Johnny Marr has been in a lot of bands. There is of course his legendary stint in The Smiths, but over 40 years as a journeyman guitarist means that Marr has logged time with The The, The Pretenders, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse, just to name a few. He’s guested with scores more, including Oasis, Blondie, Pet Shop Boys, and even Girls Aloud. If there’s a legendary artist, chances are Marr has an open invitation to collaborate.
That means that Marr has seen quite a few wordsmiths in his time. He’s turned into one himself after stepping up to the mic for his more recent solo career, but he’s been exposed to genius lyric writers from all different genres in the years, building up to his own stint as a frontman. Each new band he joined featured a different dynamic, and each new singer brought a different sensibility. But in a recent interview with Stereogum, Marr didn’t hesitate to crown an underdog as his favourite lyric writer.
“Isaac Brock is the greatest lyricist I’ve ever worked with,” Marr said of the Modest Mouse frontman. “I’ve seen him write an amazing song, and then make it better, and then make it better again.”
That’s right: eat your heart out Moz. Best of luck next time Chrissie Hynde. Smell ya later, Noel Gallagher. Isaac Brock, the driving force behind one of American indie rock’s most unkillable institutions for nearly 30 years, gets the Johnny Marr stamp of approval as the best writer he’s ever played with.
Marr gushes about his relatively brief time in Modest Mouse during the interview, describing how the band seemed to harness a certain magic. “A few days into the playing, I was stood in a jam session playing with the strangers, and it reminded me of being a kid, because I was like, ‘I don’t know what this music is.’ I’m there then. I don’t give a fuck whether they’re a big band or a small band. That’s what I’m about.”
Adding: “Me and the guys then just became really tight. To have bailed would’ve just been really weird. I stayed in the band, and I loved being in the band. There was a brotherhood that is there to this day. Probably the best time of my life. Some supernaturally good shows. I liked my role. It’s just a thing that happened in my life that I’m eternally grateful for.”
Marr also took the time to discuss his role in playing with Hans Zimmer, joking: “I’m just waiting for him to pass the baton and go ‘Mr. Marr, have you got any ideas?’. The former Smiths man also discussed Billie Eilish, adding: “Anyone who disses it is, I think, missing the point” in reference to the song she created for the most recent James Bond film No Time to Die.
You can check out the Marr-era Modest Mouse in a live setting down below.