|Woz Records / EMI|
"Lunch, Recess & Detention" the 2012 "odds n' sods" collection by Marcy Playground
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: August 30, 2012
CD REVIEW: Marcy Playground – Lunch, Recess & Detention (Woz Records/EMI) 2012
For many alt-rock-loving Gen X’ers, the trio Marcy Playground was one of those groups that had a fluke Top 10 hit – the slightly creepy “Sex and Candy” – in late 1997, when other rockin’ bands like Third Eye Blind, Everclear and Sugar Ray were in the spotlight with hits of their own.
I will admit to having lost track of Marcy Playground after their cool hit “It’s Saturday” back in 1999 – singer/guitarist John Wozniak, bassist Dylan Keefe, and a series of drummers, including current percussionist Shlomi Lavie – but upon being reintroduced to MP, I am bummed that I missed out on so much great music.
Which brings us to present day and the release of a Lunch, Recess & Detention, an “odds n’ sods” collection of B-sides, rarities and unreleased gems that the band wanted fans (and the merely curious) to listen to and enjoy.
And frankly, your Red Dirt Reporter thoroughly enjoyed Lunch. In fact, I’ve since gone back for seconds and thirds …
Surprisingly, the first track, “Shapeshifter,” had been slated for the 1999 MP album of the same name. But because they recorded so many songs for that disc, “Shapeshifter” was left off – until now. Listening to it, Wozniak’s dreamy voice really stands out. And it is amazing that this strong song was left off back then.
Two new versions of the iconic “Sex and Candy” are featured. The first is a nearly-identical version that was recently re-recorded so Israeli drummer Shlomi Lavie could appear on it (he reportedly didn’t know who Marcy Playground were when he was growing up). The other version – the “disco superfly remix” – is what you would expect, a slice of dancefloor cherry pie.
Propelling the musically muscular and surf-esque “Black Eyed Sue” is one-time Marcy Playground drummer Dan Rieser. It was another tune from the Shapeshifter sessions that amazingly didn’t make a cut at the time. There are a lot of Shapeshifter-era songs here, like the C.S. Lewis-inspired “Ballad of Aslan” and “Bye Bye,” among others. Good stuff all.
One of the absolute stunning standouts on Lunch, Recess & Detention is Wozniak & co.’s cover of Procol Harum’s baby boomer anthem “Whiter Shade of Pale,” featuring organ work by guest musician Matthew Cody.
We give Wozniak credit for having the cojones to tackle Leonard Cohen’s beautiful “Hallelujah.” And with just a voice and an acoustic guitar, Woz successfully pulls it off. A striking addition to this musical package.
And then there is Woz’s acoustic cover of Neil Young’s “The Needle and the Damage Done.” Another bold choice and it is clear that the MP singer takes it seriously, like the fragile piece of art that it is.
Canadian singer Jesse Dryfhout sings harmony with Wozniak on the folk-rocker “Brand New Day,” giving the group a chance to sound like fellow Minnesotans The Jayhawks. And that’s a good thing.
And while there is a sunnier feel to “Brand New Day,” darker themes make themselves evident, as we hear on “Comin’ Up From Behind,” an alternate version of a track that had been featured on the 1999 film soundtrack for Cruel Intentions. It’s slinky, dirty and bass-heavy.
Left off of the 2004 MP3 album was the reggae-influenced “Mr. Fisher,” the track on this album that was chosen as the single. It’s beachy and fun and reminds a little bit of something that Sugar Ray might have recorded.
Other songs, like “Crazy Katy Nicotine and Her Red Jet Air Balloon” is a bit of rootsy bubblegum while Wozniak channels his inner Cajun on the engaging number “Up and Down.”
A couple of tracks recorded during the mid-2000’s Leaving Wonderland .. in a fit of rage sessions, like “Special” and “Rosey Risin’” were probably wisely left off that album. They’re decent but not particularly strong tracks by Marcy Playground standards.
But one that is remarkably strong is “The Angel of the Forever Sleep” – recorded during the ’97 Marcy Playground sessions and featured as the flipside to “Sex and Candy.” It’s a song about Wozniak’s close-call with death when he was a boy and was hit by a car near the Marcy Open School in Minneapolis – the school (and playground) that provided the inspiration for the band name. Dylan Keefe’s Mellotron flourishes are a nice touch and give it the added dreamy, psychedelic vibe that a song dealing with a near-death experience requires.
All in all, Lunch, Recess & Detention is a strong reminder that there is far more to Marcy Playground than “Sex and Candy.” They’ve got much, much more. Thanks guys!
For more information (and a place to buy some “Sex and Candy” panties) go to www.marcyplaygorund.com.
Copyright 2012 Red Dirt Report