Album Review: Johnny Marr | Playland

Hot on the heels of his debut solo album The Messenger, Johnny Marr returns without much delay with its follow up Playland. The album plays out like The Messenger part II, opener Back In The Box is a pacy, poppy rocker not unlike the material on the debut. First single Easy Money may be the catchiest tune Marr has ever put his name to. Combining choppy guitar with an almost high-energy beat, the chorus is simple and incessantly catchy.

Most of the songs here are perfectly “alright” but fail to grab. Dynamo is a good example of this, some fine guitar riffs seem watered-down by the production and a fairly average melody. Candidate and This Tension feature guitar lines that evoke distant memories of The Smiths, the latter doing a good job on one track of what Girls Names did across a whole album last year. The Trap has that breezy New Order bassline down to a tee but in general the songs just don’t hit home. The likes of 25 Hours, Boys Get Straight and the title track are fairly forgettable, all bluster and breathless guitar but they don’t really connect.

The Bowie-tinged Speak Out Reach Out is a distinct improvement, with a melody and arrangement the Thin White Duke churned out effortlessly in the late seventies. Finishing the album with a flourish, Little King is an absolute ringer for Echo and the Bunnymen’s Bring On The Dancing Horses yet somehow doesn’t sound like a rip off. But overall the album doesn’t really stand out. Time for Marr to mix things up a bit, perhaps find a creative collaborator or maybe update his influences.

Tracklist
1. Back In The Box
2. Easy Money
3. Dynamo
4. Candidate
5. 25 Hours
6. The Trap
7. Playland
8. Speak Out Reach Out
9. Boys Get Straight
10. This Tension
11. Little King

Killian Laher

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