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Marcy Playground shrugs its way to the head of the class

Wozniak's equally convincing when his memories get crowded by hallucinations. "Opium," for example, is an appropriately blurred and spacey look at the "blue like heaven" effects of opiates, and "A Cloak of Elvenkind" finds Wozniak doing his best Syd Barrett, replete with double-tracked vocals, stuttered meter and talk of "16 books on magic spells stacked below the cloak of elves."

Effete? Maybe. Effective? Definitely so.
"Songwriting for me is a process of elimination," Wozniak says. "It's finding what doesn't suck and spending as much time as possible creating something that, to my mind, doesn't suck. It's not that I'm trying to create something great, but something that's not bad."

Wozniak figures his songcraft is enhanced by living in New York, if only by osmosis. He says there's a "total community" of musicians in the area, especially Brooklyn, where lower rents attract artists who once would have migrated to Manhattan. He says the scene in Brooklyn is so tight that one or two people can play in six or seven different bands. Every once in a while, someone will wander off to L.A. in hopes of a better shot at a record contract. Wozniak knows the temptation. He tried it once.

"I hated it," he says of L.A. "It was just too big. I don't drive, I don't have a license, so I was trapped. New York is perfect for that kind of thing--you just hop on a subway, grab a cab or walk wherever you need to go. Also, New York is a little more downtown, you know what I mean? A little less showy. I've never been about showy. But it was nice weather, I guess."

The weather in Arizona is nice, too, and Marcy Playground's performance at Gibson's this week will be the young band's fourth appearance in the Valley. Previous shows included opening for the likes of Chalk Farm, Laszlo Bain and other acts that recently registered blips on the pop lifeline and then disappeared. Commercial music in general, and pop music in particular, is currently being dominated by such one-hit wonders, acts that grab at increasingly limited attention spans and hold on for as long as possible before giving way to the next new and disposable thing. Marcy Playground seems ripe for such categorization, and some critics forecast a brief resume for the band. Wozniak respectfully disagrees.

"You really have to gauge the depth of the album," he says. "If the album is deep, it's not gonna go away. But if it's a really shallow single and the rest of the album is all garbage, then you're looking at a one-hit wonder."

Wozniak offers Sublime as a good example of an act that hung around on radio despite being a ghost band, its leader having died of a drug overdose before the CD was released. "That whole record is amazing," Wozniak says. "It's not the kind of music I usually listen to, but it has such a unique quality. It doesn't surprise me they've milked it for everything it's worth."

But Sublime was a commercial and critical success. Marcy Playground still has to live down the occasional rock-crit naysayers--like, say, that aforementioned slash and burn in Rolling Stone. Wozniak, as usual, says he can't be bothered.

"Our music is for people who get it," he says. "I'm going to write the songs I'm going to write no matter what. I do this in a very selfish way."

He pauses: "And you know what? Those scathing reviews? Sometimes they're enlightening. Like, one of the things that guy said in Rolling Stone was something about being stuck in hippie lingo. And I'm like, 'Yeah, right on, man.' I'm absolutely stuck in hippie lingo. As a matter of fact, I think hippie lingo is groovy."

Marcy Playground is scheduled to perform on Tuesday, February 17, at Gibson's in Tempe, with Lincoln. Showtime is 8 p.m.

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