I know Michael Rattray a little. A rare, intimate live appearance last year brought a tear to my eye whilst our occasional communication has shown him to be a gentle man with a kind and generous soul. He also exudes both creative talent and wit in abundant, generous measures. But, this artistic flair and admirable disposition hide – as is often the case with a rare talent – a darker side, a more troubled man filled with personal foibles and a heavy soul. This side of Michael’s persona is opened up and exposed at its fullest in his new album Human Life.
Whilst Human Life reveals Michael’s inner turmoil, unveiling his personal demons to the listener, it’s done with such honesty and beauty that its affect is both gut wrenching and uplifting. The former as you can feel his heart desperate for love, his mind searching for answers and his soul suffering in his quest for both. Yet the album is laced with hope, with heavy doses of positivity despite life’s constant pressure clearly weighing heavy on his shoulders. In ‘Got This Far’ and ‘Here Comes The Silence’ it’s not just the message that offers hope and positivity, the music matches the mood too with Lightning Seeds slices of pop-perfection.
“This world was meant for me with all its faults and charms… They say it’s not the destination it’s the ride / so turn off your virtual world there’s a beautiful one right outside” – ‘Here Comes The Silence’
Listening to such hopeful prose lifts the heart as it lets you know that despite the battle, there is an optimism and belief that any doubts and worries will disappear. Most of all, love regularly rears its longed for but yet unattained head, but as always there is hope, and with the beautifully poignant homage to Nick Drake the message sounds perfectly autobiographical, “He doesn’t love no-one it’s tragic / he loves melody and magic” – ‘The Ghost of Nick Drake’. However, with music carrying such emotion, it is when the desolation hits you hardest that Human Life has the biggest impact – it’s when the album is at its most moving and sentimental and when it’s at its best.
Human Life is bookended with perfect piteous and melancholic impact. In the wonderfully emotionally-drenched opener Michael gets straight to the nub, “Oh universe, what to do with this brain / I don’t wanna know the sunshine from the rain again… Show me somewhere that I can belong.” ‘New Shoots’, Getting Up’ and in particular ‘Porcelain’ are album highlights, all sung with incredibly passionate fragility and backed by perfect, simple guitar. These songs are far more than sad ballads, as well as hitting the senses hard they are brilliantly melodic and impeccably performed.
If there is one over-riding theme to be taken away from Human Life it’s Michael’s despairing need yet ever-hopeful search for love. Closing track ‘Life Without Love’ is a stunning and intense finale, gone is the perfectly beautiful tone, in its place is more pain, more hurt, more despair…
“I’ve spent the best years of this life / just trying to find some peace of mind/ for all this trouble all this time / I need a reason why”
“Oh Lord send me down some hope / send it down from above / and Lord your greatest crime of all / is life without love”
Human Life is a deep voyage into one man’s inner turmoil and despair. It’s sensitive, affecting, and amongst the search for love and reassurance shines brightly a magnificently ethereal album full of hope.