FDF Volume 2 Issue 194 - Johnny Marr + The Healers - Boomslang
Album - Boomslang
Artist - Johnny Marr and the Healers
Key Players - Zak Starkey -drums. Alonza Bevan - bass. Johnny Marr - vocals and guitar.
Produced By - Johnny Marr
Release Date - February 5. 2003
What caused me to blow off the dust? - I played this cd about a year ago at a cookout and had 2 or 3 people ask me who it was. Many folks know Marr because of his work with "The Smiths" and "The The" and "Modest Mouse" and a ton of other bands. It has been a good year since this had the front to back treatment.
Overview - The band began to record the album as early as 2000 and would release a single in 2001. The Manchester England based band was put together by Marr and it took him two years to do so. The band would release this lone record to mixed reaction (pitchfork didn't like it http://pitchfork.com/reviews/albums/5114-boomslang/) but would still promote the record strongly in the US with singles released to radio and some late night tv appearances. It is rumored the band have completed a follow up as early as 2005, but Marr has decided to put the band on hold. See where are they now for what they are up to..they've been busy.
FDF Comments (aka the songs) - The album starts with a lone guitar to bring up "The Last Ride" before the band comes in. It sounds immediately like the "Manchester" sound that Marr made famous. It has a few tings of "Stone Roses" as well. Starkey and Bevan keep steady pace and Marr doesn't get too flashy with the vocals or guitar work. The vocals are semi distorted as well before Marr brings a quick solo on about 1:15 in. The track keeps a pretty steady clip allowing each instrument to find a niche and hold that place. Marr gives another buzzy guitar solo, but what happens in the background seems to be even more interesting for some reason. Perhaps it is Bevan working the bass, but it stands out considerably. "Caught Up" also starts with a lone guitar, but it is not a buzzy on this track. The band seems to be a little more playful. The over dubbed acoustic guitars a a nice touch as Marr runs a phased and delayed guitar solo over the chorus. The lyrics are simple and repeated often so lyrically it is not overly complex. The band is a little more creative on its interludes at times so the music continues to be interesting. The radio single comes with "Down On the Corner". Third track in a row that opens with a single guitar, acoustic this time, that is quickly met with a second electric guitar and after a run of the verse a piano joins the guitar. The drums are absent until 1:20 or later and it does add that more "fullness" to the song, but Starkey plays more of a secondary role, which he appears to be comfortable with. It ends on quiet note, but to this point it made the most sense to be a single. Sticking with acoustic guitars "Need It" slowly builds. Marr plays harmonica on this track along with his guitar and there are synthesizers to fill out the sound. The percussive roll of the track will get your toes tapping and Starkey seems ready to really break it out, but it held in check until Marr pushes a solo. During this time Bevan comes up in the mix a lot more and you can hear the bass work he is putting down is more complex than one may have imagined. It returns to its rock-a-billy sort of feel and it has this run for the duration of the track which seems to grow on you as a listener. The longest track on the album, with a run time over 7 minutes is "You Are the Magic". Acoustic guitar starts this one off and there are a few short cymbal clangs, but it slowly gains momentum. The electric guitar does a little more but the acoustic seems to lead the way. After minute or so the keyboards come in with some simple single notes that ring over the bottom of the track. Starkey once more keeps a steady swing and Bevan tosses a few bass riffs, but hold them to more of the final few bars before the lyrics start. The title of the song is really the lone lyrics of the song and it is more of a free jam on the song. The band has the chance to really stretch out it seems, but never do so. "InBetweens" is the first more "rocking" track in some time. The buzzy guitar right at the start has been missed and Starkey hits the tom toms to set the wheels in motion. It quickly falls back to a comfortable tempo which almost feels like a rip off to the listener. About one minute in Marr works a much buzzier guitar run before easing up and having the band fold back in. "Another Day" finds Marr more hushed vocally. The band is more comfortable in this acoustic setting. There are flashes of electric guitar and one can wonder why Marr seems to not want to use it, but also be okay with him changing things up. It seems to get a smidge of a lap steel sounds to it at one point, but the band seems like they are more suited for a campfire sing along than full out rocking. "Headland" is an instrumental track. The liner notes give no credits, but its a simple, actually rather dull, acoustic guitar tune that repeats the same 6 notes it seems. Fill, dull, boring, skip this. The chopping guitar opens "Long Gone" a more rowdy song from the band. Nine songs in to the collection we have yet to really get up tempo and rocking. Starkey who now lays down the drums for "The Who" feels kept back. The bass of Bevan will perk up from time to time but we never really get a good representation of what this band can really do. "Something to Shout About" works with a harmonic guitar opening before Marr comes up with the vocals. This appears to be a full solo Marr track with no bass or drums heard on the track. The album concludes with "Bangin' On". Once more guitars are the focus with a few over dubs with acoustic and electric. When Marr sings its hushed and compressed. Finally the band comes in and they seem to find a quick and up tempo groove. They embrace their roles and for the first time you really feel like Starkey is attacking his drums and pushing the other two along. If the album had more tracks like this, or intensity, it may be a little more interesting.
Where are they now? - The band released this record and did tour, but that has been it so far. Starkey is devoted to "The Who", as their full time drummer and Bevan is back with the reformed Kula Shaker. (we looked at "K" from Kula Shaker a while back). Marr worked with Bernie from New Order on a few records under the name "Electronic". Marr later joined the band Modest Mouse for two records. He now works with a band called "The Cribs" who released "Ignore the Ignorant" in 2009.
FDF Personal Comments (aka the Live experience) - I did see the band live. They performed one of the radio festival shows when I was working in Boston radio. I don't recall a ton about it, but there was a buzz about the band performing mostly due to the legacy of Marr.
FDF Overall Take - It is a listenable album with much of it suited for background music that won't offend anyone. The good moments on this are really good, but there are just not enough. Marr is a talent, and has a great supporting cast, but it is not holding up well. Perhaps that other cd will see the light of day and we'd better get an idea of what they wanted to do as a group.
The official Johnny Marr site.
Curious? Check out some MUSIC!
You can see the band do "The Last Right" on Late Night here.
This cd appears to be out of print. You can get an mp3 version from Amazon.com here. You can also find a physical cd if you look on the site.
Disclaimer - For the most part songs listed you can find on iTunes or your local cd shop. The idea is to give you a little taste of the music. Please support the artist buy purchasing some of their work. Songs are posted for about 1 week but can and will be removed at the request of the artist, band, band management etc. If you are one of those persons contact me via the email link in the profile and they will be removed as soon as we are made aware of the request.