Mike Marlin is a favourite with us here at Call Upon the Author, and with jolly good reason. We loved his first album Nearly Man for it’s swagger, kinks and personality: and so did HMV, who named Mike their 2011 ‘Next Big Thing’, despite him being neither young nor trendy. We very much enjoyed his live performances, which were individual and brilliant, and won him many a new fan. We loved talking to Mike, and confirming that there is a cracking personality to back up the music. We love his beard and his smoking jacket. Imagine our joy, therefore, to find out that Mike’s new album, Man On The Ground, is due for release on 13th February, and imagine how perky I was to get the album for review!
Unfortunately, and there’s just no getting away from it, while this is a good album, it doesn’t live up to the promise of Nearly Man â€“ and I’m sad about it. I think the problem (for me, and it may not be for anyone else) is that this album feels much more careful, and a lot less humorous than Mike’s first. Of course, he still has the great voice and the smart lyrics, but there is a sense of fun missing here: you feel that Mike wasn’t enjoying himself nearly as much. The slow songs feel more dirge-like, and the upbeat songs aren’t anywhere near as cheery as his previous offerings. There has been an upswing in production levels and while you can hear the work that has gone in, this has actually detracted from the ramshackle charm which allowed Mike’s talent to shine through on Nearly Man.
There are a few crackers on here: The Magician is wistful and lovely, and The Girl From Chelsea Bridge is a jaunty little number which is great fun to hum along to. Also, it’s fair to say that there actually aren’t any bad songs on here, and individually they are all pretty good â€“ it’s just that this slightly more sombre approach definitely does not work as well as the Mike we have come to know and love for his irreverent cheeky charm.
In conclusion, I like it â€“ and if this were his first album, I may have liked it more… but this feels like difficult second album syndrome to me. Sorry Mike. Love you.