I remember hearing Mercy a few months back and loving its slow-burning charm, the bounce of the lyrics, and how it quickly transitioned from a lilting folk-infused piece to a bad-ass, old-school college rock blowout. Neat. 

So to have a full five-song Salvo in the form of the Grass is Greener EP is welcome. The title track opens, and again, the lyrics have that same honest street poetry feel as the song struts and swaggers along, the same slow evolution from the minimal to the masterful, the same punch and pathos. 

Any song which starts, “Well, I lost my job, so they towed my car,” might sound like it is going to be another whining emo song, then nothing could be further from the truth, and you find that the opening line is just a device to push the theme home. The theme is that it is okay to fail, that we all get it wrong, our lives occasionally come off the rails. But that is fine; that is just part of life’s rich pageant. But the idea that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence is just wrong.

So having established Mike as a poetic and philosophical writer who often uses stark and everyday imagery to make his point, we head on into the EP proper. 

Please Don’t Leave reminds me of the sort of song that the likes of Arlo Guthrie might have written, sparse, whistful, fragile, and fractured, and as references go, that is a pretty cool one. Again, a song struggling with the trials and tribulations of relationships. Again a piece which wanders between sparse acoustica and a more texturally rich sound.

Love Like This is spacious and sentimental, a one-hundred-and-eighty-degree turn from the previous songs, which look at life through a more fractured filter. Here he does nothing less than a complete declaration of love in its truest form, though still with reference to shattered hearts, reminding us that Mike deals in reality and paints life in its botched and bungled glory rather than idealised notions. But still, he acknowledges that love can be the answer; perhaps we only sometimes know entirely what the question is.

American Dream is a satirical look at the realities of that mythical concept. He sees it as a play in which those choosing to participate chase such a notion. An act. An Artifice. A signing on to be a crew member in a Ship of Fools. But why have freedom of speech if no one has anything worthwhile to say? Why have a good job if it doesn’t pay the bills? Why chase this idealised concept just because the people at the top tell you to? Why pursue freedom when you don’t know what to do with it when you get it?

And that brings us back to where we came in. Mercy. That lilting and deftly wrought song was my introduction to his confused and complex world, with its ironic self-deprecation, its gradual build into heavy guitars and anthemic crys—the perfect way to round the ep off.

A great suite of songs and the calling card of a singularly original and intriguing lyricist.

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