It’s been more than 30 years since The Smiths broke up and yet the band’s music remains hallowed ground despite their obstreperous mouthpiece continuing to dig deeper into a pit of right-wing idiocy over the past couple of decades. While Morrissey shows no signs of repentance and a Smiths reunion is probably as likely as the singer having a Big Mac, fans should take heart in the fact that guitarist Johnny Marr has been making some of the best records of his career. (And live he does The Smiths catalog proud with renditions much more in keeping with the band’s aesthetic than the schmaltzy versions Morrissey does onstage.)
Fever Dreams Pts. 1–4 (BMG), so named because Marr is also intermittently releasing the songs on four separate EPs in addition to the double-album, is the fourth record he’s released under his own name (or fifth if you count the one he made with The Healers in the early ‘00s). It essentially picks up where 2018’s Call the Comet left off, with a swirl of electronic atmospherics, cracking beats, and big guitar hooks on cuts like “Spirit Power and Soul” and “Receiver,” which lead off the album. But like past albums, it’s the moodier moments that really strike a chord. On “All These Days,” he delves into the lethargy of the past year, matching lines about “tomorrow endlessly,” with ringing minor chords. Time is a reoccurring theme on the album, and “Night and Day” is another standout, with Marr delivering fevered lyrics over a fetching riff. Of course, that’s fitting of the album’s title, and the record has a certain urgency to it, as if Marr needed these songs to shake him out of the stupor that we’ve all been experiencing. It’s all the better for it, as amongst its 16 tracks, there’s not a wasted moment.