It’s fitting that Johnny Marr’s recent self-titled album is titled The Messenger. The former Smiths guitarist has aired some criticisms that could have plenty of people calling for his head. In his “alternative Queen’s speech” column for NME, Marr weighs in on the ongoing Spotify debate and has harsh words for a set of recent SPIN cover stars.
First, the streaming kerfuffle. Marr is in the “anti” camp. “I think it entirely hampers new bands,” he writes. “I can’t think of anything more opposite to punk rock than Spotify. I have no answer to the economic side of the music industry, but I do think we certainly shouldn’t stop valuing what bands do. I don’t like great things being throwaway.” Thom Yorke and David Byrne, be merry! Led Zeppelin and Moby, cross Marr off your Christmas card list! (Trent Reznor and Dr. Dre, sit tight until January!)
Second, and happily not the ones being criticized as the antithesis of punk, are inexorably excellent Los Angeles alt-popsters Haim. Now, Haim were on SPIN’s cover, and their debut album Days Are Gone made our list of the 50 Best Albums of 2013. But even without getting all political, it was weird when they performed “The Wire” for U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron. And Marr doesn’t mind getting all political.
So on one hand the guitarist, who has also played with Modest Mouse among others, praises Chvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry and Grimes for calling out music-world sexism. “I wonder why we’re going backwards in that regard,” he writes. But on the other hand, he savages Haim for appearing with Cameron, a dreaded Tory.
“It’s really simple: They made themselves look like idiots,” Marr writes of the sisterly trio. “It’s ridiculous. No one put a gun to their head. The Conservatives tried to do the same thing with The Smiths, to re-appropriate us in a false way, to be cool by association.”
The online-streaming debate is complicated, and the role artists should play in politics depends on the artist, too. But if Haim will happily wage Twitter battle with beloved U.K. indie heroes Los Campesinos!, here’s guessing they’re not going to lose too much sleep about what even an revered elder statesman like Marr says, either. As uncannily precise as their recordings might be, they are human and they need to be loved.