrissey. Unfortunately, though, Marr will never be remembered as a vocalist, so ultimately the album comes off as more of a guitarist’s side project than a fully formed new career.
Another side project of sorts that gathering attention this week is Radiohead vocalist Thom Yorke’s new band, Atoms for Peace. This collaboration with Red Hot Chili Peppers’ bassist Flea, producer Nigel Godrich, drummer Joey Waronker, and percussionist Mauro Refosco, came together way back in 2006 when Yorke did a few shows to support his first solo album, The Eraser. Most of this album was recorded around that time, and, like The Eraser, it’s the type of beats-oriented electronica that one would probably expect from Yorke. Like most latter-day Radiohead releases, though, you almost have to be a fan to get emotionally involved in these tracks. It’s an interesting project, to be sure, but the jury is still out as to whether it’s a successful one.
For those who enjoy tribute albums, one of the better albums of that sort was also released today. Tim Hardin may not be a household name, but he was an acclaimed songwriter of 60’s and 70’s whose tunes were covered by a wide variety of artists, including Bobby Darin, Joan Baez, Johnny Cash, The Four Tops, and Robert Plant. He also released a number of solo albums, although a serious addiction to heroin caused him to stop recording in 1973, a full seven years before his death.
Reason To Believe: Songs of Tim Hardin contains all new covers of most of his most famous tracks, including Smoke Fairies covering “If I Were a Carpenter”, former Screaming Trees leader Mark Lanegan’s smoky remake of “Red Balloon”, and Okkervil River bringing new life to “It’ll Never Happen Again”. While this is a pretty strong tribute album, after its completion I suggest you search out Rod Stewart’s 1971 cover of “Reason to Believe”. It’s easily his greatest moment as a performer.