by Jack Ognibene
Johnny Marr, legendary guitarist of The Smiths, fails to play to his strengths on his newest EP. Fever Dreams Pt. 1, which comprises the first four tracks of Marr’s forthcoming album, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4, certainly doesn’t build any excitement for the project. Instead, it showcases a rather bland, generic alternative with surprisingly simplistic and basic instrumentation for someone who at one point made incredibly complex and musically engaging songs like “This Charming Man” and “Nowhere Fast.” It isn’t necessarily unpleasant to listen to, and there are even a few moments on the EP that stand out as moderately interesting or catchy, but by and large it’s boring and uninspired.
The first song on the EP, “Spirit Power and Soul,” features an enjoyable synth line that runs throughout the track with a rather rudimentary guitar riff that doesn’t compliment it very well. Marr’s voice is also rather dull, and while it isn’t necessarily unpleasant to listen to, the vocal performance on this track isn’t exactly stellar either. The chorus produces some ear-catching moments here and there, but the song is mostly forgettable. The next song, “Receiver,” is similarly bland, perhaps even more so than “Spirit Power and Soul.” The bass line is pretty decent, and for the most part very present within the mix, as is the guitar riff, which is much more interesting than the one on the previous song. That being said, Marr gives his most unflattering vocal performance on this track, sounding monotone and rigid during the verse and engaging in a rather strange vocal intonation during the chorus. In general, though, this song just sounds derivative of other, better alternative acts.
The latter two songs on the EP are slightly better and have substantially more standout moments on them than the former two. “All These Days” has what’s probably the best hook on the EP, as Marr gently and quietly sings the title of the track to a genuinely catchy chord progression. The synthesizers are also a nice touch in general on this track, albeit they’re buried into the mix by other instruments and at points are hard to hear. The final track, “Ariel,” is probably the best song on the record, opening strongly with an impactful, reverb-heavy guitar line that is almost reminiscent of some of Marr’s earlier work. This guitar line returns on the chorus, along with an emotionally-driven vocal melody. The lyrics also seem the most well thought-out of what’s been presented on the record. While the synths are somewhat unnecessary during the verse and the song would probably be better without them, they don’t detract all that much, and can largely be overlooked in this otherwise great track.
Overall, while there isn’t anything outwardly repulsive or cringeworthy on Fever Dreams Pt. 1, it surely doesn’t show Johnny Marr’s musical prowess as much as other works of his do, and it certainly isn’t as engaging as those works are. None of the tracks are outwardly bad, but none of them are groundbreaking, and none of them feature any intriguing musical complexities. Above everything else, though, it’s simply uninteresting.