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The Smiths’ arguably better — as opposed to bitter — half has always been white-hot guitarist Johnny Marr. Although Morrissey fanatics might vociferously disagree, it did always seem that Marr’s genius jangly guitar playing (influenced by Roger McGuinn of The Byrds) was the fuel that propelled The Smiths’ socially awkward songs into the stratosphere. History being what it is, The Smiths’ trajectory ended acrimoniously in 1987, and while Morrissey has gone on to cult status and a successful solo career, Marr took the road less traveled. The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Modest Mouse, The Cribs, and 7 Worlds Collide have all brought Marr on board as a band member at one time or another. Additionally, he has done session work for the Pet Shop Boys, Beck, and Talking Heads, among others. Then there is his project, Johnny Marr and the Healers, which released the T. Rex–ish album Boomslang back in 2003. Playland is only Marr’s second solo outing, but it beautifully showcases good, solid Britpop in the tradition of Marr’s peer, Paul Weller. The propulsive “Back in the Box” breaks the disc in, while the hooky, anti-greed anthem “Easy Money” is easily the album’s most radio-friendly tune. “Boys Get Straight” features invigorating Buzzcocks-inspired riffs, while the guitar line on “This Tension” recalls The Smiths’ “Hand in Glove.” Although Marr’s lyrics on Playland aren’t always perfect, his hooks are impeccable.


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