Warner Music Group
Oct 06, 2014 Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J
It is rare to find universal goodwill for a musician like that which Johnny Marr receives. The guitar superstar and Smiths formidable co-captain isn't one to wallow in his past. In the quarter century since that group's break-up, Marr has lent his skills to a range of musicians. From collaborating with Beck to Bryan Ferry, Talking Heads to The The, and temporarily joining The Pretenders, The Cribs, and Modest Mouse, Marr has been content to reflect his limelight onto others until last year.
2013's The Messenger is heralded as Marr's debut solo album—since no one's acknowledging 2003's forgettable Boomslang from Johnny Marr and the Healers as a solo work. Playland is billed as the continuation of The Messenger. Written on the road while touring The Messenger, Playland follows that album's themes of city living. Recorded wholly in London with the intention of capturing that city's energy, like its predecessor, Playland is produced by Marr and touring band member James Doviak. Also like its predecessor, Playland breaks no new ground, which is forgivable, as Marr has done enough groundbreaking for one lifetime with The Smiths.
Placing himself firmly in mid-'90s Britpop, couched comfortably with the bands he is instrumental in influencing, Playland rings with the familiarity of retread. Marr's voice is serviceable, and if it weren't constantly cast against that of his former bandmate, it would be considered right in step with any other contemporary indie vocalist. It is Marr's signature guitar work that is the voice of all his music, and it rings true on Playland. His incomparable jangle chugs through the pseudo-rebellious, autobiographical "25 Hours" and creates an instrumental bridge on "The Trap" recalling quintessential Smiths gloom. The gorgeous trickle of notes bubbling under the moody echoes of "This Tension" alone make Playland worth anyone's time. (www.johnny-marr.com)
Author rating: 5/10
Average reader rating: 8/10
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