Playland is the second solo offering from NME’s 2013 ‘Godlike Genius’, Johnny Marr, and it is a piece of work befitting of such an accolade.
Marr refrained from any solo ventures for over 25 years after parting ways with Morrissey and The Smiths, yet his creative output has been immense. Having been an important part of The Cribs, Modest Mouse, The The, and Electronic as well as writing a movie score with Hans Zimmer, all along with being an ever-present session musician, Marr’s philosophy of music is clear: create, create, create… and then create some more!
This philosophy appears to be on show as far as his solo career is concerned, with Playland being his second album in as many years – a tidy pace by anyone’s standard. This album continues on much the same path as The Messenger, with great energy, suitable for the large sound system as much as headphones, with a real clear sense of direction; it’s non-stop, fully-rounded, and straight to the point. It’s what I’d describe as a ‘no mucking about’ effort.
From the first track, the tom-and-bass-heavy Back in the Box, to the last, catchy-as-heck, Little King, Marr’s lyric writing is perhaps surprisingly poignant for a lead guitarist, and his voice doesn’t sound too shabby, either. Chock full to the brim with side-reaching chords and dynamic riffs (as one would expect from arguably Britain’s greatest ever guitar player), rolling drum work and driving bass lines, Playland is an end-to-end triumphant riot.
Barry Nicholson sums up Marr’s belated arrival as a solo artist quite perfectly in NME, saying Marr ‘finally seems to be excelling as his own boss. He’s found his niche, and his niche is Johnny f*cking Marr.’