sat 26/09/2020

CD: Johnny Marr - Playland | reviews, news & interviews

CD: Johnny Marr - Playland

CD: Johnny Marr - Playland

Ex-Smiths legend back with another likeable curate's egg

Marr: a solid strike rate

According to Johnny Marr people with gigantic egos are generally miserable. Jokes about Morrissey aside, it follows Marr must be a pretty contented guy. For what other guitarist with his reputation would have put vanity aside to spend 20-odd years as a gun for hire? Now, however, it seems the affable muso finally wants to be a solo artist. Last year he released the interesting, if patchy, The Messenger. Now he’s back with Playland. So what’s it like?

According to Johnny Marr people with gigantic egos are generally miserable. Jokes about Morrissey aside, it follows Marr must be a pretty contented guy. For what other guitarist with his reputation would have put vanity aside to spend 20-odd years as a gun for hire? Now, however, it seems the affable muso finally wants to be a solo artist. Last year he released the interesting, if patchy, The Messenger. Now he’s back with Playland. So what’s it like?

In interview, Marr says it sounds just like “where he’s from”, and it’s true that some of the album feels like rain on gray slates. The first thing, however, that jumps out is that good mood we just spoke of. Indeed, the lead single “Easy Money” wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a Black Keys album. It’s the first of five standout tracks that give this album its identity. A couple of tracks later we find “Dynamo”, which combines '80s-rock rhythms, jangly guitar, and a confident, shoegazy vocal. This spaced-out indie feel is continued with the sometimes-blissful “The Trap”. Then the mood changes with the 80’s pop-noir of “Speak Out, Reach Out”, whose dark bass/guitar riff compensates for slightly lacklustre singing. Finally “This Tension” sews bits of all the above together with some classic Marr finger-work.

Taken together, these comprise five excellent reasons to buy or stream Playland. What, though, of the rest? Well, for the most part they’re ok, but if you're familiar with The Messenger, you may feel you’ve heard them already. But what do you expect? Guitarists don’t have the same commercial sensibilities as singers; and compared to the solo output of comparable guitar players like Graham Coxon and John Frusciante, a strike rate of almost 50 per cent doesn’t seem too bad at all.

Overleaf: watch the video for "Easy Money"


The lead single 'Easy Money' wouldn’t sound entirely out of place on a Black Keys album

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Average: 3 (1 vote)

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