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100 Albums: "Playland" by Johnny Marr

Kurt is going through his favorite records. Read the explainer or view the master list.

Artist: Johnny Marr
Title: Playland
Released: 2014
Genre: post-punk britpop


Best known as a guitarist and co-writer for the Smiths, a band that broke up in 1987, Johnny Marr has had a long career in the background of rock-and-roll. He was briefly in the Pretenders and Modest Mouse. He did a lot of session work. He produced a few albums, did a stint with the Cribs. And then in 2011, he started putting out solo albums. And... this is one of them. And it's really quite good.

Playland is the sort of album that gets written by a rhythm guitarist. The leads are slow and thick and melodic. The rhythm parts are densely layered but still pop and jangle. There's a definitely britpop sheen to the whole thing: solid hooks, simple structures with lots of tiny variations over the course of a song, a bit of the old post-punk jangle, and a healthy dose of reverb on everything. Although, for as atmospheric as its musical elements are, it's got a real sense of movement. The single Easy Money is the standout song and the clear radio track. The opener Back In The Box is excellent. 25 Hours is a bass-forward chunky, almost punk track. I love the chorus on The Trap and Candidate, two of the slower songs.

But really, what's most enjoyable about this record is how well put together it is. Yes, the songs are catchy and impressive and all of the instruments sound good, but you also have to take a step back to appreciate the craftsmanship on display. Marr has been playing in bands for over four decades now. He's really quite good at this.

Further Listening: Marr has two other solo albums that I haven't listened to, although I've liked the snippets I've heard. But if you just want to revel in some rhythm guitar awesomeness, then there's nothing better from him than How Soon Is Now?

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