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Marillion – Brave

braveI got into Marillion through Mike. Time has gone on and much listening has occurred, as I now have several of their records here, either gifted to me by Mike or bought myself. There’s no going back now!

Going in, I knew it wasn’t gonna be easy. This band is crazy good, but it’s work to listen. Of course, it’s ultimately worth it (and how!), but you need to brace yourself and prepare.

Brave is no different. I snagged this 24 bit 2CD remaster, brand new, for $8. A steal and a score! I plugged it in and holy hell, this isn’t an album, it’s a fucking expedition.

Musically, emotionally, mentally, it’s a total wrench. I likely won’t do it justice, so bear with me.

You know this already, but this is a concept album, based on a true story of a young girl found on a bridge, walking around and refusing to speak. She did not seem to know where she was, or where she’d come from, or even who she was. So the album is an imagining of what might have led her to that point.

She’s tired of the world, she’s looking for meaning and some peace. Horrible things (domestic violence, sexual abuse) are throughout these songs. We even have to deal with the media. It’s a real slog to get through, only buoyed by Marillion’s excellent music which, even here, is going for beauty and sadness moreso than full-on rock (there’s a couple of heavier tunes, like Hard As Love or Paper Lies, but even they are just more to the story).

By the end, it seems that she may have been on the bridge to attempt suicide. Bleak, I know! But in Made Again it may be that someone talked her out of it, and this may have been the snap that led to her just wandering unaware of anything on the bridge. I don’t know if my hearing of it is correct, I’ll gladly learn from anyone who knows more about this than me.

You hope for her, you want to help her. It’s sad music, and a sad story, but in it there’s also redemption, I think. An acknowledgement that yes, life can be shit. Real, utter shit. But there’s always reason to stay. Sadness doesn’t have to last forever, and you don’t have to forget, but you can move on.

This is beautiful, and it’s stark, and it’s a total punch in the gut to listen to it. But at the same time it’s totally compelling, and it’s some truly incredible songwriting and storytelling.

Wow.

***

And after all of that on the album, I’d forgotten that mine is a 2CD set. There was another whole disc to get through!

We get a beautiful orchestral version of The Great Escape, acoustic versions of The Hollow Man, Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury, and Runaway. There are demo versions of Living With The Big Lie, Alone Again In The Lap Of Luxury, and Dream Sequence. We also get an instrumental version of Hard As Love (perfect for karaoke anyone?), and a ‘Spiral Remake’ of The Great Escape.

There’s also the amazing Marouette Jam, which is a 9:44 master class in how to do prog rock correctly. And Winter Trees, a short, atmospheric tune that evokes landscapes and cold.

You know, it’s great to hear these versions and different looks, but I preferred the album proper. I’d say that the second disc is for fans who want to to dig down as far as they can go. I may get there one day, so having it here in the collection may pay off later!

***

Silly:

If you stick around (I wouldn’t recommend it), there’s a hidden track at the end of track 11 on CD2 at 31:44, a stupid squeak version of Scott Joplin’s The Entertainer and a few seconds of someone talking. I found this jarring, tasteless and unnecessary, given the rest of the project. At least it’s only about 30 seconds long.

Interesting:

Some online suggest that, because of the way it was recorded, this album is a template for Radiohead’s OK Computer. Greater minds than I can discuss this. All I know is that I like both albums a whole lot!

In Sum: 

I couldn’t listen to this all of the time, but what a record! Truly amazing work, real art that causes you to feel, and think, and grow. Kudos, Marillion. This one’s incredible. If you’ve read this far, thanks for your patience!

Marillion – Marbles (2cd)

Digging through the Recent Arrivals bin at Sonic Boom during our trip to Taranna in November, Mike came up with this 2CD set. He passed it to me, saying that getting this for $7.99 was unreal, and that it is his favourite Marillion record. First of all, for Mike (a huge Marillion fan) to say that is no small thing.

He then said that if he’d been there on his own, he’d have bought it and sent it on to me. Talk about a sales pitch! Of course, I bought it on the spot.

For those of you who know this album, what I am about to say after hearing both discs consecutively through the good headphones (in one sitting) must come as no surprise…

Holy fuck. Holy. FUCK.

OK, thanks to Mike, I already knew of Marillion through the Crash Course series, then Misplaced Childhood and (also from this most recent Taranna trip), Script For A Jester’s Tear. I thought I knew a little of some of their genius, their ability, their incredible musicality and sense of ambience, theatre, space, and emotion. But this set blew my mind. Seriously.

This is art. On CD. There’s an attention to detail, a clarity, a dramatic creativity here that isn’t just anywhere. It’s clever, and confidently so. Marbles has this incredible sense of cohesiveness as an album, yet each song feels like its own world and entity. It’s (almost) too much for one listen. Every single song is so strong, so beautiful in its own right, that it felt like I should have given it a week (at least)!

From the reviews I read online, I (apparently) now need to get myself a copy of Brave. But holy hell, I can’t leave this Marbles set alone.

This is masterful.

Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

On Mike‘s recomendation, I bought this CD for $4.99 on our annual trip to Taranna a little while ago. It was Mike, a gigantic fan of the band, who gave me one of their Crash Course CDs a while back too, so suffice it to say that he’s my main Marillion connection.

When I plugged in this CD, I had a small idea of what to expect, both from the Crash Course CD (for their sound in general) and, I quickly realized, from having heard Kayleigh back in the 80s.

And what did I make of this album? It’s fucking fantastic. Well ahead of it’s time sonically, I’d say. No word of a lie, I played this all of the way through and, when I reached the end of the first play and was mightily impressed, I played it again. And again. Three full plays in a day and a half.*

What drew me to this like a magnet? There’s something hypnotic and addictive to this sound, how it lets me drift along with it, yet still demanding my attention for the lyrics and the individual instruments’ efforts. It’s majestic. Not unlike Pink Floyd, in that respect. And like them, it’s melodic as hell, and completely arresting. There’s something for everyone here, and it’s all gorgeously realized.

The only negative here is that it’s taken me 29 years to get to it…

Two thumbs way up! I consider this one of the best scores of our trip this year. Thanks for the recommend, Mike!

 

* My three-year-old daughter also loved it. She happily sang and hummed along in the back seat of the car while it played, a sure sign she was into it. Of course, her saying “Daddy, I like that song!” made it fairly clear, too. So if Marillion was hoping for the three-year-old demographic, there’s a vote over here.

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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