Mike Marlin - Grand Reveal (Review)
Review by Jack Foley
MIKE Marlin is nothing if not distinct. With his gruff, Nick Cave-esque vocals and challenging lyricism, he’s also an artist in the classic mould who may be difficult to like for a lot of tastes.
But for those willing to listen, there is plenty to enthral while listening to his latest album, Grand Reveal.
The template is laid down from the start with the robust (and sometimes troubling) Skull Beneath The Skin, which combines deep vocals, edgy imagery and fiery guitar solos to compelling effect (evoking memories of both Nick Cave and The Stranglers). Indeed, Baz Warne is behind the guitar work!
Another former single, War To Begin drops chugging riffs and questioning lyrics to emerge as both a call to arms and a lament for lives lost on the battlefield courtesy of lines like: “I’ve been here before, standing in my uniform, waiting for this bloody war to begin”.
There’s a hypnotic quality to some songs, too. The Murderer broods magnificently over a bed of glockenspiel style beats (or wind-up toys) and atmospheric strings, while Forgive Me Yet has a blues-rock vibe that’s appealing, complete with bluegrass elements supplied by the inclusion of some banjo and even some foot-stomping soul and jazz (courtesy of brass).
Title track Grand Reveal is layered with lyrical ambiguity, spouting lines such as “I’m older than I look but younger than I feel” (displaying a laconic sense of humour), while Doesn’t Care has a satisfyingly aching sensibility about it (“if I was half the man you wanted me to be”) complete with nods to superheroes.
Just occasionally, Marlin’s style comes over a little too pensive and brooding, with the occasional track struggling to get going (despite being lyrically intelligent). Amazing is one example, the Cohen-esque Giving It All Away another.
The eight minute finale, To The Grave, ends things on an overly sombre note too.
Overall, however, this is a fascinating, often complex listen that deserves to be heard.
Download picks: War To Begin, Skull Beneath The Skin, The Murderer, Forgive Me Yet, Doesn’t Care