They don’t really miss each other any more do they? Morrissey has finally assembled a band whose grandiose arrangements perfectly complement his increasingly monstrous paranoia and narcissism (not that I’ll be listening again); whilst Marr has finally found his voice as a solo artist, creating music that doesn’t leave you craving a big dollop of Moz drama on top of it. Because even if the wonderful The Messenger didn’t convince you, Call the Comet certainly will – it’s a big, bold, hook-laden collection that sees Marr celebrating his – and his city’s – past whilst gazing into the future.
After living in the US for several years, Marr is now settled back in his native Manchester and the sound of the city’s stellar music heritage is all over Call the Comet. If song titles such as ‘Day In Day Out’ and ‘My Eternal’ don’t give it away, the sound of the record certainly does. The beautiful ‘Hi Hello’ is almost a rewrite of ‘There is a Light’; ‘The Tracers’ has the ominous bass rumble of Joy Division; ‘Bug’ is mined from the same Manc-funk seam as ‘Barbarism Begins at Home’; and the wonderful ‘Spiral Cities’ would sit perfectly on Electronic’s underrated Raise the Pressure album. By the time ‘My Eternal’ updates JD’s ‘Transmission’ for the 21st century, there’s no doubt Call the Comet is a love letter to a rediscovered home town.
If this suggests Marr is resting on his laurels, fear not, because the album features some of the most ambitious music he’s ever recorded. ‘New Dominions’ combines a Silver Apples pulse with stabs of post-punk guitar and is the most exciting four minutes here. On the epic album highlight ‘Walk Into the Sea’, Marr addresses his peripatetic career (“I don’t look down in fate or fame…I let the slamming waves decide my fate”), and concludes he’s in a pretty good place right now. ‘Actor Attractor’ is slinky, crepuscular krautrock, New Order-y synths underpinned by a relentless motorik pulse.
It’s not a faultless record by any means: Marr’s vocals can be a little ineffectual meaning the political thrust of many of his songs is lost, and the album would be much sharper with a bit of pruning – neither opener ‘Rise’ nor the plodding ‘Hey Angel’ justify their 5-minute plus running time – but on the whole it’s a huge leap forward from 2014’s workmanlike Playland, and has a warmth, a generosity of spirit and a genuine concern for humanity that show exactly where the true spirit of The Smiths now dwells.
Call The Comet is out now on New Voodoo Records.