Marillion – Crash Course

It’s all Mike’s fault.

You see, in one of the Batches Of Awesomeness he has so benevolently bestowed upon me, there was this disc. Apparently (if my understanding is correct), Marillion does a sampler disc every once in a while by way of introduction to the band, and they sell them cheap on their web site. Track listings may vary between editions, but the idea is a good one. Especially for a band with a discography as sprawling as theirs.

Two days ago, I plugged this CD in for the purposes of review and I came away uncertain. For its duration, I kept expecting more, like every song I heard was pretty enough, but was supposed to become… more. Unsettled, I slept on it (without writing a word about it), and the next day I spun the whole thing again. At some point on the second trip through, I got it. It clicked. And I fell in love. Let me explain.

Going in, I knew next to nothing about this band, except that they have ardent fans (our favourite Lebrain among them). I was all for giving this a spin (and grateful to receive the disc), so I wasn’t exactly disappointed to hear it, but I was surprised. I figured it’d have some rawk on it. But every song had a pretty intro (sometimes with piano), always plaintive vocals, and they were very lovely indeed. They’d build a bit – the song Afraid Of Sunlight coming closest to what I’d imagined – yet they never really achieved liftoff. Not… not like I was expecting. I thought The Sky Above The Rain was a horrible track for opening a disc that’s meant to be an introduction. Surely they’d bury something so raw, so beautifully raw, deeper in the mix…

I even heard some radiohead in it (well, if it was in a more minor key, had some electronic blips and bleeps, and the vocals were more nasal then yeah, for sure), but mostly just lighter-waving concert marathon songs (it’s rare to find a track below five or six minutes long).

So, as I said, I slept on it. And I spun it all again. And it clicked. It’s not supposed to become more. The more was there all along. Everything was right there in front of my face (and ears), waiting for me to wake the hell up. Marillion isn’t a rock band. They’re a rock band masquerading as a fucking symphony. If this disc is an indication of their albums, they’re not supposed to speed up, or rock out, or let their inner punks run loose. I dunno, maybe this is just a well-selected collection of slower songs that all sounded kind of the same (maybe they have written rawk songs and they’re not represented here?), but I want to doubt it. I think this is what they’re up to, and they revel in it because they’re so bloody good at it.

These songs ache and bleed and affect. They’re built to help the listener let go (not exert more expectation and control on them, as I had initially done). You’re meant to drift, let the music take you and, in the end, be redeemed by it. Some people would say it’s perfect pot-smoking music, and for them it probably is. But I think it’s more. These are real, talented musicians. This is craftsmanship. It’s haunting. I can’t get these damn songs out of my head. Especially Estonia. It’s buried way down there at the end of the disc, but what a monster of a song! [NB. I shouldn’t pick, in truth I’ve grown to love them all. Ed.]

Dammit Lebrain, you do this all the time. You’ve just introduced me to yet another band I wanna hear everything they ever did, and all because of one little ten-song disc. I thank you (profusely), and my wallet is screaming noooooo…!

Marillion. Hell YES.

* Mike asked me to post the track listing for this edition he sent, so here ya go:

Marillion – Crash Course (2012, Racket 15G)
The Sky Above The Rain
Power
Neverland
Fantastic Place
Hard As Love
This Train Is My Life
Real Tears For Sale
Somewhere Else
Afraid Of Sunlight
Estonia

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Posted on May 3, 2014, in posts by aaron and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 8 Comments.

  1. I remember how obsessed I was with these guys when I discovered them. I feel your excitement! As far as the rawk goes Hard As Love is probably one of their rawkiest. Unless you get some Fish stuff too. There’s a few songs on this I’m not so familiar with as I’ve drifted away from them for the last couple of albums. I’ve gotten a bit bored with their current direction.

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    • I find it interesting that there’s been a shift in sound and you noticed! Maybe having the albus would help, but this comp would make the neophyte (me) believe the songs could be interchangeable. Which is not a criticism at all.

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      • They do seem to have got stuck into a style with the latest albums… since Marbles. I think a lot of the later material could be considered interchangeable. But I’ve gotten bored with the direction. There was definitely more variety from album to album before Marbles.

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  2. Really glad this clicked with you. It does take a while, this band.

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    • Are you asking for which singer I have a preference? BOTH! Honestly, I only own these ten songs (so far), so I’m probably not the best guy to know too much about the distinctions.

      Thanks for checking in, Phillip! Good to see your comments in this neck of the woods again!

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      • Yes, that was the question. I’ve seen Marillion with H twice, once not long after he joined and again about 20 years later as part of a double bill with Saga. Will see them again at Cropredy this year. I have all the albums with Fish (bought them second hand), but haven’t really listened to them much. I do like the general sound, though. With the new singer, the music is also different (much more so than Blaze Bayley taking over from Bruce Dickinson, say) but it hasn’t clicked yet. Many aficionados consider the stuff with H to be more mature, but I don’t know.

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