25 Mar 2023

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Marlon Williams - Album Review: My Boy

06 Sep 2022 // A review by Roger Bowie

Shit, Marlon’s gone poppy. Not just My Boy. The whole album. Tall Poppy. What should we do? Round Up and spray (it’s the Kiwi way)?

Back off buddy, we could see this coming, in spite of 2020’s little Plastic Bouquet, which anchored him in his glorious past, albeit hiding meekly behind Kacy & Clayton (it’s not really me, it’s just me helping them out….)

Back off, we saw this coming even earlier, masquerading as a heartbreak album, back in 2018, Make Way For Love was hybrid pop, heartache ballads with just a touch of country. Love is after all a terrible thing, and we needed a Party Boy to cheer us up and reassure us. Marlon Williams hasn’t left (the) country, he’s just distracted.

And back off again, we saw this coming at the Hollywood Avondale in March 2021 when Marlon the actor/entertainer enthralled with a cabaret performance which varied from despondent to delirious, sublime to hilarious, as he journeyed through his past, his present and his whakapapa. But even then, it was indie folk, according to one review, perhaps avoiding the unfolding catastrophe.

Until now.

It’s obvious.

Marlon’s gone pop.

Or maybe we have just been blinded by nostalgia and Marlon has moved on to where Marlon wants to go. And why not? His voice is the most beautiful instrument, and most virtuosos get to play what they like on their instrument and nobody cares, everybody follows. Maybe we’re just catching up?

So, follow Marlon Williams to where My Boy takes us, and see where we end up. Not all pop is bad, is probably a good place to start. Remember The Beatles?

This is an album full of masculinity according to the only child, which is a refreshingly mainstream take on gender, but subsumed according to Marlon by whirling emotions and memories, not all of them intact.

My Boy, a self-described simple song with a Maori strum, and could be a mother to her son, could have been written by the Beatles in a Motown studio.

Easy Does It, the closest the album gets to country, closest he gets to his past, similar doo-wop beat, she does it every time, but with a dreamy texture.

River Rival goes electro, 80’s synth plinth scaling behind an insistent beat.

My Heart the Wormhole   evokes memories of his father and the complicated nature of father son dynamics…..when laconic brevity misconstrues.

Princes Walk channelling his inner Brian Wilson, you can’t help but Smile.

Don’t Go Back repeats the stop start rhythm which opens the album as Marlon is urged not to go back to the party (it might be the country party, but I may be over obsessing). Straight from Bowie’s Let’s Dance (there’s a lot of Bowie on this record).

Soft Boys Make the Grade (or do they?) A highlight for sure.

Thinking of Nina, could be Hagen or Simone, could be Brian Ferry and proxy music but wrong on all counts, it’s a real-life espionage scenario playing out. “I believe in love” even if she is a Russian spy.

Morning Crystals dives back to the 60s a song which Brian Wilson could have written with Pauls McCartney and Simon (wouldn’t that be something). Soothing shuffle beat modernises and crystalizes the Polynesian influence. Potpourri.

Two ballads close us out. Trips is a journey, regret and concern about the captain, but it’s not my fault I was born this way. High drama on the seas. And getting fed up (probably with those fools who still want me to sing country).

And yet another ballad, but this is very special: Promises, a song written by Barry Gibb for Streisand, but waiting all these years for Marlon the crooner to interpret and sensationalise. I happened upon a You Tube demo by Barry, with his falsetto grating like a fingernail on a blackboard and the Streisand version with its disgusting disco beat and I ask you to judge. Is this worth the wait? No contest, (promise).

11 songs. Short songs. Pop rock songs. Ballads and beat. Recorded at the Roundhead with our very own Tom Healy after earlier sessions with Merk. A new band, including Cass Basil and Feist drummer Paul Taylor. Continuity with appearances from Delaney and Dave Khan. A potpourri of influences spanning 60’s and 80’s and a clear shift in shape for our Lyttleton lad. Marlon may be his own man but he’s still our boy, and if you are still concerned if not confused by the journey, we only have to be reminded of that other, more famous (so far) chameleon of colour and contrast who is also on this record (in style and spirit) to remind ourselves of the potential.

Could My Boy be Marlon’s Hunky Dory? Fine by me.

Suspend your disbelief. Enjoy the journey…

My Boy is out this Friday on Dead Oceans.

Rating: ( 5 / 5 )

About Marlon Williams

Marlon Williams won his first singing competition at the age of 11 at Lyttelton Main School and was stuck trying to balance the seesaw of his love for the lost souls of bluegrass and hellfire with his deep reverence for sacred choral music.

This set the course for his teenage years as he not only formed The Unfaithful Ways winning the best song award in 2008 , but toured Europe with the Catholic Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament Choir, supporting the Vienna Boys Choir.

The Unfaithful Ways first album, made album of the year, and went to the finals of the critics choice awards, causing perennial cynic Simon Sweetman to state “There have been a few Kiwi alt-country/folk ensembles in recent years; many of them seem to lack authenticity…But The Unfaithful Ways have found a way in; there’s something utterly believable about this music; that it should come from New Zealand and channel a version of Americana.”

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Marlon Williams


My Boy
Year: 2022
Type: Album
Plastic Bouquet w/ Kacy & Clayton
Year: 2020
Type: Album
Live At Auckland Town Hall
Year: 2019
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Make Way For Love
Year: 2018
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Marlon Williams
Year: 2016
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
Live At La Niche
Year: 2013
Type: Album

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