Johnny Marr doesn’t hang around. After the success of last year’s first solo album, The Messenger, Marr returns with his new solo effort, Playland. With the title inspired by the 1938 novel Homo Ludens by Dutch cultural theorist Johan Huizinga, Marr indulges in the modern way of life in just 11 songs and still keeps the momentum of The Messenger going.
The first song is “Back In The Box” and you would be excused if you didn’t think that the intro wasn’t too far away from “How Soon Is Now?” but it kicks off the album very nicely. “Easy Money” follows that with Marr teaching us all how money comes and goes, all too quickly in some circumstances. “Dynamo” is the third song in, and brings a slight psychedelic edge to it, especially in the chorus. A good psych-rock song nonetheless. “Candidate” follows with its gentile introduction and uplifting guitar rifts. It is a natural partner for “New Town Velocity” from Marr’s previous album. “25 Hours” is a song about ourselves, in a nutshell, with Marr giving his personal view on humanity over a frantic drumbeat and haunting keyboards. “The Trap” is a standout track on the album and you can tell that Marr’s Electronic days have hugely influenced some of the numbers on Playland, especially on this particular number. The title track, “Playland”, is a fast paced number and doesn’t disjoint the flow of the album at all as Marr goes a bit punky on us all. “Speak Out, Reach Out” is a tongue in cheek number about the British monarchy. Marr gets the point across without going all Sex Pistols about it. “Boys Get Straight” comes crashing in soon after… and, I really didn’t want to say this but this wouldn’t have looked out of place when Marr was in The Smiths. It’s a fast, fast track. The penultimate track is “This Tension”. I don’t know what it is about Marr’s songwriting, but this is an exceptional track — not too haunting and not too cold despite the title. Finally, “Little King” ends the album on the same velocity it started. It will undoubtedly be one of Marr’s closing numbers in his live shows.
All in all, this is a great second album and one that Marr can take great pride in. People still remark about his voice, but if you hear it rather than listen to it, it makes no difference at all. Marr-vellous work.
The album is available now on CD, limited edition vinyl and on iTunes