Dust, the title of the first release from the Melomaniacs in their current line up of Kim Murray (guitar), Mike Marlin (vocals and guitar) and Paul Silver (keyboards and saxophone) was conceived on their 2017 journey across America as part of a larger performance project that includes film, photography and an illustrated book. If however you maybe think that “Dust” the musical soundtrack to all of the above needs to be experienced as part of the larger project then have no fears as the album, with lyrics by Mike Marlin, stands on its own merits as both a soundtrack and individual songs.
I reviewed one of the live performances of The Melomaniacs when they performed this album on stage with the film by the Scottish filmmaker Lee Archer playing behind them, and the combined result was impressive. This, however, is a review of the album on its own merits and, listening to it a few times and finally separating film image and audio images in my head, I have been surprised just how good the music and lyrics of Dust are in their own right, and how they can also tell a different story to the film. Dust is not just a soundtrack to a “road movie”, it also takes you on a far more personal journey of exploration into personal inner space, thoughts and feelings, and along the way some sharp commentary on modern day living and consumerism.
Musically, Dust the album is not only a combination of well-crafted lyrics and music to create some outstanding songs, but also an innovative exploration into many different layers of sound that remind me in parts of two of my favourite groups from earlier years –“Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark” and “The Velvet Underground”. Mike Marlin also has shades of Lou Reed in his own voice and vocal phrasing which suits these songs perfectly. Kim Murray provides some excellent guitar innovation here (as does Mike Marlin), but Paul Silver needs special mention for some expressive and interesting work on keyboards (and when required saxophone).
There is an illustrated book to go with this project which also has all of the song lyrics printed too as well as background information on them. For this review, I have though concentrated on the music alone, because you do not need to have the book as a reference. In some cases, this may be leading me to different experiences and interpretations than originally conceived by the group, by how the words and the music create imagery and stories. For me, all good music and lyrics (and this album is very good) need to have the ability to “talk” to their listener “one to one”.
Our title track and first song “Dust” sets the tone for the duality of this album. Yes, we can be talking about the dust on a desert highway road, but we are also referencing the dust in the corner of someone’s eye in our gently unfolding story here. Sleepless night, something we all know about, is humorously explored in the appropriately named “Sleep”. Biblical text also comes under the spotlight in “Eve”. Our modern day lifestyles and social aspirations in our consumer based society also come under Mike’s lyrical examination on” Lah Di Dah”.
Mike Marlin is a skilled lyricist and that is easily illustrated in “It’s Alright” with its nostalgic look back at growing up and life’s experiences…where did Britpop go to? However, for me, the most powerful song on this album is the last one, track 9, “Hopes and Fears”. There are so many questions of identity and personal relationships raised in this song, and do any of us “ever break free from the ties that bind us”? For good or bad, those ties shape us forever. Listen to the lyrics on all of the songs, but in this one in particular.
Dust” the music is part of a larger project, but was also conceived with enough skill to stand alone too.
Dust the album is launched on the 23rd of September at Roadhouse in Covent Garden, London. Dust is available in CD and vinyl record formats
Review by Tom King