Throwback Review: Marcy Playground’s self titled debut album
May 12, 2015
Review Rating: 4.5/5
When asked to describe the future of music in a 1969 interview, Jim Morrison, vocalist for the 60s rock group The Doors, once said, “I guess in 4 or 5 years the new generations music will be – it will have a synthesis of those two elements [Blues and Country] and some third thing that will be in – maybe it will be – it might rely heavily on electronics, tapes, I can kind of envision maybe one person with a lot of machines, tapes, and electronics set up, singing or speaking and using machines.”
In recent years music has taken an interesting twist as far as sense of direction. Nowadays we work more with beats, loops and samples (like Morrison predicted) than with actual musical instruments and while the direction is refreshing at times, it’s hard to deny the major influences the classic albums, like The Doors, once brought and continue bringing.
The purpose of this article is to bring different genres to the table. The purpose is to explore and influence.
Who knows what the bands of yesterday will influence today?
– D.M. Loza
Recorded and mixed at Sabella Recording Studio in Roslyn, NY, in 1996, “Marcy Playground” – The self-titled album by Marcy Playground, was released on Feb. 25, 1997 with EMI.
Although at times the band is described as a “One hit wonder,” if heard carefully, the 34 minute album has a unique sound with its 12 tracks that take its listeners through a roller coaster of emotions and lyrics through drugs, sex, suicides and yes, candy.
The albums first single and first track, “Poppies” starts with a distorted guitar riff in standard tuning that gives it an upbeat sound reflecting the direction the music was at that time with similar tones to bands such as: Bush, Nirvana and Oasis.
When it comes to the lyrics the song is bizarre, detailing a vague and most likely false account of England’s opium discovery.
The track isn’t serious, but with the bizarre lyrics and upbeat sound, it makes for an enjoyable listen.
The second track released on Nov. 4, 1997, and the band’s breakthrough single, spending a record 15 weeks at number 1 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart during the first few months of 1998, was “Sex and Candy.”
The track begins with lead singer John Wozniak playing an acoustic guitar singing in a somewhat more relaxed, carefree mood than the track before; a sound that better represents both band’s song writing style as well as the album’s focal direction.
The catchy lyrics detail a description of a rendezvous between the singer and an unknown female often times making the singer question his own reality, “Mama this surely is a dream.”
“Ancient Walls of flowers” ventures into a bluesier acoustic sound that reminds one of songs written by Neil Young.
While this track is not as popular as its predecessors, the clean guitar solo is very enjoyable and uplifting.
The lyrics are strange and are very hard to comprehend, but the music is very enjoyable and catchy.
“Saint Joe on a School Bus” released as a single in 1998, brings a grunge feel to the album that picks up the beat in case “Ancient Walls of flowers” put its listeners to sleep.
The drumbeat in this song is similar to Dave Grohl’s work in Nirvana, especially during the chorus when Dan Rieser goes nuts with the cymbal and open snare.
The lyrics deal with someone being picked on a school bus and in the strange humorous music video; fans can enjoy the consequences of a young boy-calling wolf.
“A Cloak of Elvenkind” begins with a smooth guitar intro and relaxes the listener after “Saint Joe on a School Bus.”
While slow, it is an enjoyable track mostly because the guitar and vocals blend in a very relaxing manner that take the listener through Wozniak’s mind with his chilling lyrics talking about childhood and a special cloak that made one feel protected from the outside world.
The next track, halfway through the album is “Sherry Fraser.” The song was written for Wozniak’s then girlfriend Sherry Fraser questioning when she will return and play, like they played before.
The acoustic rich track was the last single of the album and receive moderate radio play.
Another acoustic track is “Gone Crazy.” The lyrics deal with a female by the name of Molly moving to Spain, something Wozniak is bewildered by when he sings, “Have you gone crazy?”
The romantic lyrics are also calling her back. Even “for free,” perhaps indicating the singer wouldn’t mind paying, as long as she returned to him.
The next track by the name of “Opium” is a hauntingly beautiful song that describes a drug induced calm euphoric experience.
At about 1:48 the song breaks into heavy distortion as Wozniak screams out for his mom. Maybe in a sense inviting the listeners to the effects of waking up from the euphoric state of mind.
“One more suicide” introduces a religious character by the name of Christopher O’ Malley who jumps off a bridge. This track is another hauntingly beautiful track that describes the individual and the fact that “No one was there,” to save him.
The Cello, played by Jen Handler, compliments the acoustic “folky” guitar during the half way point of the song, while the drums play a steady beat that overall give the song a depressing, solemn mood.
In case “One more suicide” made the listener shed a tear, “Dog and His Master” picks up the beat with catchy lyrics and a clear message: regardless of whom you are, or what you do, you’re going to die anyways. “One little, two little, three little idiots, Four little, five little, six little idiots, Seven little, eight little, nine little idiots, All in suit and tie.”
“The Shadow of Seattle” brings back the grunge sound with lyrics that resemble Nirvana’s, and the Grunge in the early 90s.
Wozniak, a huge fan of the Grunge, Seattle movement, who once shared rehearsal space with Cobain, wrote this song as a way to express the fact that the music industry wanted to commercialize the Grunge movement, and bands were fighting hard not to. “Why, won’t they let us be ourselves?”
The album ends with a goofy acoustic tune called “The Vampires of New York.” The lyrics mostly describe New York and its strange residents, some nocturnal, perhaps that’s why Wozniak describes them as “Vampires.”
The song ends with a hilarious line that closes the album in a cheerful, silly manner and makes one considered re-listening to this underrated album. “But please watch your step as you’re getting off, kids.”
Overall, besides “Sex and Candy” being overplayed ridiculously, the album is pretty good, with a solid 4 ½ stars out of 5.
Why not five? Because at times the album slowed with boring lyrics and repetitive acoustic chords, but got saved by the different styles introduced in one album.