On 6 June Denmark’s Mike Andersen will be making his debut in Cologne’s Yardclub. The life of a musician on the road. “Sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll”? If Home, his fifth album release is any proof, then things have changed since Ian Dury’s famous words. The very first line of the album’s first track titled ‘Water my plants’ sets the scene in fact for the dark brooding inside this hypnotic collection of songs: “Kiss goodnight over the phone. Hope and pray she’s there alone”.
Although ‘Home’ is not presented as a concept album there’s an order to the material that reads, to my ears anyway, like a book – and just like the best books, you can interpret the story how you wish. I see ‘Home’ as the story of a relationship breaking down through two people who spend too little time in the same town, never mind the same house. ‘Raindrop in a drought’ has a super mellow Hawaiian guitar in the back and hearing it makes me think of Eric Clapton’s acoustic phase. It reminds me also, as does much of this disc, of Clapton’s 1998 ‘Pilgrim’ disc in fact. A collection that was as dark as it was beguiling. One that EC announced was meant to be as sad as it was possible to make it – Music as catharsis from tragedy.
Back to Mike Andersen again and ‘The City of sin’ is about as up-tempo as things get, but they are still grim somehow. A City that Chandler and Hammett would have had shoestring detectives kept busy in. Bustling with sirens and noise. The City of sin is also where Ian Dury would have found his sex, drugs and rock n roll of course, and maybe it’s where spouses of touring musicians think their other halves are through much of the year, until finally those spouses find themselves asking ‘Do I know you?’ and the track of that name fittingly has a female vocal (Julie Michelsen) plaintively singing that very line. ‘Nothing Happened’ has a glorious little hook to it and some rasping horns in the background to propel it along, but it’s underlying theme is still a grey one. “Honestly, nothing happened!” but of course the nagging ‘Do I know you?’ remains.
‘Walk you home’ Is an uptempo soul song with an infectious gospel style. It has a swaggering bravado in it’s refrain. But is it what our hero is saying to the girl’s backstage after the show? Where exactly is this ‘Home’ the album title is all about anyway? Where the heart is, or where there is a bed and someone to wake up next to in the morning and leave?
Which is fittingly where we find ourselves with track 7 and ‘Won’t wake you up’ Musically it’s something the Everly Brothers might have sung after they’d outgrown their teenage ‘angst’ to have it replaced by adult ‘angst’. Some bluesy guitar for a bluesy feeling, time to leave for good. There’s still hope though in ‘Take it out on me’ and the promise “Trust I’ll be here still”
The truth is though that our hero is ‘Mr Drifter’ . A man “At the top of my game” but living in a world where “Only the lonely come around here”. It’s all enough to give a man the Blues – and indeed that’s where we inevitably find ourselves with ‘Hometown Blues’ and a superb soul fueled vocal. What happens when you never go home? When finally you return, things have changed, or is it you that’s changed? “There was a time two and two was four. Now nothings that simple anymore…”
I love this disc for the way it draws the listener in, lyrically as much as musically. For certain ‘Home’ has an intensity about it that just like Clapton’s heart tearing‘Pilgrim’ release makes each song as beguiling as it is tragic. This is without doubt a man at the top of his musical and lyrical game. A dark and soulful voice in a dark and sometimes soulless world. The irony is of course that exceptional discs like this one are likely to have Mike living the life of ‘Mr Drifter’ more than ever.
Prepare to have your heart-strings firmly plucked when Mike Andersen plays at Cologne’s Yardclub on 6 June, and don’t be surprised if you catch Mike staring longingly at the cover as he signs your CD – it’s a picture of the man himself out on his terrace – at home.
Mike Andersen – Yardclub, Cologne 6 June CONCERT DETAILS HERE