Generally favorable reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 34
  2. Negative: 1 out of 34
  1. Nov 7, 2013
    The Messenger rediscovers what made the Smiths' albums great--an open-minded approach to tone and a feel that colors tunes for miles.
  2. Jun 4, 2013
    Trouble is, the songs themselves are instantly forgettable, devoid of alluring melody or interesting lyrical content, and sung by a limited vanilla voice lacking in character.
  3. Mar 21, 2013
    The Messenger does not disappoint; it brims with angular riffage, swings with sexy insouciance.
  4. This isn’t an album that’s going to light people up or satisfy those who are still suffering from The Smiths refusal to reunite. However, if you take The Messenger for what it most organically is, a British indie rock album, you won’t be disappointed.
  5. Mar 18, 2013
    The massively influential Smiths guitarist finally makes the solid solo debut he should've recorded a quarter-century ago.
  6. Mar 15, 2013
    He's perfectly adequate as a singer and melody writer, but he doesn't have the indelible personality of a Morrissey or Isaac Brock. [No. 96, p.56]
  7. Mar 8, 2013
    The lyrical flaws are not a fatal stab, but it’s an enormous burden.
  8. Mar 7, 2013
    His vocals do the job, even as his lyrics will probably keep the majority of ears fixed on the instrumentation.
  9. Mar 5, 2013
    Marr has become a more assured singer, which is one of several ways this album improves on Boomslang.
  10. 83
    His generically Oasis-y singing won't blow anyone away, but Marr's still a master at getting jangly new-wave energy and moody atmosphere out of his instrument. [1 Mar 2013, p.66]
  11. Feb 27, 2013
    It has some great guitar—satisfying our expectations on that front--and doesn’t offend. It’s a great record to throw on when DJing your parents’ Welcome To Spring community mixer.
  12. 70
    It’s proof that Johnny Marr, nearly half a century old, can still unpack new skills and techniques from a hefty bag of guitar-drenched tricks.
  13. Feb 27, 2013
    So, no, Marr isn't exactly reinventing rock here--he already did that. The Messenger feels more like a tribute to his youth, to his home, and to all the musicians he's worked with over the past three decades.
  14. Feb 26, 2013
    The Messenger, his second solo album, is a bracing reminder of his talents as a sonic architect.
  15. Feb 26, 2013
    The disc’s overall pleasantness and pasteurized charm are what save it from being wholly aggravating.
  16. 80
    The Messenger isn’t just a summary of everything worthwhile in contemporary rock music, it’s an insightful and informed dissection of life in 2013 and all the futile iOS updates, cyberstalking conglomerates and financial travesties that clog up the spaces between us. In a world claiming to connect us all, it argues, we’re getting more and more dislocated.
  17. Feb 26, 2013
    Not that The Messenger solely ransacks the past, though: conversely, it's the clunkier, more ham-fisted retro fodder that constitute the main misfires, especially lyrically.... But when he pushes things forward, everything begins to glitter.
  18. Feb 25, 2013
    While lukewarm as a whole, The Messenger doesn't suck nearly enough to bruise Marr's status as a guitar deity on wheels.
  19. Feb 25, 2013
    One quick listen to The Messenger brings all his signatures rushing back--the intricate, intertwining arrangements, the insistent riffs finding a counterpoint in the elastic yet precise melodies, a romance with the past that doesn't negate the present.
  20. He's not breaking any moulds--it's solid, guitar led, pop-rock--but then Marr is the man for that job.
  21. Feb 25, 2013
    The [emotional] connection is missing because of The Messenger's overarching weaknesses: the voice and the lyrics.
  22. Feb 25, 2013
    The Messenger isn’t groundbreaking or iconic in itself, but it’s thoroughly enjoyable music from a groundbreaking and iconic artist.
  23. 40
    Some of the riffs are winners, but it's just not enough to carry the album.
  24. Feb 21, 2013
    The Messenger falls some way short of greatness, but is full of enjoyably spiky tunes.
  25. Feb 21, 2013
    Marr’s vocals are indistinctive, although his song-writing abilities are clear. What does stand out is how fine a guitarist he has become.
  26. Feb 20, 2013
    The result is a collection of workmanlike indie-rock songs that fall some way short of being a good album and a long, long way from being the work of a Godlike Genius.
  27. Feb 20, 2013
    The Messenger won't be included in the body of work that made Marr great, but it's a solid approximation of his strengths.
  28. Feb 19, 2013
    This is a solid, enjoyable solo debut that’s certainly worth investigation if you’re a long-term Marr watcher.
  29. Feb 8, 2013
    Everyone, while unsurprised that his vocals are unobtrusive and his lyrics unspectacular, will seek that greatness in the guitars. [Mar 2013, p.94]
  30. Feb 8, 2013
    Marr’s guitar work can be fascinating--but it’s forever shadowed by less-appealing vocal work.
  31. Feb 7, 2013
    An album that manages to sound like a blend of every Britpop and Madchester also-ran's 50 shades of beige. [Jan-Feb 2013, p.88]
  32. 80
    The Messenger delivers. [Mar 2013, p.92]
  33. Feb 7, 2013
    The Messenger isn't an album that will blow any non-believer away. It is old fashioned, in many ways. [Mar 2013, p.65]
  34. Feb 7, 2013
    The Messenger duly wipes the slate clean and bursts with the same efflorescent skills that made Johnny Marr a guitar hero for the generation which had supposedly repudiated such a concept. [Mar 2013, p.90]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 2
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 2
  3. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Jan 31, 2014
    A lot of sniffy cynicism in the main musical press for this album and I'm mystified. This is a fine piece of work with riffs and hooks onlyA lot of sniffy cynicism in the main musical press for this album and I'm mystified. This is a fine piece of work with riffs and hooks only Johnny could lay down. Listen, Don Van Vliet in the power vocal department he ain't but neither was Jimi Hendrix or Bert Jansch. The guy's unique ability with the guitar overrides any lack of octaves in his voice. Anyway his voice is great on this record. Another critique from the press is the lyrics. Is this because they were hoping for some Morriseyesque whimsical poetry? Had this record been released by a trendy new outfit of 19 year olds the hacks would be raving with 5 stars. Full Review »
  2. a69
    Apr 30, 2013
    Tip top spot of Indie Rock. Has shades of The Jam and New Order about it in places. Doesn't break much new ground, but I wouldn't expect a 50Tip top spot of Indie Rock. Has shades of The Jam and New Order about it in places. Doesn't break much new ground, but I wouldn't expect a 50 year old to do so. Does what you'd want t to do and delivers the goods. Full Review »