ALBUM REVIEW: Johnny Marr - Playland

What is immediately apparent on Johnny Marr’s new record is that there are elements of all the stages of his career dictating proceedings.

Considering it took over 25 years to hear a solo record from the ‘king of jangle’, the fact that this is the second that has dropped in the last 18 months would suggest he has, at last, come to terms with who he is.

The results, then, are very pleasing for fans of his work in the Smiths, Electronic and The The.

While his former bandmate Morrissey’s latest album barely made it over the mixing desk such was its tired, narky vitriol, Marr’s new record sees him rejuvenated after 10 years of collaborations which younger musicians such as Modest Mouse and The Cribs.

The single Easy Money suggests that the fallout from court cases in relation to Smiths royalties has been firmly consigned to the past and its catchy recurring guitar motif is the closest thing to an indie Nile Rodgers we are ever likely to hear. The subject matter bemoans the endless pursuit of the coin by the music industry and hints that Marr’s low profile and clean living lifestyle of late is not going to change anytime soon.

Back In The Box is a brash, euphoric rocker antithetical to anything he did with the Smiths. Dynamo and The Trap recall Marr’s flirtation with an indie/dance mutant in the form of Electronic where he shared writing duties with Bernard Sumner.

Candidate (sadly not a cover of the Joy Division classic) combines Keith Richard's Gimme Shelter riff with echoed acoustics and swirling synthesisers.

Marr’s busy vocals have improved since 2013’s ‘The Messenger’ but they are rarely what this record puts out in front. It’s the guitars that command the attention of the listener and the second generation Irishman’s seemingly endless ability to reinvent the rock riff is simply astounding.

The title track is perhaps the most triumphant moment as Marr somehow manages to marry Edwyn Collins and the Ramones into one track, while This Tension reassures us of his dedication to the  sound that made him the guitarist’s guitarist – Marr has never written a boring guitar line in his life.

Most remarkably  of all though is that this record sees Marr recreate himself, not in the manner of David Bowie, but in the manner of Paul Weller, another great songwriter so linked with his former band and who made so many wrong turns in trying to get as far away from them as possible.

Marr has finally reassembled himself and refurbished the parts that made him whole. He has embraced his greatness and as a result has been freed. Long may he jangle.


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