View Single Post
Old 09-25-2011, 11:23 AM   #296 (permalink)
Trollheart
Nobody likes my music
 
Trollheart's Avatar
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: In Cognito
Posts: 21,742
Default


It's always bugged me that there is one Marillion album I could never get into, despite repeated listenings and some real effort on my part. You see, I've been a Marillion fan since 1982, and have followed them from their first release, “Script for a jester's tear” (which still ranks in my estimation as one of the best, if not the best debut albums ever), and have watched them go through lineup changes, changes in musical direction and changes in the way they sell their records. I have never, or had never, up to this album, been less than delighted with any of their releases, never mind satisfied. Disappointment was not a word I associated with Marillion, except in the case where there was to be no new album for a few years.

But their 2007 effort, “Somewhere else”, let me down bigtime. Especially as their last outing, the superlative double album “Marbles”, had been so good and perhaps set me up for a fall. In addition, we had had to wait three years between the release of “Marbles” and 2001's “Anaroknophobia”, with another three years wait for this one. So I was all set to once again revel in the delights of a new Marillion album. I was to find it a huge -- and very unexpected --- disappointment, and so here we are, in the Last Chance Saloon once again, to try to figure out if this album is as bad as I remember, or if it can be redeemed.

Somewhere else --- Marillion --- 2007 (Intact)

I was somewhat disconcerted by the opener, “The other half”. It opens slowly and then builds in an okay way, but okay is not good enough when you're talking about this band. It felt like something was missing, and as I listen again, in a final attempt to get into this album and not have a big gap in my appreciation of Marillion, I feel the same. Followup track “See it like a baby” is pure pop, and not in any way worthy of Marillion, however the third track in is where they really get going, finally, with a lush ballad in “Thank you whoever you are”: great keys as ever from Mark Kelley --- which somehow had been absent, subsumed or muted on the previous two tracks. Excellent and introspective guitar from the ever-reliable Steve Rothery, and a passionate and bittersweet vocal from Steve Hogarth, or “H” as he prefers to be known, lift this track head and shoulders above everything that has come before, and really, it's the standout track. I know that's somewhat disconcerting, so early into the album, and that fear is sadly well founded.

Well, in fairness, there is another great track near the end, but come on! I shouldn't be saying this about Marillion! You may not be a fan, but if you are, you should know that they have had consistently perfect output since 1982, even with the shocking departure of frontman Fish, and the new, energised version, Marillion v 2.0, as it were. But after the sublimity of “Thank you”, we're hit with a truly awful track that can't even claim to qualify as filler: “Most toys” is just lazy, loud rock, with its admittedly interesting message almost completely lost in the cacophony of guitars that just throttles this track. About the only thing I can say about it is that it's short, mercifully short, at just under three minutes, the shortest on the album.

The title track is up next, and although it's a Marillion-respectable length, at just under eight minutes, and indeed a nice relaxing ambient number, I find it lacking in that it sort of comes and goes, without really making any impression on me. Perhaps it's the understated vocal from Hogarth, or the lack of a well-rounded and clear lyrical idea (I still don't really know what it's about), but it just passes me by, and for an eight-minute (almost) song, that's not good. To be totally equitable, I must admit that the playing on the song is up to the high standard I expect of Marillion, with lovely piano from Kelley and soulful guitar from Rothery, gentle percussion from Ian Mosley, but I just don't feel it goes anywhere.

Now, as a dyed-in-the-wool Marillion fan, I feel I should point out that I don't hate this album: there is no Marillion album I hate. But if you asked me to choose my least favourite of their catalogue, there would be no hesitation on my part in pointing to this 2007 album. It leaves a great hole of longing in me, musically. I had waited three long years for new Marillion output, and to be this let down was a huge blow, so much so that I seriously considered not getting the next album. Luckily that did not happen, and I only had a year to fret and chew my fingernails until “Happiness is the road” appeared on the horizon, and although it was not the opus I had hoped, it was far better than this, and went a long way towards re-establishing my faith in the band. You can read my review of it on the first page of my journal, if you're so inclined.

You know, on reflection, the album sleeve is quite appropriate, as I do sort of feel like I'm staring through one of those seaside telescope/binocular things, searching for the band I know and love, looking for the music I want to hear, and finding that I am, in a very real way, somewhere else. Somewhere I don't want to be.

Another long track is next up, “A voice from the past” is again a low-key, understated number, with some really nice instrumentation, but once more I feel it's a little empty. I think one of the main things that upsets me about this album is that it's so laid-back! With the exception of “See it like a baby” and the hateful “Most toys”, the band rarely seem to break a sweat, turning this into almost an easy-listening album more than a rock one, or even a pop one. I'm all for relaxing tunes, but unless the band is known for producing such content, I think a whole album of lounge music is not a good idea. There are some good concepts in the tracks, the playing is as ever excellent; I just feel that it's an album where the band are holding themselves back, not realising their true potential. I mean, compare this to the previous “Marbles”, or even albums before that, like “Radiation” and “Marillion.com” --- there's just no comparison.

“No such thing” is basically the same idea repeated over and over for almost four minutes, while “The wound” does its best to get things going in a harder vein, and to its credit it is a lot closer to the sort of Marillion I prefer, and expect, to hear, not a bad track at all, but again a little lacking in direction. Rothery is right on form here, it must be said. However I think the problem here is that the song is overlong: it doesn't need seven minutes to get its message across, and in overextending itself that message tends to get lost, or at least a little confused.

There are, thankfully, no such problems with the penultimate track, sensibly cut down to less than six minutes (though only ten seconds less). “The last century for Man” is a powerful yet underplayed indictment of the state of the world, almost, but not quite, recalling Marillion's Magnum opus “Forgotten sons”, perhaps more reminscent of “When I meet God” from “Anoraknophobia”. But it's a well-crafted --- almost perfectly so --- song, starting slow and low-key, building in intensity and power to the denoument and then fading away as it began, but this song at least leaves an indelible mark on the mind, and on the heart, and remains in the ears long after the album has finished.

The closer, then, is a mid-paced number that rocks along gently, not quite a ballad but no rocker either, “Faith” starts off with a Simon and Garfunkel-esque acoustic guitar, which accompanies and complements Hogarth's voice perfectly. When the rest of the band come in, near the end, there's a sense of the sort of song that Marillion can write, and that there definitely should have been more of throughout this album. A nice sort of horn piece closes the track and brings the album to an end. It's perhaps ironic that the closing track should be so titled, as this album has sorely tested ny faith in Marillion.

Listening back to “Somewhere else” now, and not for the first time either --- I've tried to get into this album so many times! --- I still feel that it is without question the weakest in Marillion's catalogue. I can perhaps appreciate some of the songs a bit better now (though I still hate “Most toys”!), and perhaps even get to like one or two I previously didn't rate. However, that's not the point.

With a Marillion album, and on the strength of everything I've heard from them prior and since, I expect to be if not blown away then at least have my faith in them vindicated, album after album. Perhaps that's a lot to ask from a band, but up until they released this, I had had no reason to even hesitate in rushing out and buying the new Marillion album. There was no decision to be made: this was Marillion! But then “Somewhere else” hove into view, and shook my belief in the constant excellence of the band.

Since then, as mentioned, I've regained that faith, and of course I will always buy a new Marillion release as it comes out. But even now, and in the future, that little woodpecker of doubt will be tapping at my mind, the niggling, tiny fear that at some point, Marillion will again fall short of the greatness I expect them to achieve, and that they have achieved, consistently. There's a shadow of unease over my appreciation of my favourite band since 2007, and for that reason, I will never quite accept “Somewhere else” as an album to be listened to. It's the black sheep, the orphan child of the Marillion family, and although orphans need as much love as any other child, sometimes it's hard to give that love.

TRACKLISTING

1. The other half
2. See it like a baby
3. Thank you, whoever you are
4. Most toys
5. Somewhere else
6. A voice from the past
7. No such thing
8. The wound
9. The last century for Man
10. Faith
__________________
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018

Last edited by Trollheart; 06-07-2013 at 05:05 AM.
Trollheart is offline   Reply With Quote