Johnny Marr: Playland
(New Voodoo Records) Two stars
The thing about Johnny Marr is that he needs a band to shine. The inimitable guitarist and songwriter behind The Smiths, Marr has made plenty of notable music since that genre-defining outfit combusted 27 years ago. Among his successful post-Smiths achievements are stints with The The, Modest Mouse, The Cribs and his own Electronic. But all alone? Aside from 2003's short-lived Healers project, Marr has avoided the mic, until last year's solo debut The Messenger – a well-received but far from revelatory indie-rock offering. Playland picks up where that release left off – jangly six-string riffs with a touch more oomph than The Smiths, slightly lacklustre (but far from embarrassing) vocals and conventional indie-pop arrangements that typically round off at under four minutes. It's not bad – the Springsteen-sized Dynamo nods along pleasantly, while there's a reckless, retro verve to the title track – it's just a tad bland. It's the kind of Johnny Marr album the world was crying out for in 1989 but isn't going to raise many eyebrows in 2014.