Marr’s reputation as arguably the best British guitarist of the last 30 years is richly deserved, as time and again he’s brought personality and eloquence to a varied portfolio of music. On the evidence of his debut solo album, however, he has a long way to go before he earns any great plaudits as a singer-songwriter.
There are plenty of confident flourishes on The Messenger: the bold six-string motifs of The Right Thing Right and Upstarts full of surly aggressive riffs that recall the early 80s anthemics of Teardrop Explodes or Echo & The Bunnymen; the mellow strum of New Town Velocity peppered with an REM-like atmosphere. Trouble is, the songs themselves are instantly forgettable, devoid of alluring melody or interesting lyrical content, and sung by a limited vanilla voice lacking in character.
Ultimately, what The Messenger suggests is that Marr’s talents are best served in collaboration, his most accomplished and enduring post-Smiths work being with Bernard Sumner in Electronic and Matt Johnson in The The. Carrying the full weight of a project means he also has to carry the can for its shortcomings.