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ALBUM REVIEW: "Playland" by Johnny Marr

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ALBUM REVIEW: Johnny Marr – Playland (Warner Music Group) 2014

“When I die, I’m gonna fly economy,” sings Johnny Marr on the heavy-yet-atmospheric “Speak Out Reach Out” on his second, official solo album Playland. Knowing the life Marr has led since Manchester’s The Smiths hit the scene over 30 years ago, he won’t be getting a bag of peanuts and a flat cup of Sprite.

No, while Marr is no Morrissey (we loved this past year’s fantastic World Peace Is None Of Your Business), he is talented guitarist and an energetic one at that. 

Yes, Marr has been a busy man since leaving The Smiths in 1987. A brief stint with the Pretenders led to a steady gig with Matt Johnson and his fascinating music project The The, along with New Order’s Bernard Sumner in Electronic. And there was always session work, with everyone from Talking Heads to Pet Shop Boys. Marr was in high demand. Still is.

I suspect Marr has been brushing up on his latter-day Britpop music, because a song like “Easy Money,” (a recent single from Playland), has a driving energy and a vocal presentation that (like “Sun and Moon” on 2013’s The Messenger) has a cheekiness that sounds comfortable on the latest from Arctic Monkeys or Franz Ferdinand.

But he likes those who came before, and we know he loves Joy Division. Is Playland’s “25 Hours” a response to that band’s “Twenty Four Hours” from 1980’s Control? Let’s face it, Marr isn’t exactly breaking new ground on this album, which is really an extension or “Part 2” of The Messenger.

And like The Messenger’s anti-consumerist song “Generate! Generate!”, Marr follows suit with rapid-fire “Boys Get Straight” (does that intro guitar sound familiar? Maybe “What Difference Does It Make” – one of Morrissey’s least favorite Smiths songs, by the way), and sample lyrics: "Something in our blood / Makes peple needy people / Consuming again ..."

Marr gets a chance to stretch his voice on guitar-pop numbers like “Dynamo” (which has some nice solo work from Marr).

The standout tracks (and Smiths fans will likely agree) are “The Trap” (New Order-ish) and the hypnotic, jangly-guitar on “This Tension.”

Again, Johnny Marr is not going anywhere he hasn't been before. In the meantime,  check out this video of Noel Gallagher (formerly of Oasis) playing with his band High Flying Birds, along with Marr, on the new song "Ballad of the Mighty I." Marr was an early fan of Oasis.

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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