Johnny Marr – Playland
There's a freewheeling vitality to Marr's second solo venture that not only lifts the weight of history but makes a mockery of the musical bed-hopping that's defined his recent output. He had these up his sleeve and was happy to be knobbing around with Modest fucking Mouse? Playland, true to its name, is exhilarating. After last year's likeable enough The Messenger, this is richer by far: the tunes are plentiful, the production old school and beefy (fat bass, cool synth), the guitar playing, you know, not bad.
After an unexpectedly forceful opening brace, Dynamo flicks off one of those riffs and Playland catches fire. The "again and again and again" hook on the crunching title track slyly references another seminal 80s act but this is Marr's vision alone. "All I need is out there… all I need is myself," he sings on 25 Hours: a delicious contradiction; one that pitches maturing worldview against deepening self-awareness. Exceptional. [Gary Kaill]