Johnny Marr, "Playland" (Warner)
When Johnny Marr completed his first solo album, "The Messenger," in 2013, the man behind the beautifully maudlin rhythms of The Smiths didn't rest on his laurels. He continued to write, and his sophomore effort, "Playland," is the pleasant result of that work ethic.
"Playland" is strong with guitar certainly, but is also rich with hooks and a decidedly energetic pace. If you're waiting for sad Smith-ian sand kickers, you won't find them here. Marr is ready to embrace the pell-mell pace of the universe on "Back in the Box." ''Just everything is breaking us out/ From the inside and the outside," Marr sings on that track.
Marr airs out things into a larger wall of sound, offering the solid song "Candidate" about living in the moment. I'm tempted to play that song backward to discern if there's a hidden clue about a reunion of The Smiths. Mercurial Smiths frontman Morrissey and Marr remain publicly at odds over the proposal, but there's always hope.
Meanwhile, Marr's solo effort on "Playland" proves he's capable of going it alone.
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