“Shapeshifter” is the follow-up to the band’s self-titled premiere album which achieved platinum status and rocketed the band into temporary stardom with its biggest single, “Sex & Candy.” If you’ve never heard of Marcy Playground for any other reason, I’m almost positive everyone reading this review has heard that song.
With no “Sex & Candy,” to drive sales of “Shapeshifter” beyond the stratosphere, most people have never heard of this album. This obviously meant less commercial success for Marcy Playground’s second album, but critical acclaim was higher and more deserving than ever. In fact, many critics including myself consider this to be the best album Marcy Playground has ever released, which makes it a shame that the album is so obscure.
The most notable evolution from the self-titled album to “Shapeshifter” is the much heavier, far more electric sound the band presents throughout the album. Where their first release was almost purely acoustic, “Shapeshifter” drives a much harder sound to deliver more energy and an overall more accessible sound. Keep in mind that even though the different sound is “heavier,” it is still some of the most mellow music you’ll listen to.
The disc starts off strong with “It’s Saturday,” the album’s first-released single which peaked at around number 25 on the charts and earned itself a small amount of radio time. Following closely behind was “Bye Bye,” the second and less popular singles which achieved almost no radio-play whatsoever, which is very unfortunate because both of these songs are absolutely amazing.
In fact, all of the songs on this album are amazing with the exception of one. “Love Bug.” It isn’t a bad song really, it’s just the worst on this album. Featuring an awkward guitar riff with an overly heavy amount of gain and a high wah effect makes track seem overly out of place when compared to everything else that composes the album’s meat.
As far as my personal favorites go, I find myself to be quite fond of “Secret Squirrel,” a song about the old Cartoon Network show by the same name that played alongside “2 Stupid Dogs.” My other absolute favorite tracks include “Wave Motion Gun,” “Pigeon Farm,” “Rebel Soldville,” and “Our Generation.” And of course “All the Lights Went Out,” which my girlfriend and I consider “our song.”
Before closing out the review I thought I’d share a quick fun fact with you. “Shapeshifter’s” album artwork was actually done by Paul Leary from The Butthole Surfers for their album that was eventually cancelled. When Leary saw Marcy Playground using his art as their cover, he was outraged and called the band out on their theft of his artwork on their website forum. In the end it turns out Capitol Records, once home of both bands, simply kept the rights to the art and pitched it to Marcy Playground for their new album’s art.
- It’s Saturday (+)
- Bye Bye (+)
- All the Lights Went Out (<3)
- Secret Squirrel (+)
- Wave Motion Gun (+)
- Rebel Soldville(+)
- Sunday Mail
- Pigeon Farm (+)
- Never (-)
- Love Bug
- Our Generation (+)
With “Shapeshifter,” Marcy Playground achieved an even higher level of excellence than they did with their first release, which is no easy task. The overall sound of the album is now much harder, but the music is still easy listening at its finest. Calm vocals singing powerful lyrics accompany masterfully-written instrumentals to achieve a sound that no one else has. “Shapeshifter” is Marcy Playground at their finest.
Score: 9.6/10 (Amazing)
Lyrics: 9.5/10 (Jon Wozniak is a fantastic song writer)
Music: 9.75/10 (More electric than their last effort yet just as peaceful. Some of the best music I’ve ever heard)
Entertainment Value: 9.5/10 (12 tracks plus 1 hidden song, you can listen to the entire album through multiple times in a row and still be fascinated with it)