Review: Nile Marr Are You Happy Now? (Oldham Street Records)
As the 28-year-old son of legendary Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, Nile has been surrounded by music his entire life. Although he missed dad’s Smiths era during the 80s, he was around to see the old man touring and recording with such bands as Electronic, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, Crowded House, and many others. Johnny Marr’s solo career is also in full bloom, showcasing his unique and powerful guitar skills along with a better-than-expected voice (Morrissey who?). Born in Manchester, UK, Nile moved with his family to Oregon as a teenager but has recently returned to his hometown in pursuit of a solo career.
After releasing TV Broke My Brain in 2016 with his band Man Made, he toured the world as a guitarist with Hans Zimmer. Marr has settled in on a promising solo career with his excellent new release Are You Happy Now? It is reminiscent of the elder Marr’s recent solo work. The voice – and even the guitar – sound familiar. The lead-off track “Goes Down Slow” gets in gear with guitar licks and stomping drums, evolving quickly into a real rollicker. Single “Still Hearts” is a gem of a tune, eliciting the best pop sensibilities. Incidentally, Nile’s name came from one of his dad’s favorite guitarists, Nile Rodgers.
That Manchester sound shines through on many tracks, especially “Part Time Girl,” which exudes some of that Marr DNA. The album flows in waves of rockers (“Fake Your Way Through,” “Soft Sculptures”) and ballad beauties (“Teenage Kissers”). Marr’s vocals, guitar, and songwriting approximate something from a more seasoned performer. As we search for the silver linings of 2020, this may be one of them. The debate between nature and nurture is answered here: for Nile Marr, it’s both.
Here’s hoping 2021 is the year we return to seeing live concerts…and Nile Marr should be high on your list. To listen and buy Are You Happy Now? go to Nile’s Bandcamp page: