Johnny Marr always wanted nothing more than to play guitar in a rock & roll band, so once he finally got his solo career off the ground in 2013 with The Messenger, he couldn't stop. As he toured the album, he continued to write new songs, then he took his touring band back into the studio with producer Doviak -- the same collaborator as on the 2013 record -- to knock out Playland. Unsurprisingly, the 2014 sequel feels cut from the same cloth as The Messenger, containing the same blend of classicist British pop values and modernist rock production that constitutes something of a throwback to the pre-Brit-pop '90s. If anything, Playland places a heavier emphasis on prominent dance beats ("Easy Money") and shimmering synthesized surfaces ("Candidate," "25 Hours"), which means this winds up recalling Electronic nearly as much as it does the Smiths, a nice transition that emphasizes Marr's sonic palette nearly as much as his songwriting and expert instrumental skills. Furthermore, Playland proves Marr wasn't wrong to rush into the studio to cut a second album quickly: it may glisten more than The Messenger, but it's a more visceral experience, gaining energy from its performance and also the sense that nothing here was fussed over. All this means that Playland is superficially more pop with all its style and flair, but it plays more like a rock & roll album, always in a hurry to make its point understood as quickly as possible.
AllMusic Review by Stephen Thomas Erlewine