There’s a thread linking Crazy Face factory and the Smiths’ rehearsal space, Johnny Marr tells viewers. Connecting two pivotal times in the guitarist and songwriter’s life, they are brought together in this new live performance film directed by Marcus Winer. Delivering an intimate, authentic, and ambitious performance with band, ‘Live At The Crazy Face Factory’ offers a unique opportunity to experience the British guitar legend in a personal and creative setting.
Through the delivery of twelve tracks, and fascinating interview extracts, the enthralling 65 minutes include new tracks from Johnny Marr’s coming double album ‘Fever Dreams’, while incorporating iconic Smiths’ material, songs from previous solo records, and an Electronic classic. An inspired session, it depicts with sophistication how the artist’s sound has evolved over a period of nine years navigating the solo landscape with imagination and curiosity, and how early sounds and ideas from his adolescence continue to be a source of influence on new song material.
Always keen to seek out novel techniques and explore routes to handle creativity, this filmed session reveals that it was as much a matter of “putting two and two together, and making five. Coming up with something, either by accident, or by design,” but ultimately “reach for something, and not quite getting it right. Getting it wrong, in your own right way.”
Instigating an energetic start with new song ‘Hideaway Girl’, Marr switches to familiar territory with ‘Bigmouth Strikes Again’, if it seems unexpected, excitement is still built. Similarly, there’s no need to sit back, as the industrial electro beats of ‘Sensory Street’ show. The sounds are hard-hitting, yet the track has a melodic sensitivity that’s moving and real.
The interest in industrial, electronic sound is not new, Marr argues. “It’s echoes of what I’ve done in the past with Electronic and Pet Shop Boys, but in other ways, it’s a move forward.” This is also reflected in line-up and instrumentation, the arrival of the new keyboardist playing with the band, and Scott Docherty is adapting well to surroundings. In the bid to take electronic interests to a new level, the keyboardist’s contribution is in demand.
Raw and striking, the title track ‘Spirit Power & Soul’ is played with focus, and is a performance of the memorable kind. In a not dissimilar emotional vein, ‘New Town Velocity’ soon follows and provides warmth. The urge to move things up a gear is evident with Electronic’s infectious ‘Getting Away with It’ as well as Smiths classic ‘the Headmaster Ritual’. A bold switch, but it’s a perfect match to the dark textures of the set. Other standalone moments include the enticing, hypnotic ‘Walk Into The Sea’, vibrant new track ‘Counter-Clock World’, and the elaborate closure with ‘How Soon Is Now’.
Contextualising his decision to pick an industrial building as his space, Marr talks about the name and early days as a musician. Owned by Smiths manager – and big bunch of keys owner – Joe Moss, the group used to rehearse in a space called Crazy Face in Manchester. After Moss passed away, Marr was given a similar looking bunch of keys to this factory building, it only felt natural to pay tribute to his friend, it was a nice way to capture past and future.
An hour of striking visual and sonic immersion, ‘Live At The Crazy Face Factory’ signifies one of Johnny Marr’s most expressive and personal undertakings. Looking at his work that leads up to it, it’s clear that he has been working hard towards this moment, as he prepares for the release of his ambitious double album project next year.
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Words: Susan Hansen
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