Song of the Day: The Smiths – “Ask”

Morrissey has made a career out of being kind of unpleasant while occasionally singing songs, so your average Smiths fan can be forgiven for essentially overlooking the rest of the group. Luckily, it was guitarist Johnny Marr’s 53rd birthday this past Halloween, and I thought this presented a perfect opportunity to take a look at an expert axeman who doesn’t get featured in your average “Greatest Of All Time” Lists. Like fellow rock guitarist Jimmy Page, Marr is fond of placing multiple guitar tracks upon each other to create a deep and intricate melodic lines. However, unlike Page, Marr opted for nuance over power (no slam on Page), and this gives each song many layers to uncover. Of course, Marr can deliver live without the aid of multi-tracking, doing his best to replicate every guitar line on the Smiths’ excellent live record Rank. Damned if he doesn’t almost do it. It is my personal opinion that, as witty and sardonic as Morrissey’s lyrics are, they wouldn’t really spring to life the way they do without the canvas of Marr’s guitar work (the other two members of the Smiths are probably in there somewhere, but they don’t seem to come up as much). Here’s “Ask,”  which has always been one of my favorite Smiths songs, and boasts textured and vivid guitar lines. This is to be expected with a guy like Johnny Marr. His influence is so wide that it’s no wonder that younger bands like Modest Mouse snatched him up as a free agent. He was even a full-fledged member of that group for a few years. Take a moment to acquaint yourself with the catalog of the Smiths if you haven’t already. You’ll thank me later.

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