MP3 is too cheeky of a title. But it's telling for Marcy Playground, which rose and fell a full half-decade before such a techie reference would even be funny. It's law for a comeback album to dwell on such a ride, and Marcy does in "Hotter Than the Sun." "We danced with the devil/And walked down his road," sings John Wozniak, who hasn't shaken his signature vocal doldrums. "We've been hotter than the sun." The past tense construction is important, because it means the band knows exactly where it stands. As "Hotter" develops, the resolute also-weres warn future flash-in-the-pans to remember what really matters, which seems to be fans and the music. To that end, Wozniak, bassist Dylan Keefe, and new drummer Gonzalo Martinez have crafted something their longtime devotees will love -- an unabashed, blatant, suspended animation post-grunge album. Nirvana continues to be Marcy Playground's biggest influence, as the cynical, anxious "Blood in Alphabet Soup" proves. Wozniak's penchant for the sardonic mini-drama also returns, to mixed results. "Jesse Went to War" is a bit overwrought, but on "Flag and Finger" and the string-laden "Death of a Cheerleader," his nasally delivery and trash-culture lyrical renderings strongly suggest Eef Barzelay of Clem Snide. But what's actually kind of crazy is how interchangeable MP3 is with components of the Alternative Nation past. "Sleepy Eyes" offers the brooding side of Nirvana (again), while the bratty "Punk Rock Superstar" suggests early Foo Fighters. Marcy's closest peer might now be Local H, another wry and scraggly unit that won the modern rock radio lottery, got labeled as novelty, and lost a drummer before returning (on 2002's Here Comes the Zoo) to what it always did best. MP3 won't get Marcy Playground sloppy seconds on the sex and candy. But it's going to make the band and their faithful happy, and nevermind the rest.
by Johnny Loftus