Johnny Marr's new CD is all his own.

Johnny Marr plays from "The Messenger" at the Trocadero on Tuesday night.
Johnny Marr plays from "The Messenger" at the Trocadero on Tuesday night.

Harkening back to his formative years

Posted: April 26, 2013

Johnny Marr has hardly kept idle in the quarter-century since the Smiths disbanded. The journeyman guitarist has added his distinctive blend of folk-rock jangle and punk fuzz to a nigh-endless list of recordings, from Talking Heads to Tom Jones.

In recent years, he signed on as a full-fledged member of Modest Mouse and the Cribs. But he'd never released an album under his own name until The Messenger this year (although 2003's Boomslang, credited to Johnny Marr & the Healers, might squeak past the lenient), prompting a tour that brings him to the Trocadero on Tuesday night.

"There was a certain kind of music I wanted to hear, so I decided that I should just do it myself," Marr, 49, said last week from a tour stop in Omaha. "I wanted it to be fairly catchy, to sound good in the daytime, and although I never expect to be on the radio, I think I wanted each song to be like something I heard on the radio when I was younger."

So it's fitting that listening to The Messenger is like flipping among stations, listening to the Jam one minute, Buzzcocks the next. Although he shudders at the suggestion that remastering the Smiths' catalog last year might have influenced The Messenger's songs, Marr says they do harken back to his formative years.

That's not to say The Messenger is purely backward-looking: The loping disco beat of "Word Starts Attack" will throw even Marr completists for a loop. But he wanted to recapture the feeling of making music for its own sake, with friends who live just down the street.

"When I was starting out, the older rock stars who I respected all seemed to get to a place where they decided their core influences were their most cherished influences," Marr said. "The Stones reverted to 'everything beyond Chuck Berry is [irrelevant]'. You get to a place where you think that to be able to do great - watch out, I'm going to use the word - art without any illusion, just three other guys on a stage, that's kind of the best of all."


Johnny Marr plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday with Alamar at the Trocadero, 1003 Arch St. Tickets: $25. Information: 215-922-6888 or thetroc.com.

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