Despite his more than 30 years of making music, Johnny Marr’s Playland is only the second album to bear solely his name. Perhaps it’s the stigma that comes with being a sideman – and Marr being one of the greats in that respect, from his time in The Smiths to his work with Modest Mouse and The Cribs.
A more likely case, though, is that much like Keith Richards, Marr is best when he’s focused solely on his guitar; perhaps occasionally slung a lead vocal every now and then.
When it comes squarely down to him alone, it’s more an open display of flaws than a showcase of talents. Not that there is nothing of merit on Playland – or its predecessor, The Messenger, for that matter. It’s full of gorgeous guitar sounds across a myriad of rhythms and styles, but it falls short when it’s ultimately revealed that Marr has precious little to say from a lyrical perspective – and not much of a singing voice to say it with, either.
Diehard fans of Marr and his sound will love what’s on offer here, but even long-time Smiths listeners may find this a little too lopsided and disjointed. Enter Playland at your own risk.
DAVID JAMES YOUNG