A good song tells a story. Perhaps it is the story of lost love, or found love. Maybe it’s the story of political unrest or the need for acceptance. It could be a story of childhood, or of what the future might hold. Generally, though, it is not a short history of the ancient trade routes of the Orient. Thus, let us begin what may well be a monthly, totally new and totally exciting and not at all self-important series on song topics that go a bit past the expected and land squarely in “huh?” territory. This month, we will chat a bit about Marcy Playground.
Marcy Playground’s self-titled album could easily have been the least offensive album to ever concern parents–if it had been better known. The lead single said “sex” a whole bunch, totally nonchalantly. Another track talks about suicide, and no less than two others directly reference opium. The Morality Brigade, if they bothered reading the tracklist, would have plenty of reasons to flip their proverbial shit. Maybe that’s why the band is best known, if not exclusively known, for that first single, “Sex and Candy.” That is, of course, conjecture. I recall no such backlash. Still, it’s a shame it remained so under-explored, not only because the album is overall not remotely controversial, but also because it is one of the greatest CDs you can scrounge up for a buck in just about any used record store across the nation. All this, and it’s even educational!
“Poppies” itself is about three minutes of crunch-pop perfection, opening the album with its bouncy, fuzzed-out intro riff and proceeding into one of the most basic chord progressions in rock (a sort of modified I-IV-V). It is ostensibly about opium, make no mistake, but unlike most drug songs, the content is not about the joys or pains of consumption, but the origins of its discovery. In its content, there are echoes of the spice trade and the silk road. Where the average drug anthem has a film of filth over it, no matter the perspective, “Poppies” speaks only to the wealth being traded in this era. The images conjured up are sumptuous: gossamer, tea, gold, all float through the narrative. As for the poppies themselves, Jon Wozniak doesn’t commit one way or the other. The discovery of the poppy, and the opium derived from it, “seals the fate” of the world, and yet causes people to “smile one more time.” His report on the effects of the drug are second-hand. It is, largely, a supremely simplified history, a dispassionate account… it makes little to no sense in the canon of rock n’ roll, where emotion and opinion is valued, and where frequently the goal is forging ahead, not looking back. Yet here it is, the opening salvo from a band’s debut. It is anyone’s guess what a listener back in the day, had they come across the CD not through “Sex and Candy” but as an impulse purchase, a CD review, or a perusal for inclusion on a college radio station, would have made of that particular entry point. The music begs to be embraced. The content, on the other hand, has the potential to leave the listener confused as best. I suppose it remains for you to weigh in yourself.
Comments are closed.