Getting old. It happens to us all. It also creeps up on us quicker than we could ever expect. One minute you are bouncing about on the stage at CBGB’s playing to like-minded gutter-punks and rock ‘n’ roll rebels, the next it is just a fading memory. And at that point, you start to get reflective and think about what it all meant anyway. At least if you are Mike Shannon you do at least.
Essentially, Giant in My Mind, perhaps a reference to the young person’s image of themself, is an album of reflection, soul-searching and quests for deeper meaning. And whilst many of the songs found here take in memories and the passage of time, they also reference the world that we also find ourselves in today and how that might not be the one that the alternative creatives, the movers and shakers of those formative years thought that they were helping to shape.
Musically the album is built around a core of understated alternative, acoustic-driven rock, peppered with pop sensibilities and plenty of post-punk/new wave musical motifs. But, as the best music often is, it is about laying down a simple central idea, unfussy chords and direct musical communication and, from that starting point deftly dressing things up. Songs such as Can’t Find The Tears pretty much show you this process taking place – a straight-forward, folky guitar is slowly joined by gentle beats, chiming piano, guiding bass lines and shimmering sonics, all adding tone and texture but never distracting from the heart of the song.
Pain is hazy and honest, powerful and poignant, My Cowboy is sweet and seductive and Money To Burn is odd and left of centre. But what really sets the album apart from the pack is the vocal component. Not only does Mike have a gorgeously world-weary sound, one that understands that it is the character, not production which makes a voice interesting but he also has plenty to say.
Often, what he has to say borders on heartbreaking. It tells of love, longing, loss and of a life well-lived. It also documents the heartache and the whistful, occasionally sad, reflections in no uncertain terms. But alongside those thoughts about hard times, there are plenty of emotive highs when talking of the people he has loved and the memories that life has bestowed upon him.
This is an album that tells it like it is, and does so with an honesty that few writers, certainly in the music field, are brave enough to do commit to song. And the real silver-lining of finding that years have passed in the blink of an eye is realising that you have lived a life full enough to be able to write a whole album of songs this rich and reflective, this vulnerable and vibrant, this sweet and sentimental. And that is Mike Shannon’s real gift.