Title - 'Playland' (Sire Records)
Artist - Johnny Marr
For those not in the know, Johnny Marr (actually born John Martin Maher) is a renowned English musician, singer, and songwriter. He was co-songwriter – with Morrissey – and guitarist of the Smiths between 1982–87, an English rock band formed in Manchester, England.
Indeed, critics have called them, nay, lauded the Smiths as the most important alternative rock band to emerge from the British independent music scene of the 1980s!
Having always been involved in the music scene, up front or from behind, Marr's upwards trajectory continues unabated with the release of Playland. Having already brought us 2013's The Messenger, Marr once again collaborates with his co-producer, Doviak; as well as the other musicians who performed on the album and accompanying The Messenger tour.
As I'm sure you are all aware by now, Marr has been a seminal influence on countless bands and so this new album continues the musical conversation; wherein the master drops in references to his protégés ie: Kasabian, Franz Ferdinand, Oasis, Inspiral Carpets, The Cure, etc. And so, Playland is a cornucopia of everything Marr has done and his musical influences growing up. This is his way of just creating an album for his voice and writing great melodies. Every song on this album is great.
It would be grossly unfair to compare this to the Smiths, and yet it's impossible not to. There are several songs here that could easily fit on one of the later Smiths albums and you can almost hear Morrissey singing them. Equally, the opening track, 'Back In The Box' could easily have fitted on Electronic's last album and Bernard Sumner would not be out of place on vocals.
In fact, the overall sound of Playland is mid-way between latter-day Smiths and Electronic's more guitar-based songs. Johnny Marr has always defied categorization - quite deliberately sometimes. What's so great about this album is that on tracks such as 'Dynamo,' 'The Trap,' and both 'Boys Get Straight' and 'Little King' he is actually starting to sound, well, like himself.
Reviewed by: Russell A. Trunk