Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Marillion

Marillion emerged from the short-lived progressive rock revival of the early 80s to become one of the most enduring cult acts of the era. This English group, formed in 1979, adopted its original name (Silmarillion) from the title of a Tolkien novel.

Marillion issued their debut album, "Script for a Jester's Tear", in 1983. At the time, it was considered an odd bird... Replete with Peter Gabriel face paint and lengthy, technical compositions, Marillion ushered in a new generation of progressive rock that bound them forever to the heroics of early day Genesis. Intricate, complex, and theatrical almost to a fault, it remains the band's best and sets the bar for their later work.

They returned to the studio for 1984's "Fugazi", which streamlined the intricacies of the group's progressive rock leanings in favor of a more straight-ahead hard rock identity. In my opinion, the refinements didn't pay off, although songs like "Assassin" and "Punch and Judy" became hits in many countries in Europe.

With 1985's "Misplaced Childhood", however, Marillion earned their greatest success. Armed with a handful of lyrics born out of a self-confessed acid trip, the vocalist Fish came up with an elaborate concept touching upon his early childhood experiences and his inability to deal with a slew of bad breakups exacerbated by a never-ending series of rock star-type indulgencies. "Misplaced Childhood" would prove to be not only the band's most accomplished release but also its most streamlined. Initial skepticism over the band's decision to forge ahead with a 70s-style progressive rock opus quickly evaporated as Marillion delivered its two most commercial singles ever: "Kayleigh" and "Lavender".

Then, the group began crumbling... Fish developed alcohol and drug problems, and egos ran rampant. After 1987's "Clutching at Straws", Fish left the band for a solo career. For me, as it happened with Genesis when Peter Gabriel left, the story of Marillion ends here. For others, the cult is still there. But the truth is there's better use for money than to buy Marillion's most recent albums...

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