Sound & Vision (April 2018)

As regular readers (a big “Hello” to both of you) will know this past month I have been mainly listening to & writing about Soul & Funk, music that continues to fascinate & delight. I do still keep an ear on new Rock music but, for me, much of it sounds like something that has not only been done before but done better. Currently the only non-Soul records at the front of the stack are much-played discs by XTC & Teenage Fanclub (oh & Steely Dan…always the Dan). News of a new release by a guitar hero of mine has piqued my interest & caused me to temporarily give up the Funk to investigate further.



“The Tracers” is the first track to be released from “Call the Comet”, the upcoming album from Johnny Marr. Of course Johnny is always going to be best remembered for his work over 30 years ago (I know!) with the Smiths. His layered soundscapes perfectly framed Morrissey’s sometimes downcast, always droll lyrics to revitalise British guitar music & make them the best band in the country. After the break-up he became a guitar-for-hire, content to add quality to whatever took his fancy. The 3 Electronic albums with Bernard Sumner off of New Order & others are the only ones where he has put his name to the songs & stepped to the front of the stage.


Image result for johnny marr the messengerThis will be the third solo LP by Marr & I will be on it because I took too long to get around to the previous two. “The Messenger” (2013) is up there with the best records of the decade. No new ground is broken but from the rush & the push of the opener “The Right Thing Right” through to the dead stone classic “New Town Velocity” its capacious jangle, anthemic without bombast, updates a quintessential 1980’s Manchester sound. Of course the music can remind you of his old band, it’s what Johnny Marr does. He’s not from the traditional axeman hero mould. He has some pretty good Rock & Roll influences along with the taste & imagination to incorporate them into his own distinctive, melodic playing. His proficiency in creating the sound of the Smiths brings to mind Tony Hicks off of the Hollies, another Manchester guitar hero of mine who knew how a great Pop single went.



So, what’s on the TV then?  Nothing much, I know. I binged the latest series of “Schitt’s Creek” in 2 days because, except for the new batch of “Curb…”, it’s the only comedy that makes me laugh out loud. Yesterday I discovered how to edit the “continue watching” on Netflix so that’s a whole lot of disappointment out of my life for ever. The one series this year that has had me hooked, good enough to make me want to consider what I’ve just watched, too good to rush onto the next episode is “Counterpart”.


Image result for counterpart jk simmons“Counterpart” is a parallel universe spy thriller set in the two Berlins, one in the Alpha world (that’s ours) the other in the Prime world ( the same as ours but different). The only portal between the two is strictly controlled but, people being how they are in any world that they hook up to, there are bad things going on & these things get messy. It’s a 10 part season, light on the science, heavy on the fiction, which takes its time in telling its tale. The series is anchored by two star performances by J K Simmons. In a complex plot you usually know which of the Howard Silks you are watching from his demeanour. The supporting cast includes the “always watchable” Olivia Williams, Richard Schiff, Adeel Akhtar & its good to see Stephen Rea, a fine actor, with a meaty part. “Counterpart” may not be for everyone, there are plot holes which will give sci-fi pedants a bumpy ride. Its concerns with Love, loss, & identity kept me watching & the arrival of “The Management” in the final episode has me waiting eagerly for series 2.


OK, the new series of Legion” starts this week. I’ll watch but if it keeps messing me about with whole episodes that never really happened then I have an off switch on my remote & I’m not afraid to use it. Later this month sees the return of Jim “Brockmire”, a series I did find to be funny first time around. In the meantime it’s back to the Netflix to see if there’s anything that I want to “continue watching”.