Being in The Smiths is a pretty hard act to follow; most people would have been happy to throw in the towel after their infamous break up in ‘87 and call it a career. Johnny Marr, on the other hand, has made his post-Smiths work as diverse and impressive as that one time he was in the most influential British band since The Beatles.
Working near-constantly since then, Marr has made a name for himself as not only a star collaborator, but as a solo musician and producer. Creating music alongside names such as The Pet Shop Boys, Crowded House, Beck, New Order, and Paul McCartney, we’ve decided to list Johnny Marr‘s best works since The Smiths.
Shortly after the disbandment of The Smiths, Marr teamed up with New Order singer and guitarist, Bernard Sumner, to create the alternative electro dance group, Electronic. Determined to make music with synth programming, Sumner approached Marr after the remaining members of New Order decided against the idea of changing their sound.
Electronic was a complete 180 from what Marr (and to a lesser extent, Sumner) had previously worked on—the pop-heavy house sound was inspired by Italo House and Technotronic, two of the largest European electronic bands at the time. The duo worked closely with Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe of the Pet Shop Boys to produce their first single, ‘Getting Away With It’, in 1989.
The single (and the band itself) were considered by many to be a parody of Morrissey and The Smiths’ bleak demeanor. ‘Getting Away With It’ soon became Electronic’s most popular track.
In a project commissioned by Ray-Ban, Marr was asked to distribute various sources of inspiration (poems, photographs, quotes, etc.) to a few up-and-comers in order to kickstart potential collaborations. The project is what brought together LA natives Best Coast with Manchester’s finest in 2011, in a track titled ‘In Your Sleep’. Though Marr does not feature on the track, he only provided the inspiration, ‘In Your Sleep’ fittingly pays tribute to the legend.
Out of all Marr’s projects, this track is (somewhat ironically) the most reminiscent of The Smiths. Somber vocals and slide guitar riffs create a dreamy yet melancholic lovelorn song not too unlike a surf-y SoCal version of what Marr had once created with Morrissey.
7 Worlds Collide
7 Worlds Collide, a collaborative effort headed by Crowded House’s Neil Finn, was a charity based project that released two albums in 2001 and 2009 and aimed to raise money for Oxfam.
The original line up consisted of Johnny Marr, Ed O’Brien, Sebastian Steinberg, Phil Selway, Lisa Germano, Tim Finn and Liam Finn, who worked together to create their first self-titled record. The second album, The Sun Came Out, featured Don McGlashan, Bic Runga, Glenn Richards, KT Tunstall, Jeff Tweedy, John Stirratt, Glenn Kotche and Pat Sansone as well as the existing artists.
Marr wrote and performed tracks ‘Too Blue’, ‘Down on the Corner’, and ‘Run in the Dust’.
In 2010, Marr worked alongside Hans Zimmer in creating the soundtrack to Christopher Nolan’s sci-fi epic Inception. Specifically requested by Zimmer to play in the score, Marr used a 12-string guitar to create melancholic tones that amplified lead Leonardo DiCaprio’s inner turmoil throughout the film.
The soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, a Grammy and a BAFTA, and includes Zimmer’s most famous piece, ‘Time’, which features Marr on guitar.
Marr would later work with Zimmer on composing the soundtrack for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 alongside Pharrell Williams in 2014.
Between 2006 and 2008, Marr joined forces with Modest Mouse after their lead guitarist Dann Gallucci left the band. Working initially as a producer and co-writer of their fifth studio album, We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, circumstance saw Marr naturally transition into the role of guitarist, which features throughout the album.
The record is a fine balance between Marr and lead Isaac Brock, but Marr manages play the signature, jangly riffs almost perfectly. The album was the first of all their records to reach number 1 on the US Billboard charts.
After the release of We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank, Modest Mouse toured with Marr to promote the album. In 2008 the band supported R.E.M and The National through North America before Marr left to focus on his next project, The Cribs.
In 2008, while still a member of Modest Mouse, a chance meeting between Marr and British three-piece The Cribs sparked a relationship that would soon see the ex-Smith working with the band on their 2009 record, Ignore the Ignorant.
The new direction proved that Marr was, at this point, capable of almost anything. Transitioning from one spectrum of alternative to the other, Ignore the Ignorant became another shining example of how [Any Band] + [Johnny Marr] = Good Things.
In 2011, Marr parted ways with The Cribs, despite the fact that there had been promises of a follow up record. Marr chose to instead work on his solo projects.
In 2013, at 49, Marr released his first solo album, The Messenger. The record appealed to Marr’s older fans, housing 12 tracks worth of guitar dense anthems that any Smiths fan would have been chuffed with in 1988.
Comparisons to Oasis’ Definitely Maybe and the Verve’s A Storm in Heaven can, and have, been made. Marr is, after all, one of the greats, and he will always be pitched against them. Admittedly, it’s no The Queen is Dead, but The Messenger (and 2014 follow up album, Playland) attest to the fact that Marr has no intentions of slowing down.