On their riveting and keenly-anticipated fourth album, Leaving Wonderland... in a fit of rage, Marcy Playground return to action in triumphant fashion. Armed with songs born of an intense and turbulent period in his life, MP’s main man, singer/guitarist John Wozniak, has fashioned a record that digs deep, taking the listener on an exhilarating and satisfying emotional and musical rollercoaster ride. Its creator is justifiably proud of his accomplishment, calling it “by far the best thing I’ve ever done. This is the most personal record I’ve ever made, and I think it’s the thing that will connect most with other people.”
A highly original and melodic modern rock band, Marcy Playground exploded onto the scene back in 1997 with the insanely irresistible hit single “Sex And Candy,” a song that notched [a then-record] fifteen consecutive weeks at number one on Billboard’s U.S. Modern Rock tracks chart… and a self-titled debut album that went on to sell 1.7 million copies. Subsequent albums Shapeshifter (1999) and Marcy Playground 3 (”MP3”) (2004), while commercially obscure by comparison, showcased two periods of tremendous creative evolution for the group, and have gone on to enjoy something of “cult classic” status among the band’s many loyal fans.
Over the last 10 years, Wozniak has spent a lot of time in the recording studio, on the other side of the microphones, honing his production skills. As owner and operator of famed Vancouver recording studio ‘Mushroom’ from 1999 to 2006, Wozniak recorded and produced Marcy’s third album “MP3”, as well as albums by the likes of Canadian rock bands Stabilo, (including the hit “Everybody”), and The Weekend’s “Beatbox My Heartbeat.” During those years Mushroom also witnessed the birth of hit records from the likes of Mudhoney, Matthew Good, Tegan and Sara, Sam Roberts, Hot Hot Heat, as well as Daniel Powter’s multi-platinum self-titled debut album on Warner Bros., produced by Mitchell Froom and Vancouver producer Jeff Dawson. It was Jeff Dawson’s work at Mushroom, on Powter’s pre-production sessions, which initially attracted Wozniak’s ear, and eventually led to a collaboration on Leaving Wonderland... in a fit of rage. Powter himself contributes a fluent piano track to one of Leaving Wonderland‘s stand-out songs, “Gin And Money”, while such notable Vancouver studio players as Darren Paris, Niko Friesen, Simon Kendall, Mark Wilde and Dave Pickell are also featured.
“I think Jeff is largely responsible for why all these songs work together the way they do” says Wozniak. “Having him in the studio allowed me to focus on the creative elements of the songs, the nuances and the performances, and leave most of the production details up to him. We had a difference of opinion here and there, but it resulted in us putting our heads together to come up with something even better than either of us would have come up with alone. It really helped to have that extra brain and set of ears in the studio.”
Dawson’s technical prowess and the work of mastering maestro Bob Ludwig ensure Leaving Wonderland… maintains a polished sonic consistency while demonstrating a huge dynamic sweep in the style of its material. Eclecticism has always been a Marcy Playground signature, to the point that Wozniak admits that “I honestly don’t know how to describe my music. We don’t have a specific genre, so I just call it all rock n roll.”
The sense of a spiritual quest, a personal emotional journey, is evocatively explored on Leaving Wonderland. The haunting and sparse “Irene” and “Memphis” possess an intimate and rootsy feel light years away from the aggressive sound of tunes like “Gin And Money,” “I Burned The Bed,” and “Emperor,” numbers Wozniak laughingly calls “our big rock songs.” His open-hearted and unaffected vocal style shines on the gently affecting ballads “Good Times,” “Thank You” (“you are the reason I’m the man you see today”), and “Blackbird,” a tender homage to his wife, while the catchy and light-hearted feel of “Star Baby” screams out for radio play.
The fact that Marcy Playground have always operated outside the musical fashion of the day has helped give their songs a timeless feel. Their material has been featured on such soundtracks as Cruel Intentions, Simply Irresistible, Jay And Silent Bob Strike Back (the 2004 MP single “Deadly Handsome Man”) and, most recently, Zack And Miri Make A Porno. For the latter film, the now classic “Sex And Candy” proved a perfect choice.
With the release of Leaving Wonderland. Marcy Playground are itching to get back on the road to both reconnect with their loyal audience and attract new fans. Joining Wozniak and bassist Dylan Keefe is new drummer, Shlomi Lavie. Wozniak is also compiling a collection of Marcy Playground B-sides and rarities for release later this year, so 2009 promises to be a banner year for the band.
So what are you waiting for? Here’s a Playground and a Wonderland that demands exploration.