It seems at best predictable, at worst churlish, to criticise a Johnny Marr solo album for weaknesses in the vocal department.
Surely no-one is buying this for anything other than the Mancunian's genre-defining guitar work? But his name is on the tin and he must suffer the consequences.
Marr's post-indie position on the pedestal – The Smiths, Electronic, Modest Mouse, The Cribs – is assured. But there were already question marks on his CV alongside the entry for The Healers album Boomslang, a solo-ish disc that furthered the cause of British rock music about as much as Do It Yourself by The Seahorses. The problem is that when Marr puts some effort into singing, the equivalent energy is sucked out of what he does with his guitar: he can't be a double act with himself.
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The Messenger is infinitely better than Boomslang, however: it's got more drive, better trademark riffs, a stronger sense of purpose. But even as it picks and chooses between the best bits of Marr's past styles, it falls short of any of those individual projects. And that's down to the inadequate vocalist at the forefront of every song.