|12-31-2013, 11:48 AM||#31 (permalink)|
Nobody likes my music
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: In Cognito
Time to get back to the wonderful world of Marillion before the year turns! As I mentioned in my last post (months ago now!) 1991 saw both the continuing rebirth of Marillion and their ex-frontman’s solo career, as both Fish and Marillion released their second albums, Marillion under their new lineup, Fish literally. After working out some of the issues that saw the light of publication through such songs as “View from the hill”, “Family business” and the title track on his first album, Fish was now ready to settle down and tackle subjects that were closer to his heart and had little or nothing to do with his time in Marillion. In many ways, the second album moves slightly away from the more progressive side of the man, which is odd given that it was partly his worry that the band were getting less prog rock that provided the impetus for him to leave, and also features some of his heaviest songs. But at heart, Fish was and always will be a talented, gifted songwriter, and as ever it’s this that shines through on his second album.
Internal exile (1991) (Fish solo album) --- produced by Chris Kimsey on the Polydor label
Reuniting with the producer who had helped make Marillion’s third album such a success, Fish returned with an album that was heavily steeped in his Scottish roots. He had dabbled with political lyrics pertaining to England on “Script”, or more properly, before it, with “Market square heroes”, when he had written “I’ve got rust upon my hands from the padlocked factory gates; silent chimneys provide our silent steeples.” Now, on “Internal exile” he would go further, retracing his steps back to his native Scotland and railing against such things as the closure of the shipyards, loss of industry and unemployment.
But not everything would be political on this album, and there would be some very personal tracks too. To my knowledge, whereas “Vigil” had been made up largely of material he had written for the fifth Marillion album and had taken with him when he left, this is all original writing, and really, it shows. You can’t really picture Marillion doing any of these songs: they are quintessentially what we would come to know of as Fish songs.
The album cover shows how proud Fish is of his heritage, with plenty of Scottish motifs including a piper, stag and the Scottish highlands, with Fish himself proudly wearing a beret. To the left of the picture can also be seen the figure of the Jester, his first and I think only reappearance since Marillion’s “Misplaced childhood” album. He appears to be holding a knife or sword and looks as if he has cut out a tear in the fabric of the cover, revealing a black-and-white photo of Fish beneath. Fish also retained the services of Mickey Simmonds, who helps him write every song bar one and a cover version, and of course plays keyboards, but he also brings in contributions from twin guitarists Frank Usher and Robin Boult, and utilises the services of Alan Parsons Project mainstay and fellow Scot David Paton, as well as ex-Rory Gallagher longtime drummer Ted McKenna, another of his countrymen.
Shadow play (6:23) --- Like the opener on his debut, and indeed most of the Marillion albums prior to this, the first track here comes in slowly but soon explodes into a hard rocker with sharp guitar from Boult and Usher, squealing away almost to nothing as Fish comes in with the vocal. The rhythm is quite seventies rock, the likes of Zep or Free to a degree, with a sense of boogie and blues but still keeping right up to date. In the middle it breaks down into an almost celtic style, with a dancing, jig-style melody. There’s still a sense of frustration in Fish’s lyric as he intones “After all is said and done the only thing I really know is your name!” The break between the harder rock and the burgeoning celtic part recalls somewhat the mid section of Marillion’s “Incubus”, and Fish muses over mistakes made as he sings “Maybe if I’d noticed, maybe if I’d tried, maybe if I’d worked at it it never would have died.” Great percussion from Ethan Johns (McKenna only actually features on two tracks), and a very Marillion-style ending, with a slight nod to Floyd as Fish sings “And all that you touch, and all that you feel.”
Credo (6:40) --- Most of the tracks on this album are around the six-minute mark, so although there are only nine in all it’s not bad value for money. “Credo” comes back to the ideas of “The voyeur” from his first album and mixes in elements from “Fugazi” as Fish looks at the state of the world and is not impressed. “State of mind” from the debut comes to mind too, and the song is another hard rocker, slower than the opener but just as punchy and very catchy, with again personal overtones as he sings “The coal dust stole my grandad’s breath away one day!” Fish’s lyrics have never been sharper: “A mother screams and a baby cries, the memory gone before the blood has dried. A needle pricks a conscience to help it fade away.”
Just good friends (Close) (6:00) --- A softer song, essentially one of the ballads on the album, this concerns that position most of us have been in more than once, whether to risk taking a friendship to the next level. Against soft acoustic guitar Fish asks the question “What would you say if I got down on my knees to you?” It’s not clear whether he asks the question or is just practicing in the hopes of saying it for real, but it’s a situation I can certainly relate to. Nice restrained guitar work from Usher on this, and the change in the drumming is evident as Ted McKenna takes over the drumseat. Frank Boult unleashes a heartfelt guitar solo halfway through that goes on for some time, so much so that I wonder Usher hasn’t joined him?
Favourite stranger (5:58) --- The only song that Simmonds does not contribute to, it’s another ballad and runs on a sort of slow conga percussion with a kind of ominous little guitar sound, making the song sound just a little claustrophobic, as Fish himself says “Just one of those feelings, like sitting with your back to an open door.” Interestingly, this song takes the concept of the previous and turns it on its head as he warns “You’re my favourite stranger but don’t read between the lines. I could tell you I love you at this moment in passing time.” Lovely line in basswork here too from Paton.
Lucky (4:50) --- Kicking the tempo right back up, this is almost Fish’s “Market square heroes” as he sings of a guy who just drinks and fights his way through his life, taking all that the world has to offer on the chin, with the ironic lines “He could have been you, could have been me, could have been anyone but he was born lucky.” The guy in the song (semi or even autobiographical?) has the worst luck, losing his job and standing on the picket line. Very bouncy, great guitar work from Usher and Boulton with the biting satirical lyric we’ve come to expect of Fish: “He put his first downpayment on a sharp Italian suit, he sewed razor blades into the lapels.” Another great guitar solo and some really boppy drumwork as Fish lists the problems of Scottish industry disappearing and praising the work ethic of his proud countrymen, while still having a gentle dig at those who use the hard life they've had as a chatup line: "See him sweatin' on the dancefloor, coaldust oozin' out of every pore: a hard man, with a hard life: that's the story that he'll tell ya!"
Dear friend (4:08) --- And we’re back with a third ballad. Another very personal song, this seems to relate to Fish trying to reconnect with an old mate with whom he has lost contact due to his fame and his work. Driven again on soft guitar with an almost medieval feel, there’s a waltzy turn to it as Fish sits down to write a letter: “Dear friend, it’s been a long time. Been meaning to write you but it never was my style.” It’s a song of settling down, looking back at your single days and maybe missing them, and putting away, as Kipling wrote, childish things. A lovely organ solo from Simmonds and some superb violin really make the song along with another soaring guitar solo. When Fish asks “Does your past lie under a dustsheet in the corner of a musty garage?” you can hear regret in his voice, and he references his Marillion days as he sings “Buy a drink for the boy in my place at the end of the bar, give my regards to Nena” and also asks “Are the band still together? Did you ever get on the road?” Great little song.
Tongues (6:22) --- And then we go superheavy with the penultimate track, as screeching guitars and the return of Ted McKenna on the drumkit heralds one of the standouts on the album, Fish growling and spitting vitriol at his record label, EMI, as he snarls “Your tedious monologues, wielding authority, demanding subservience” and accuses the execs of speaking in tongues, bamboozling him with legalise and demanding he stick to his contract. The guitars wail and squeal as he pours out his anger, and it’s one of the heaviest songs on the album, certainly the heaviest since the opener.
Internal exile (4:45) --- Where Fish really celts things up, and talks about Scottish independence and the need for young people to emigrate to find work. Whistle, accordion and fiddle accompany him as he growls “The only men working are documentary crews shooting film as the lines get longer, as the seams run out, as the oil runs dry.” It’s mostly a slowish song, kind of moving along in a stately, parade-style march rhythm, then in the end section it all kicks off with a big energetic reel as Fish revels in his Scottish heritage.
Something in the air (5:08) --- Really I would have put “Internal exile” as a great closer, but unfortunately Fish --- or his label --- decided to include a cover version of Thunderclap Newman’s hit “Something in the air”. He does a good version with it but I’m not a great fan of covers, and sadly for me this would be the springboard for Fish’s third solo album, which would be nothing but classic rock covers. Sigh.
That notwithstanding, this is a great album and for my money one of Fish’s best. Personally I found the next two (three if you include the covers one, which I don’t) quite below par, though they had some great tracks on them, and Fish would not get back to his best until 1999’s “Raingods with zippos”, which I regard the zenith of his career. His next albums would not feature as much in the way of political lyrics or songs dealing with his homeland, and would get progressively less progressive (sorry), moving a little more towards the mainstream rock end of the scale, again ironic considering why he left Marillion.
I would just like to pause here and speak a little about Scotland. I find it something of an oddity, a dichotomy even. Most countries who desire independence win it and keep it, like us here in Ireland and many of the ex-members of the USSR. Scotland though, won its independence around the fourteenth century, then gave that up in the eighteenth and now intend to try for it again. Can I say, make up yer minds lads?
(Disclaimer: no slight was intended on Scotland or its people by the above observation)
It would be 1993 before Fish’s tribute to the sixties and seventies, “Songs from the mirror” would see the light of day, but as I don’t consider it a true Fish album I won’t be featuring or reviewing it, but will gloss over it briefly as it comes up. Therefore it would be the next year, 1994, before his next album proper would hit the shelves, coincidentally the same year Marillion would release what would become their magnum opus, which I’ll be looking at next.
Trollheart: Signature-free since April 2018
|02-08-2015, 08:34 PM||#34 (permalink)|
Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: SoCal by way of Boston
Easily one of my fave bands. Love love love them.
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