Do you sometimes want to hear somebody just make music? Somebody who’s been around and knows what he or she is doing? Do you want to listen to someone who isn’t trying to be the latest sensation, who isn’t after clicks and follows? If so, try this one. It’s Johnny Marr, it glides along in a lovely and slightly dark way, it’s got guitars, it’s in a minor key. What more do you need?
Johnny Marr as I assume you know used to be in the Smiths, and as such was the architect of their distinctive, minor-key-jangly-chimey sound. “Hi Hello” works a bit of that ground, but here the ground is knowingly smoothed over—mellowed with age, perhaps, and/or not as concerned with sounding so rigorously different as the Smiths were. But hell, by now, Marr has spent a whole lot more time not being in the Smiths than he spent being in them. A good amount of that time found him landing as a guitarist in a series of previously existing bands (The Pretenders, The The, Modest Mouse, et al.); outside of a 2003 album credited to Johnny Marr & The Healers, the solo efforts have only recently been sprouting up—one in 2013, one in 2014, and this new one in 2018. Which is all to say he’s still relatively new to the front-man role, still finding his I’m-the-center-of-attention voice. He does a good job here expanding his vocal range with an effortless leap into and out of falsetto that kind of slyly turns into the song’s principal hook. And I could be entirely imagining this, but the short instrumental motif we hear at 1:48 sounds like an oblique reference to the old hymn “Hey Ho Nobody Home,” which itself might not be completely irrelevant to the title and lyrics here. Or I could be entirely imagining this.
“Hi Hello” is the fourth track from Marr’s album Call the Comet, which was released in June. MP3 via The Current.
(Note that MP3s from The Current are available in files that are 128kbps, which is below the iTunes standard of 192kbps, not to mention the higher-def standard of 320kbps. I personally don’t hear much difference on standard-quality equipment but if you are into high-end sound you’ll probably notice something. In any case I always encourage you to get the MP3 for the purposes of getting to know a song via a few listens; if you like it I still urge you to buy the music. It’s only right.)