Nile Marr - Are You Happy Now?
When you see that the offspring of a musician you have loved has started their own band, or launched their own solo career, it's a strange thing. As I have written elsewhere, for me the spectrum is Rufus to Kelly.
Rufus Wainwright, son of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle, is fabulous, inventive and a true talent. Kelly Osborne, daughter of Sharon and Ozzy, may indeed be very talented, but it's not as a singer or musician. Leave well alone and go carve your own career.
Nile Marr is the son of Johnny Marr, The Smiths' guitar singer and prolific songwriter. He fronted his own band Man Made, who I checked out at a festival in 2015. They were ok. Pleasant enough, but nothing special. I didn't pay much heed to Nile until he joined his old man onstage at the Royal Festival Hall in 2019. He played with Johnny and was clearly a very good guitarist, but very much developing his own style.
So I sort of kept one eye out for him, but not very effectively. Are You Happy Now? is his debut album - it snuck past me, having come out in November 2020. I have only just got round to acquiring it, but I am making up for that now, as I have played it several times in the last few days.
It must be a good year for rock stars' progeny, as alongside Inhaler's debut, this is already one of my favourite albums this year. Influenced by Elliot Smith and Broken Social Scene, Nile's debut is a big leap on from Man Made, sounding assured and....yes, a little like the old man.
Kicking off with Goes Down Slow, it's a romping start, thundering drums and rifftastic guitar. Swiftly followed by Still Hearts, a mid-paced strummer, about a lost love ("Still hearts beat once and they'll beat again").
Hush builds on its opening guitar riff, with some Talking Heads style anxiety lyrics ("Wherever you are, there's life after buildings (hush); wherever you are there's life after buildings, tall buildings aren't everything"). Meanwhile Part Time Girl is another romper, all buzzy guitars and an infectious chorus.
Title track Are You Happy Now? reminds me of so many Manchester bands, Marr having returned to his home town and fallen in love with the City. Other reviewers have talked about the influences of American bands like Modest Mouse, but the music is very much Mancunian to me. Indeed in the NME, Nile reflected his much Manchester had influenced him, both an artist and a person. "The Beach Boys could never have come from Manchester, it would have been completely dishonest!” he said. “It’s important that you listen to where you are because you’ll get something that nobody else can.”
It's hard not to think of Johnny as you listen to the album, father and son share such a similar style. But ultimately, if I picked this up, not knowing Nile's lineage, I would love this. So definitely firmly on the Rufus end of the rock progeny spectrum!