MIKE MARLIN – Album: Man On The Ground
Label: Amp Music Productions / Released 13th February 2012
Mike Marlin has ripped through 2011 being chosen as HMV ‘Next Big Thing’, releasing his debut album Nearly Man, touring the UK twice, singing disco with dwarves, smashing an office to pieces and vanishing for 3 months only to emerge triumphant with another eleven songs recorded in an undisclosed basement and mastered in Abbey Road.
It proceeds to build from verse to verse; Marlin’s Bowiesque vocals gets wider, the guitar more abandoned, more wanton. A wistful, endearing track with interplaying piano and strings, has just the right amount of intensity to enhance the song without dragging it down or making Marlin’s naturalistic vocal seem constrained or out of place. Producer Catherine Marks’ (co-writer of this song) masterful piano playing is outstanding throughout the album and brings this emotive piece to a beautiful end.
Marlin sings with such pent-up emotion and hope that the powerful up tempo track flies outward from the vocal, as if the direct result of inspiration drawn from it. Musically the piece is string-dominated and very lush and full with Marlin’s voice incising between; the scraping fade-out says it all
Co-written with Eleanor McEvoy, the impressionistic lyrics about ‘The King of Cool” are vivid but provocative, making them as curiously personal as phrases mumbled in sleep. They’re delivered in an airy, story-telling format that blends as naturally into the dreamy arrangements as a breeze rippling through tall grass. Keyboards and strings are fabulously imaginative and suggestive.
‘Lost & Found’
It has a mood of drifting solitude that’s just right at the end of a strange sad night when the manholes have been trying to bite you. Marlin’s melodies are seldom less than enchanting. Built around acoustic guitar and muffled percussion, they become emotionally charged when shaded by Parks’ poignant piano playing. The baritone quality to Marlin’s voice is not too distanced from Lou Reed’s dulcet tones at times.
Throbbing with similar aching beauty, whether obscurely introspective or groping outward, Marlin seems to be communing with a pantheistic spirit; he consistently charts this communion with stirring empathy and authenticity. The simple and effective arrangements set out the lyrics perfectly with vintage guitar-playing by Marlin.
‘Hymn to Disappointment’
Vocally, Marlin’s personality vibrates his precise musical framework like a caged tiger rattling its bars. (That he sings in a stiff, reedy voice, grasping for higher notes like a drowning man lunging for air, only heightens the drama.). Native-style drum beat suits the mood beautifully.
Marlin exposes his romanticism and its corollary. He perceives the shape of a loving relationship through the muck of his world and that perception only makes him sadder when considering the future possibilities of seeing her again. “But it would be better, if ever, I could see you again”. That lyric speaks a thousand words, which many of us can relate to. The song ends with a heart-rending, open tenderness, edging towards being my favourite track.
‘Girl From Chelsea Bridge’
This song is completely beyond higher, and is certainly the most appealing and incantatory of these spells. Arrangements that wed an understated musical freedom to the dignity of string quartets and a burst of ukulele make his music partly folk, partly art house. Working a single mood almost exclusively with ecstatic yearning; Marlin explores the logic and disorientation of youthful love, decision-making, ambition and the need for selfishness on both parts. “I had a suitcase full of faith” says it all, really.
A quivering piano and sympathetic guitar move around the melody line, peeking between his words while showing sky between his phrasings. Jarrod Pizatta’s drums provide the pulsating “Heartbeat” of the song and, of course, Marlin’s plaintive and gently weeping guitar vocal contribute immeasurably to this impression, especially when he delivers the line “Wherever I may go, I can fold our hearts together”
‘Grand Central Station’
It is a slow, deliberate ethereal introduction. Marlin captures moments of uncanny grace. His espresso-dark vocals with rough, rich textures make for a magical, evocative song. Trembling, sensual, whimsical tenderness; not too serious, not too sweet, not too angelic, but not ordinary, not surrendered to any one style.
‘Travel The World’
Especially vivid is Marlin’s sense of melancholy and the ingenious clusters of images he employs in his lyrics. He sings them as if the last thing he wants to do is to melodramatise his dilemma: “And I’m gonna travel the world, regather the dreams and the love that you stole”. A series of mood/tone changes between verses; the strings, for instance, get increasingly lush and fuller. A profoundly seductive song that is extraordinarily tender and made all the more beautiful by Irish singer Eleanor McEvoy’s gentle vocals and violin playing, blending perfectly with Marlin’s lost soul and Parks’ balletic piano skills.
Mike Marlin’s themes are often elementary, and the most common deal with the antinomies of trust and paranoia, love and hate, peace and anger, guilt and salvation. And in his best work, he particularises those conflicts in ways that force us to finally take the songs on a broader level than he may have intended. It is a most moving statement of the notion that in the end the only thing we can do is take a chance.
Marlin is rummaging through the attics of nostalgia; the persona that emerges from this autobiographical album is his own, one that is sardonic, vulnerable and emotionally charged. His voice is heart-breaking and honest in its rawness … a style that evokes an aura of crushed cigarettes and Bourbon in darkened bars with Sinatra singing One for My Baby.
Originally posted 2012-02-01 15:31:24. Republished by Blog Post Promoter