A sign of great music is when it makes you really feel what the musician feels, and makes you want to spend just a moment in his shoes, no matter how depressing. It’s what Mike Marlin does perfectly in his third album, Grand Reveal.
The first song, ‘Skull Beneath The Skin,’ sums this up perfectly. With the bluesy rock music and his gritty, baritone voice, it’s as if Marlin is going to hell and wants to drag you along for the ride – and he’s so seductive you actually want to go.
When you read his bio you’ll wish you had the chance to experience his whole life – it’s been an interesting one: in a traumatic accident, he lost an eye while playing in the garden, and afterwards found out just how cruel other kids can be. Somewhat of a child prodigy, he was awarded a scholarship to study physics at Oxford. He dropped out in his third year, but in the following decades started a series of technology businesses. He’d always secretly been writing songs, however; but it was only in 2009 that he was introduced to musician and producer James Durrant, and soon after he recorded his first album.
His songs are full of pain but in the fifth song, ‘Give It All Away,’ it seems he’s finally moving to a place where he can deal with it, only to revert to self-blame in the next song, ‘The Murderer’: “I hate to tell you but I know who the murderer might be…the murderer is me.” He’s much more positive on the eighth track, though that’s only when giving somebody else the advice to “keep on believing”: advice he himself seems unable to follow. In the penultimate song, ‘Doesn’t Care,’ he seems to have become numbed towards everything: “Don’t pray for me/God knows I don’t care.” This track also includes the superb lyrics, “When he handed out that superhero DNA/God left me out/I’m afraid to say.”
I like music that tells a story, and Marlin sure knows how to do that. Each song tells it’s own, often dark, story, and so too does the album as a whole. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Grand Reveal’s last track, ‘To The Gave,’ an overwhelmingly heartbreaking eight minute love song that’s about loss as much as it is love. In the first part he sombrely sings of being in love (“I love you/we’ll always be together/a love as strong as this/will go to the grave”) but in the second part things inevitably start to turn bad (“She wants to know if she’s gonna get better/but the man in the white coat/he don’t know”). In the final part, the lines “a love as strong as this/will go to the grave” take on a whole new, sad, and final meaning.
If you want music that makes you feel the musician’s pain and tenderness, then you must listen to Mike Marlin’s Grand Reveal. Marlin puts himself across as a disturbed, conflicted man and it makes for a fascinating, haunting album from which you’ll find new meanings on each listen. Also, check out his genius (and kind of disturbing – watch the music video) cover of Bee Gees’ ‘Stayin’ Alive.’
Grand Reveal will be re-released on 17th June.