A lot of you might remember the song Sex And Candy from around 1998. As I remember, this was the only song that made an impact on the mainstream before the band returned to the shadows. It was a popular song, but I didn't think that much of it at the time. I heard a few other songs and a live recording on a not-so-mainstream radio station, and that's what got me interested in the band.
On Marcy Playground's first album, the main musicians are John Wozniack (guitar and vocals) and Jared Kolter (bass/drums most of the time) but they chop and change between about 5 different members for bass and drums between the songs on here. There is also a guest appearance of cello in one song.
This is an album of alternative rock with some folk influences, some dark pop (perhaps like Eels music), and a little bit of experimenting. There is nothing too flash to report, just some easy to listen to music. The songs are quite short, only three break the 3 minute mark. The lyrical theme is kind of dark and deviant, probably why they didn't do too well in the mainstream. Songs about drugs, being picked on, and some plain trippy lyrics that I don't feel like trying to understand.
Track by track!
is a fun, melodic and very catchy song, it's a story of how the British went to India to loot gold, but found their stash of Poppies much better instead. It's a nice opener, but not very representative of the music to follow. 4.5/5
Sex And Candy
would be the first and last Marcy Playground song that most people have heard. It has a sleazy feel to it, I can't explain it, it's all in the feeling. It's suitably catchy while being subdued, effectively showcasing the band's overall sound on this album. The video for this song was quite weird. 4/5
Ancient Walls Of Flowers
is a rather laid-back, bluesy piece and the lyrics were probably written while they where high. There's a cool guitar solo in this song too, nothing super flash, but it shows that John is capable of more than what he usually plays. I probably should listen to this more than I do. 3.5/5
Saint Joe On The School Bus
is the one about being picked on. The music has a dark quality about it, yet it's still catchy, especially in the chorus. This is one of the songs I liked from early on. Not bad for straight-forward rock. 4/5
A Cloak Of Elvenkind
. Just a strange little folk song about magic and elves which goes nowhere for me. They change between 4/4 and 6/8 a few times, that's the highlight for me... Not bad, but it's easily skippable. 2/5
, written for John's love, is a simple, catchy and upbeat song with a bit of a country vibe. He misses his Sherry Fraser, and he wants her to come back soon. There's no indication where she has gone, but that's a matter for the police, not me. The part referencing Alice in Wonderland sounds nice.
. It's a slow song, and it sounds a bit dull, but the bass playing in this is pretty cool. Lyrically, this could continue from Sherry Fraser, it could also continue from some bong hits. Sadly, the boring parts of the song overshadow the good parts. Another skippable song. 2.5/5
, a drugged out state of bliss in musical form. The most indie sounding track on here, it's so slow and mellow, really nice to listen if you want to relax. Yes, it's about taking opium and the resulting high. Good to hear some powering up in the music half way through. 3.5/5
One More Suicide
. Another folk song, dreary as the name suggests, although these aren't actually suicides as the newspaper reports it. It features a well done cello, including a short solo. Still, it's a dreary track that I skip sometimes. 3/5
Dog And His Master
is another very catchy song. One of the few glimmers of fun on the album, again with a hint of country. The lyrics about growing up are carefree, it even features part of the "Indians" song (1 little, 2 little, 3 little Indians...). Sadly, it's the shortest song on here. 4/5
The Shadow Of Seattle
, in my opinion, is where John lets loose with his ideas about pushing the boundaries of art. It's the strangest song on here, kind of grungy sounding which fits the name. It must have featured a guitar solo section which was cut from the song. A few seconds of it appear at the very end of the track. 3.5/5
The Vampires Of New York
. More of the folk sound. The lyrics are generally about seeing New York and the characters that emerge at night, but focusing on those dark, shady, evil characters, "you might even see a murder." The sudden ending is probably the most perverted thing on the album, "watch your step as you're getting off kids," as if it was a tour for them. But then again, kids these days are exposed to lots of stuff. It's a clever ending conceptually, but it's a real musical anticlimax. 3/5
This album shows the artistic leanings of a band who haven't quite figured it out yet. It seems they dabbled in the mainstream for a bit of exposure while they worked on their artsy apprenticeship. Some of the songs are good, some are too dull. Almost all of the songs finish as soon as the last line is sung, which works sometimes, but makes it feel rushed in many cases.
At 35 minutes, it's over quickly, which probably isn't so bad considering some of it. They built the dark mood very well, even trivialized and rationalized these situations, which I never picked until doing this review. The mood, however, only makes up part of an album, I feel the music still needed quite a bit of work before it should have been considered complete.
Overall - 2.5/5