Record review: Johnny Marr – Playland (2014, LP)

johnny marr playland

Beginning his career as the talented one in The Smiths provided Johnny Marr with a pretty solid foundation on which to build his musical world after shedding the Sultan of Sorrow that is Steven Patrick Morrissey. His second solo after album after last year’s The Messenger, Playland is a further opportunity for the 50 year-old Englishman to quietly impress, as he has been doing with a variety of projects for several years. If impressing was the intention, however, Marr has mostly fallen short here. Rather too much of this album sounds badly dated, perhaps most closely exemplified by lead single ‘Easy Money’, which comes off like a wince-inducing mix of Duran Duran and Dire Straits. There are still some fine moments though, as there will always be when a guitarist as good as Marr is involved. ‘Dynamo’ and ‘The Trap’ contain some of those wonderfully ringing and intricate guitar lines we come to expect from his fretboard; the ones he should stick to building all his songs around. The main problems are a lack of quality songcraft and consistently expressionless vocals; a losing combination if there ever was one, and one that leaves you feeling like an opportunity has been missed here. Marr is a vital talent – of that there is no doubt. He simply needs a writing partner to take these songs to a higher level, and then he shouldn’t ever consider himself a lead singer ever again. (New Voodoo Records)

For mX

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