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Album reviews: Johnny Marr and Avril Lavigne


Johnny MarrFever Dreams Pts 1-4

★★★★☆

It’s regretful, and a touch ironic, that Johnny Marr’s fourth solo album should be overshadowed by his former Smiths bandmate Morrissey writing an open letter asking Marr to stop mentioning his name in interviews.

Over almost a decade of solo releases, Marr has built a fresh relevance – and chartability – on the back of music that is inevitably laced with the brisk wistfulness of his most famous old band, but that also puts him at a strikingly contemporary remove from it. Ambient atmospherics, dank funk, Eighties pop noir and the stickiest electroclash synths are all within his wheelhouse now and this double album, also being dripped out as four seemingly incompatible EPs, further explores sonic territories where the natives have barely even heard the dreaded M-word.

Marr writes of the modern day too, which, on 2018’s Call The Comet, meant songs of socio-political upheaval and sci-fi superintelligence, set in a world where alt-right opinions were the only virus of concern. Here, he applies his scattershot sonics to matters of the pandemic era: reflection, introspection, unity and endurance. “Hideaway Girl” renders the tale of the fearful shielder in psychedelic goth metal.

Psych pop cracker “Counter-Clock World” echoes the dizzying confusions of 2022 in the style of Ride tackling The Primitives’ “Crash”, while “Spirit Power & Soul” seems to celebrate two years of human hardiness by firing up the disco setting on his Nineties supergroup Electronic’s old drum machine. By the time you reach the angelic post-rock “Rubicon”, you’ve given up looking for any cohesive thread in Fever Dreams Pts 1-4 and given in to its hazy momentum. Like the post-pandemic age, you never know what’s coming next. MB

Avril LavigneLove Sux

Artwork for Avril Lavigne’s new album, ‘Love Sux’

(Elektra)

★★★☆☆

“Motherf***ers, let’s go!” No, it’s not 2002, but you’d be forgiven for believing it. Avril Lavigne, the pop-punk queen herself, is back with an album that demonstrates exactly why she ruled the scene 20 years ago. Love Sux is loaded with thrashy drums, grinding guitars and the Canadian singer going at full tilt.

This is Lavigne’s best album since 2007’s The Best Damn Thing, which moved away from her earlier grunge-based sound and into catchier territory. It says a lot about the 37-year-old’s conviction that her rebel-girl schtick doesn’t feel hackneyed. Yes, her lyrics are still very on the nose, as are some of the rhymes (“asshole” and “castle” on “Deja vu” is a pulling-teeth moment). But songs such as the single “Bite Me”, about an undeserving ex, or hyperpop-influenced opener “Cannonball”, are fizzing with energy. A shameless but cathartic hit of nostalgia. ROC

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