Album Review – Johnny Marr “Playland”

Arguably one of the most talented musicians ever lived, Johnny Marr plays the role of the easy going, evergreen rock star. What is often looked past is the fact Marr spent 25 years behind the name of other bands, including The Cribs. Only taking the spotlight last year with his debut solo album, it’s been followed up sharply with the intelligently-named ‘Playland’. 

His official website reads:

“The title ‘Playland’ is inspired by ‘Homo ludens’, a 1938 book by the highly influential Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga which explores the concept of play as a precursor and principal element of cultural development.”

How cool is that?

The album opens with “Back In The Box” and its’ chasing guitar emphasises an energy that the ex-Smiths man seems to assert to both his studio work and live performances whilst remaining composed and collected. This part of Marr’s personality contrasted with Morrissey’s flamboyant style of performance in The Smiths and is still present up until now. The first single on the album, “Easy Money” features glorious key changes aside what are catchy and realistic lyrics. In “Dynamo” he moves higher vocally, and the higher notes play a huge part in the construction of an absolutely magnificent third song.

“Candidate” is less memorable, and its’ four and a half minutes admittedly drag a little. Normal service is resumed with already-popular “25 Hours”  and melodic showcase “The Trap”. The seminal 1980’s band seem key to the album, talks of independence in “25 Hours” are followed by an exploration of “This Tension” – the penultimate fact. Marr holds no regret, that is clear, however, thoughts back to one of Britain’s most successful musical partnerships are still evident.

Perhaps the annoying sub-conscious reference to The Smiths takes away from Marr’s creditable solo career which will no doubt be enhanced in the upcoming tour, but perhaps not. There are moments of magic; but it is a frustratingly average addition to the discography of Johnny Marr in comparison to not only his decade-old work but 2013’s LP “The Messenger.” 

The album cover may or may not have been shot in front of a sex shop on Tib Street in Manchester’s Northern Quarter, valuable musical trivia or meaningless information? Probably the latter.

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