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It is hard to treat an album like this objectively. As at the end of the day this is the co-songwriter from the Smiths. And even people who hate the Smiths kind of have to grudgingly admit that they are an influential band if not nothing else. Basically, the Smiths were good. Really good. Consequently, as if as a punishment for once being so good, everything ex-members of the Smiths do will always be compared to their glory days in that band.
And that’s basically the problem with Playland, Marr’s second solo album: The album isn’t bad, it just isn’t grabbing. It feels formulaic and tired. It’s frustrating hearing the man who co-wrote ‘This Charming Man’ to be chugging out a series of tired rock clichés. The guitars are heavier than they ever were in the Smiths and the song structures are firmly rooted in the pop song versus, chorus, verse, chorus and that can be fine as long as the melodies and guitar parts are strong and original enough. But there is nothing particularly grabbing here. It sounds seasoned, mature but lacking in energy or originality. But who am I to criticise? In case you hadn’t gathered yet, this guy was in the Smiths.