Mike Marlin- Nearly Man
There has been something I've thought about Mike Marlin and his debut "Nearly Man" that I've not been able to shake off from the very first second I heard the album. And what I am about to say is in no way, shape or form a derogatory comment. Here it is. I can fully imagine these songs being performed live on 'Jools Holland's Hootenanny'. Don't pull that face. It's good enough for Seasick Steve, Paul Weller and Roger Daltrey so it isn't a bad thing at all. Just listen to 'In The Basement' or 'Play That Game' and tell me you can't imagine the broad, beardy frame of Mike Marlin being backed up by the Rhythm and Blues Orchestra. It's written in the stars. But for now, his band The Whethermen do the business just fine.
Annual televised New Year celebrations aside, this is a very involving debut offering. The influences in his sound are strikingly clear; the parallels to Bowie being so obvious that it's outrageous to think it could potentially get boring for Marlin to hear that name being brought up. It's there though, that slight edge in the baritone vocal. It becomes clearest in tracks like 'Not Perfect' in a subtle quivering falter that crops up now and again. Then there's the distant and distorted twang driving 'Undercover Genius' which makes Marlin sound like he could be Ziggy Stardust's second-cousin-twice-removed. Either that or a songwriter who would have worked well with a '13' era Blur.
The bluesy sound coming from the synths with the rugged, trundling beats produces a good, hearty, folk-rock feel. Instrumentally, there is a sprawling array of sounds, with the addition of trumpets, occasional xylophone and a style of backing vocal that brings to mind the positive warmth of The Hold Steady. Lyrically, Marlin ploughs into every track the wealth of experience garnered from the fifty years that led him to releasing his debut album. It makes for a very real and relatable journey that you can either choose to engage in, or just sit back and appreciate the aural quality of his storytelling. As a chronic procrastinator the rather amusing poetry in the words of 'Guilty' struck a chord in particular... and will no doubt have a similar effect on a lot of people. The pace is chilled but the variety of sound never lets the record lull. This is a very enjoyable listen from a guy who has definitely earned his chance to share what he has to say. Title track "Nearly Man" will probably best explain why. Just have a listen.