Criticising Call the Comet is upsetting because you don’t want to knock someone of such stature but Call the Comet is a firmly okay album. It stands in such firm middle ground with its sounds and songwriting that none of it really manages to rub off on you. Johnny Marr is known as an innovator of guitar music, he created a sound and changed how people thought about guitar playing. He was in one of the most influential indie bands of all time. Call the Comet is a baggy listen, a machine in need of a little oiling.
Call the Comet is Marr seemingly going down the arena rock route. It’s full of singalong choruses and looks like it wants to go down a similar path to that of Noel Gallagher. Sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. ‘Bug’ is a pretty forgettable example of this. ‘Day In Day Out’ is done quite enjoyably. The melody feels like it naturally progresses to the power chorus; it’s a modernised version of his signature sound. If this was the sound Marr was wanting for Call the Comet, after several misses, he hits it with this song.
It’s a shame the first three tracks from Call the Comet offer nothing more than run of the mill, old fashioned rock. It then does such a U-turn and feels, once again, like the guitar innovator we know and love, playing around with the ideas that made him famous. It isn’t nostalgic by any means, when it gets going it’s very much a modern world Johnny Marr, one that isn’t interested in a throwback.
When Marr lowers his pumping fist he does create some quite interesting sounds. ‘Actor Attractor’ sounds like the music Marr was around back in the heyday, now taken forward. There’s a cheeky ‘Blue Monday’ lift in there which is a nice nod to fellow musicians from back in the day.
‘Hi Hello’ is also a really nice reminder of how well Marr can create guitar parts. It’s a very Smiths-esque sound but this isn’t a bad thing, he did create that sound after all. When Marr is on form with his guitar writing, the vocal parts seem to come very naturally and his voice lends itself to the music naturally. It’s the kind of song you’d picture and really want to hear from Marr going solo.
Overall, Call the Comet is a very mixed album. It starts full arena and then moves on to a better place. It’s almost confusing putting it on again after the first listen; you forget this is the place it started in. Its saving graces and better moments are lost in the rest of the album. Call the Comet is in much need of a trim, cutting its hour length by ditching some of the needlessly empty songs would create a very nice album. For me at least, the arena is not where Marr’s talents are at their best.