Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Fugazi (Side A)!

Fugazi (album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! I have survived the first Marillion album, slopping out the other end unscathed and with greater musical awareness. I know it has only been one album and there are four hundred more to come, but I’ve enjoyed things so far after being apprehensive. I know I try to be as open-minded about music as possible, but so many sacred cows or cult swine I’ve listened to so far have turned out to be swill. That hasn’t been the case with Marillion, though I have given them much more due diligence than the aforementioned artists in my belaboured metaphor. In today’s post, which will be written over the course of at least a week, I’ll be giving Side A of Fugazi a gander. As expected, I know nothing about the thing.

A brief spoiler free look at Wikipedia tells me the album came barely a year after the debut. Can a band change their sound in one year? Can they become better musicians, hone their song writing skills, or become jaded by the never-ending cycle of writing, recording and touring in just 12 months? Are these questions which this album will answer, and did Dr Sam Beckett ever make the final leap home? Perhaps by the end of this post we’ll find out.

As Paul took such a deep dive at the artwork on Script For A Jester’s Tear, I should take a closer look at Fugazi’s offering. Mark ‘Swords’ Wilkinson has elected to delight us with an emaciated, dead-eyed waif splayed suggestively on a rather hard looking bed, a flagon of wine (blood?) slipping from one skeletal hand, and what appears to be a poppy in the other. The Jpeg I’m looking at is very small… must find a larger one. Is this supposed to be the Jester from the first album? Is it supposed to be Fish? The dude is semi-wearing colourful stockings, his loins barely covered by a near see-through sheet, and there’s a foule-bordeau over one thigh. A painting of an unhappy jester sits discarded by the bed, and a conveniently placed mirror shows the reflection of a fully kitted out harlequin meaning the guy on the bed and the guy in the mirror are two halves of the same whole! Elsewhere, Mr Nudey has a Walkman on and there’s a copy of a music publication near his feet, sort of looks like the NME, in the background a lizard is tongue-abusing a bird’s arse, and there’s a painting on the wall which I’ll guess is a hint at something to come in a future album, or hints at something within this album?

The whole thing is like a grizzled detective walking in on a closed door crime scene mystery. Who or what is Fugazi, and why is it scrawled like that? Why does it look like there is a skull in the pink throw over the sofa? I’m sure there’s a lot more to this that I’ve missed – the window open, the colours, the (magpie?) holding a ring in its beak – but my key takeaway is that it all strikes me as very metal. The detail, the font, the whole presentation is very 80s metal. Like movie posters have become something of a lost art, album covers these days are so plain or vague while the classics of the 70s and 80s – not even the classics in fact – you could lose yourself for hours looking at these things and scouring for Easter Eggs. I realise I’ve just spent three paragraphs typing nonsense and haven’t even got to the music yet, so lets go.

Assassing is a play on ‘assassin’, but as a word I can’t take it seriously. I make a verb out of the second ‘ass’, and then I personify the first meaning you have an ass assing about the place, and then I get these images of huge asses walking around and assing each other till half the song is over and I haven’t heard a single second. The song begins with some Eastern chanting and drumming – it’s all very mysterious and tribal while reminding me that so many Prog albums begin in a similar vein – a surge and build up of instruments and/or noise before a crushing riff drops. The moment the guitar started here I thought of Pink Floyd’s Run Like Hell – not one of my favourites from The Wall, but that’s hardly a slight given that album is an all time Top Five for me. The pulsating, chasing beat which drives the majority of the song is quite similar to Run Like Hell, but here we have clashing keyboard and guitar solos which scream at me to stop making unhelpful Pink Floyd comparisons. The song also spins off in a few directions while Run Like Hell mostly ploughs a single course.

I was half expecting a more metal oriented album after Paul’s comments that the first album era feel was a one album thing, and after checking out the artwork. It’s not metal, and it’s not necessarily harder edged than most of the first album’s tracks. However, it does have less of a… folk sound? That’s not the correct musical term, but the first album felt innocent somehow while this did strike me as more confident, polished, fully formed. Maybe it’s the Production, or maybe I’m an idiot. Fish’s vocals do sound more solid, bold, full. I found some of the delivery similar to Dave Mustaine of Megadeth – they sound nothing alike, but in terms of trying to shove as many words into a single breath as possible.

It is all quite 80s – the guitar sound, the drum tone, it takes me back. Of course I was only a year old when this dropped, but I did grow up emerged in 80s music and it is possible to be nostalgic for a time or a sound that you weren’t really a part of. It’s always a treat when you discover a song or a movie that you didn’t know about from an era or genre you love. They say you stop listening or caring about new music when you hit 30, and instead stick with the bands you know and love but that school of thought usually ignores the fact that it’s possible to make these retro discoveries – the music may not be new, but it’s new to me. I realise I haven’t talked about the song much – I like it; interesting opener, gets you moving, the little section after the four minute mark is nifty and atmospheric before building back up to the main riff.

Thematically, I assume it’s about an assassin -before reading them. I picked up very few of the lyrics in my first few listens and will now refer to Google to read the lyrics. I’m not going to trust the lyrics posted in the comments of Youtube – incidentally, the Marillion fans leaving comments have an amusing slant of hyperbole, which is always nice. In first reading of the lyrics, I had James Bond in my head, or possibly Mr. Scaramanga – a smooth tongued killer – but this quickly morphed into images of ladder-climbing, scrambling to get to the top of your profession and stamping out the competition by any means, without mercy. Of course the repeated ‘my friend’ hints at the person being a back-stabber and saying all the right things, making the right contacts then discarding when no longer needed. I will say that quite a few of the lines are sloppy – they’re not as precise as I was expending both in terms of phrasing along with the music and in theme. They froth with anger, but it’s more on the juvenile side of sloganeering than being insightful or repeatable. Then of course there’s a twist that the ‘assassin’ is defeated by a better ‘assassin’. Which makes me think this is more personal than it originally seemed, with presumably Fish placing himself as the winner. I don’t know. It could be about career climbing scum, it could be about some bloke.

Something I often find with Prog bands and with metal bands – artists known for songs frequently going over the five minute mark, is that their shorter songs can be throwaways; songs either built expressly under pressure to release a single or songs written around one simple idea, or songs with not as much creative intent or care behind their construction. Sometimes these songs can be fun – a diversion or a breather from the epics, sometimes they only serve as a connective tissue in a concept album and don’t fare well as a standalone, and sometimes they’re the ones I skip. Punch And Judy luckily avoids the trappings of the prog throwaway – it’s hardly a traditionally short song, just by Marillion’s standards till this point. I imagine it could have been longer but they consciously made the decision to not draw things out. The intro for example – all of those synth parps could easily have been stretched past the minute mark but only last a few seconds before the guitars and vocals join. Possibly this one was marked from the beginning as a single or the band thought it had more impact as a shorter piece.

Aside from the length, it has a more orthodox structure overall – it very much follows your standard verse chorus verse format, albeit with subtle tweaks – the longer instrumental break, the emergency stop finish, and as always the breathless delivery of copious words. Fish sounds like he’s auditioning to be the fourth Bee Gee at various points while the rhythm of the song never falters. I enjoy the lead guitar riff, it both ascends and descends in a cyclical nature then drops out for simple chords in the verse – you can almost hear the riff in those spaces when it isn’t being played. I picked up many more of the lyrics without having to Google them – witty amusing ripostes concerning aging and relationships, and presumably aging in a relationship. With the name, I have to assume a certain level of physical abuse. Anytime I think about Punch And Judy, I think about Worzel Gummidge. No idea why, but I never want to think about Worzel Gummidge as those are nightmares I can do without. Are Punch And Judy shows still a thing? They always seemed a very English thing to me – sandy beaches, kids dropping their 99s and wailing for another, Mr Bean trying to de-robe in front of a blind guy – things mostly foreign to me growing up. My town sort of had a beach – more of a muddy expanse which you could trudge across when the tide went out, though you could use it as a quick short cut to get over to the far outskirts of the town. Of course you didn’t want to do that though, as that’s where the big Council Estate was and I didn’t fancy a kicking.

As part of Googling the lyrics, I had to Google ‘Mogadon’ – turns out it’s not a prehistoric creature. The song is about everything I expected, though almost every line is gold – good to save up for the next time you fancy an argument with the spouse, though probably not advised. It’s all very ‘I’m a bitter old bloke and I’m sick of being stuck with this old bird and what the hell happened to my life’. I’ve always called Hibernation by the Manics my favourite lyrical shredding of relationships, but that’s a much more depressing affair – equally cynical but humourless. Fish is at least having fun with the tropes.  Interesting that both songs mention mortgages. What didn’t come out in my Googling (I did just look at the first result) was the refrain which sounds like ‘Punch…. Punch The Judy’, but which may just be ‘Punch… Punch And Judy’. Punch the Judy is of course more violent, but given the song ends up in a dark place anyway I’m not sure Punch the Judy is much of a stretch. The sudden end compliments the lyrics – like I was suggesting what the music of Grendel could have done for its last line. Overall, it’s a song which convinces me the band is proficient and comfortable writing the short form as the epic.

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

Onto the third, and not final song of this post. Jigsaw takes us back up to the near seven minute mark. Within the opening seconds of this one, I had a number of musical references – Let Down by Radiohead, Someone In The Dark by Michael Jackson (from ET), and Wouldn’t It Be Nice by The Beach Boys. Those songs have a span of around thirty years, but to some extent they all have some sort of a lullaby ambiance to their musical content. Almost every minute of this kept throwing further references spinning through my nostalgia nub – The Who and Pink Floyd in the verse, then 80s Power Ballads for the explosion in the chorus. It’s all rather lovely, isn’t it? Sure the chorus veers close to tipping into full blown cheese, but it all certainly fits the 80s rock knife edge the album has teetered on so far. Without touching on the lyrics yet, the music is emotional enough on its own – I imagine this is one of the Marillion songs to bring full grown, bearded men to tears when it’s played live – assuming it is. It’s not the most complicated song so I assume it is, or would have been a live staple. It’s in ballad territory so already prepped for overwrought emotion and exaltations of starved and repressed feelings, but there is more nuance – the central guitar solo is played with a tone and fervour designed to eek out those tears, playing precisely the expected notes to unlock the ducts and let the tears flow. And flow. Not that it has reached that point for me of course – I can feel the emotion but currently the song means nothing to me – I don’t know the lyrical content or background and I have not attachment to it. But I can feel what it is doing and can understand that this is likely ‘one of those songs’ for Marillion fans. Credit to Rothers (can I call him that?) for his playing here – and an opportunity for me to once again recommend the almighty Buckethead for anyone looking for emotive guitar music. Yes, he wears a bucket on his head, but that’s only because he doesn’t want anyone to see his ugly cries from hearing and playing his own epic shit.

There’s quite a lot of silence in the song – often in the verses it’s just the vocals, sometimes near spoken, and the lullaby keyboard with little accompaniment. The drums are at times like a funeral march, Fish tests his range with a variety explosive yelps and tender musings, and the song is mostly successful at things I don’t normally like – whispers, spoken sections. Incidentally, I asked Alexa to play this while I was making lunch one day (leftover sausages and pineapple marzipan) and she selected a live version from 1994 I believe. There are no drums in the verses but the audience decided to clap along, before quickly going out of time and giving up. It can be a pain to have people clap along to your songs as it can knock your playing out of sync. They did get to belt out ‘Stand straight’ instead of Fish.

Going over the lyrics.. it’s another long one – almost as long as this post. The first couple of stanzas – it’s not clear who the ‘we’ are, possibly the band, possibly the band and the fans and the ‘we’ of fandom, or maybe it’s just a couple. If I’m honest, I am sometimes disappointed when powerful and emotive songs happen to be ‘just about love’, because almost every other song ever written is about love. I like something more, though to be fair to Marillion even when they tackle your typical topics they do so with a unique voice. The chorus then, smells like a breakup, complete with requisite musical anguish. The next few verses have more of a futility in the words chosen, an inevitability opposed to the otherwise hopeful coupling of the first verses. Not for the first time Fish uses violent or final imagery when talking about love – Trigger happy, Russian roulette, dream coins to cover your eyes etc – the dude doesn’t seem to cope well with breakups, of his own doing or otherwise. Which is fair enough, who is? I can see a particular type of angry young man feeling some affiliation to these words, but then again most of us have seen relationships come to an end and can be pretty pissed off, confused, and depressed about it all – sometimes it’s good to know someone out there has been through similar shit and can put put your feelings to tune.

In this instance I feel it’s the music which elevates the lyric – in most cases so far the opposite has been true. The lyrics are opaque – it could be about anything though the end of a relationship seems like the most logical assumption. They don’t feel so personal or insightful or cutting, while the music gets straight to the point – I know form the music I’m supposed to feel a certain way and that is successful, while the lyrics feel like scattered enigmatic thoughts. Nevertheless, it’s another song I see myself listening to beyond the confines of the post and podcast. Am I a Marillion fan? There hasn’t been anything I haven’t enjoyed yet and there are plenty of bands out there I consider myself a fan of having only heard or enjoyed a single one of their albums. Lets not get ahead of ourselves – this was lovely, maybe everything else is crap.

Emerald Lies closes Side A. The 80s drums and scattered intro left me with no idea where the song is going beyond wondering if it was the theme tune to a forgotten 80s action TV show which follows a grizzled American detective who has emigrated to Japan to try to leave behind his guilt over his partner’s death. While there of course, he becomes embroiled in a war with the Yakuza and is employed by a futuristic tech company and given a sentient smart-arse hoverboard named WIPE to help him cut down on crime. What would such a show be called? Answers on a postcard.

As you may have guessed, I don’t have much to say about this one. It sounds like Big Trouble In Little China or Black Rain and though the song is five minutes long, it feels short and uneventful. This is maybe the song which took me the most listens before I got anything out of it. I’m heavily driven by melody and emotion, and this song didn’t leap out ay me from either of those respects. I’ll admit to be otherwise distracted in those first listens, but once it clicked with me I paid more attention to the plundering bass, the sound effects, and the anger. Not much else.

Reading the lyrics, Fish is pissed off about something again. Are there any songs where he’s not angry? It could be about a crumbling relationship again – with a partner, or it could be about his relationship to fans or the record company? He’s not happy and is placing himself or recognizing himself as being on a pedestal or as a target. The use of ‘harlequin’ makes me think of jesters and their tears. It’s all a little too cryptic for me, and because the song left me with a sense of blah, I wasn’t overly interested in Googling Torquemada. I wrote a song once which attempted to lampoon young lovers and their misguided obsession with each other… it was called… REALationships.

Apparently one of the songs made Sanja feel physically sick – that means it’s time now for me to hear Paul and Sanja’s thoughts on Side A. We start with a bit of a farewell to Fish as he has just released a solo manner, but has also released a bit of a… faux pas? An honest admission? I don’t know enough about the man and his writing and his life to know if he is on the Autism Spectrum. Plus, I am in no way qualified to speak about Autism. Some people have suggested I have traits, and I have friends who have been diagnosed. From what I know about Autism, and the wide Spectrum, there’s much more in the ‘no you’re not’ column, than ‘hmm, could be’. I think where Autism is concerned, people with a limited exposure or understanding just assume unusual behaviour – or behaviour they would see themselves doing – to be a signifier of Autism. But I know enough to know it’s something I have no understanding of, so I’m going to stop embarrassing myself now. But yeah – Fish, get on the podcast mate, sort it out.

Mick ‘Sisters’ Pointer left the band, Andy ‘Bill’ Ward joined and… wait, is Emerald Lies about Mick. John ‘I’m not a’ Martyr (sp?) joined too because Andy couldn’t cope…. a lot of drum changes a la Spinal Tap. Yes, the US version of the Manics The Holy Bible is noticeably beefier. The band had a crappy tour… all this perhaps informing the tonal direction of the album. This is the most 70s sounding podcast episode I’ve ever heard – all these blokes sharing tours and bands from the 70s. None of them have died yet? Not even a few of the drummers? Recording processes and how the band separates those feelings from the album is always interesting. St Anger? Let It Be? The Holy Bible – one of the most dark, bleak, powerful, upsetting  albums of all time – even recorded with the backdrop of Richey’s increasing alcoholic abuse, self-harming, anorexia, and stays in The Priory, is still spoken with fondness by the band when you’d assume it was one of those instances where the studio was haunted, burned down, and everyone hated each other.

Wrong band. Sanja thinks Assassing is about war, about words as weapons. Paul says yes, it’s the second part. It’s about the sacking of band members – I guess some of what I assumed the song was about is kind of correct. Why ‘assassing’? You’re all wrong – it’s just him turning the thing into a verb – instead of assassinating. Plus, Temple Of Doom is my favourite Indiana Jones movie. Paul makes a comparison with The Wall too, so I’m not on my own. Run Like Hell… a lot of the songs off that album do have a similar rhythm – makes it easier to smoosh them altogether in a coherent way. Watch those spoilers Biffo, I haven’t heard the second half of the album yet, but it’s clear the sound of the album is different from Script. Oh yes, the way Fish delivers ‘parading a Hollywood conscience’ has been grating on me, half singy, half talky. Anyway, they both love the song.

Punch & Judy. A straightforward song with an obvious theme. Fish is nervous about being trapped, fair enough. In the context of the album – yeah, it’s a more rock-oriented album, though Script does have that awesome transition into fist-pumping. Seems Punch & Judy shows are still a thing, somehow. Sausages, wife-beating, Satan – that about sums up Ol’ Blighty!

Sanja seems to have similar feelings to me on Jigsaw – musically lovely, lyrically less so. I have to stop telling people my dreams – I know it annoys people, but to be fair my dreams are awesome. Paul says the song is about not fully revealing yourself in a relationship, which makes sense in the context of the song and does lend another tragic layer to it – wouldn’t it be great if we could all just like, you know, fit? Oh, don’t they like Emerald Lies. Yikes, I’m conforming perfectly to everyone’s thoughts this time. Yay? They talk about the Production and tone of the album next, so I tune out a little in case there’s spoilers for Side B.

I’m sure there are people out there who like Emerald Lies – maybe not an all time favourite. I just couldn’t get into it. Even typing this I can’t remember much about it, but it’s been a few days since I last listened to it. Yes! Sanja is on board with the 80s TV soundtrack! I used to love MacGyver and would try to MacGyver through doorways – there was a bit in the opening credits where he slipped through a closing door, and I would copy this in School. Calm down, I was probably 9 or 10. Okay, Emerald, green, jealousy – I get it. Fine. Don’t care. And within thirty seconds of my typing that, Paul says ‘Emerald, green, jealousy’. I think I can check out now and go listen to Side B. Paul says he considered it a bottom three song, which bodes well for the quality of the songs I haven’t heard yet. I don’t think I’ll make this to 20 listens, though there are examples of Manics songs I have dismissed for years and eventually come round to liking a little more.

What will Side B bring? More 80s tinged rock, or a return to the more flighty and fantastical nature of the first album? I guess I’ll find out next time. And you can find out my thoughts on it by coming back next week!

Last Exit On Yesterday

Last Exit On Yesterday: 2/Okay

Another very early cut, this one feels like an improvement on the other stuff they were playing at the time, but when placed alongside the rest of the New Art Riot EP it’s quality is lacking. It has a clear structure, it has decent melodies, the usual lyrics (though you can’t make any of them out which means the Misheard Lyrics are particularly notable), but the vocals are weak, the drumming is robotic, and the guitars are standard punk simplicity.

Misheard Lyrics: Dance to the bad moon time/Dance to the bad mood town/Dance to the bathroom time

2: Ant, fin, back heels (?)/And the ankle/And to Frank Hill

3: Barely are things that I think/A million things in my sink/ The million things our eyes back seat.

4: Dying giant form

5: Roy and brink bock beak (?)

6: You’re screaming so much that I’m excited to breathe/that I’m excited to leave/that I feel sorry to leave/that I feel sorry to live/that I’ve been starting to drink/that life is starting to breed.

7: I wanna be cool and I wanna bleed your disease.

8: Pull your hair grow back/Pull you head glow band

9: Paying barber’s sons/Playing baubles sounds/Paying Barbara off (or any combination of these).

10: The bricky’s story on and on/The freaky story on and on/The Greek history on and on.

11: Loveless or loneness/Loveless our romance

12: Laugh in Justin’s face/Laugh at justice skill

13: As back brakes downstairs steeper in/As back sprain down steps deeper in (???)

14: Baby girl had a little bit of love/baby girl have a little bit of love/Baby can’t have a little bit of life

15: Cheek slapped up inside a leather glove/Cheap slap up inside her lover’s gun

16: Pacing up in her executive tower/Lacey for an executive talent

17: Sway to the sound of an uncapped lover/Tweet to the sign of a handicapped lover

18: So Doll’s in town, have his pretty face/Saw a doll in town, hurt its pretty face

19: Mixing juice is easy but you move first/Massachusetts easy when you are first.

 20: Laugh at the TV, empty sound of life, morning in town is not a good choice

Actual Lyrics: Dance to the valentine

2: Anthems that kill

3: Valium veins and eyes that sink

4: Lying down I want

5: Want a brainwash trip

6: You’re screaming so much that I feel sorry to breathe

7: I wanna feel cold and I wanna bleed your disease.

8: Hold your head up

9: And pray for sun

10: But rain keeps pouring on and on

11: Loveless aloneness

12: Life that just impales

13: As backs break thorns dig deeper in

14: Baby can’t have her little bit of love

15: Cos it’s wrapped up inside her lover’s gut

16: Lazy fat executive seller

17: Sway to the sound of another dead lover

18: So dull and tired of his pretty face

19: Makes the truth seems easy but you’ve lost

 20: Laugh at the TV, empty cell of life, mundane exile it’s not of your choice.

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear (Side B)

Cover Art By Mark Wilkinson

Greetings, Glancers! I’m just going to jump right into this one without all the usual faff, because that faff balloons the already gorged content of my posts to debaucherously gargantuan levels. What do you call a debauched gargantuan? Simian Debussey. No, I don’t get it either.

Garden Party was a single, and Wikipedia tells me it reached 16 in the charts. For a 7 minute song, that’s not bad. You wouldn’t get that nowadays.  Today it’s all about sub 3 minutes jingles which need to have a ‘.feat’ accompanying the main artist. ‘Ho’s Party by DJ Mary Elle Lynn. feat Fish.’ This is getting awfully close to faff.

Garden Party then. Maybe the only thing sweet and pastoral about the track (beyond the title) is the birdsong which sporadically flutters about. Elsewhere, it’s another bitter song as Fish seems to be taking aim at – the upper class? Posh circles he may have experienced in his own life? Possibly the other posh Prog boys he maybe felt Otherness towards? Is it Royals or hangers-on (hanger-ons?), or is it just the well born blue and bred in general? I couldn’t hone in on precisely who or what he was targeting.

Those bird sounds do give a sense of calm, while melodically and musically it’s not as dark or frantic or downbeat as some Marillion material I’ve heard. Before I checked out the lyrics, it felt like a more positive song than The Web. However, that staccato beat seems deliberately robotic as if to hint at the conforming, repetitive, perpetuating nature of the wealthy class and their behaviour. More likely I’m reading far too much into things. There’s a little blink and you’ll miss it extra pause after the first three synth/drum blasts and before the final three. There’s a little extra pause between the first three synth/drum blasts. If you don’t hear it…  it would be easier to explain if you could hear me, but instead of going ‘dum dum dum – dum dumdumdum’ like it should, it goes ‘dum dum dum – – dum dumdumdum’. Do you see?

In fact, the whole song has lots of little unusual time signature hiccups which must make the thing a bastard to play live. While it’s not the most expansive or complex song in the grand scheme of Progressive singles, this doesn’t feel like a single. Sure, there are hooks, but there is a lot of jumping around and plenty of instrumental sections – the bane of chart radio. Possibly the single was cut down for Radio purposes – a la Light My Fire. Fish is being even more theatrical than usual, rolling every ‘r’, sneering, sighing, and possibly collapsing over a Chaise Longue with a damp cloth atop his brow. I kept having visions of Morrissey while listening to this one, cycling with a pansy in his lapel on his way to a Britain’s First picnic or some such.

In the middle of the song there’s a tasty Synth solo. This is in lieu of the more traditional guitar solo which, as a guitar fan and player I am naturally more drawn to – I don’t mind the occasional synth solo but they usually need to be exceptional to make an impact on me, God knows why. I must be a guitar Neanderthal. While I didn’t find it the most exciting song musically or melodically, I still found myself humming it over the weekend and cutting cheese to the staccato rhythm. That was not a euphemism, though can you imagine?

Lyrically, well it’s all very ironic and cynical isn’t it? He peppers the song with more puns and wordplay – not as much fun as on Charting The Single, but a few of them are amusing. Reading the lyrics doesn’t truly offer me any further insight as to Fish’s prey this time around, but I imagine there’s a good ol’ story behind it all. I’ll leave it to Paul and Sanja to share.

Chelsea Monday is the song which most reminded me of Pink Floyd, or some of the more talkative moments off something like Operation Mindcrime. It has snippets of soundbites and speech and effects and English accents. It’s a song of few transitions in tone or time signature, but isn’t any less interesting than the more complicated tracks. It doesn’t become tedious over its 8 minutes, mainly due to the articulate atmosphere which tows the line between chilled and threatening. The guitar solo towards the end – I don’t want to say it’s similar to Dave Gilmour solos – but that was the first reference point I could come up with so I’m sticking with it. The dude (checking name again), Steve Rothery plays with a similar elongated tone and emotive quality as Gilmour on this song at least. The sounds in the intro remind me of Welcome To The Machine, while the speaking near the end are pure Dark Side Of The Moon. 

This one I liked a lot. I haven’t quite stopped calling it Chelsea Morning, which is a Joni Mitchell song, but it isn’t one which needed to grow on me – I clicked with it from the first listen, usually a sign that the song will become a favourite. The creeping bass riff, the searing guitar bends, and the more subtle vocals combine to create a picture of – I’m not quite sure yet. When I think of the term Chelsea Monday in terms of the atmosphere crafted by the music, I get images of exhausted, paranoid rock stars waking the morning after in some luxury room, coke crumbs dusting a glass table, half empty bottles of Jack and Champers dripping on a Persian rug, and perhaps the odd groupie dead in the tub. All images from bad movies no doubt.

I stayed in a hotel in Chelsea once – there was a bit of a mix-up with our Breakfast (and there was blood in the bed when we arrived, but that seems to be par for the course for us when we stay anywhere that isn’t our own house) and the manager chased us down the street after we checked out, visibly frothing as he apologised and offered to appease us by shoving a bottle of wine into our hands. That’s all well and good, but as you can see we are each dragging a suitcase and have no free hands – could you please uncork it and pour it into my mouth while I stand here avoiding the seagulls?

Reading the lyrics, it becomes obvious quickly that the song isn’t about the band, or rock stars, but instead seems to be a certain type of lady – maybe one woman specifically. A few years ago you may have called them WAGs. It’s about a woman who is dealing in, or forced to deal in deceit and ass-kissing and social climbing to get to where she wants to be – presumably a position of wealth, fame, and power. Although it seems cynical in the beginning there is a tenderness to the lyrics and many of the metaphors used suggest fragility, innocence, and desperation – the song becomes less about a fame hungry woman but more about the tragedy of the lengths people may have to go to while chasing an honest dream. It becomes more apparent, and more tragic within the concluding spoken section as we learn in tabloid whispers that the woman drowned. She’s famous now. I’m curious to learn if this one was based on any true life figure or if it’s another imagining based on a collage of people. I just realised Chelsea Monday could be a person’s name. In any case, great song.

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

Forgotten Sons closes the album – it’s another eight minute track, and one of the heaviest on the album. There’s quite a lot of funky chord carnage, squealing solos, and flickers to lend a chaotic twist, there’s what seems to be Text To Speech and later there is militaristic shouting – all of which contributes to this feeling heavy, if not Metal. I particularly enjoyed the drums throughout this one – a lot of the tonal shifts are naturally driven by the percussion but the drum work stood out for me over most of the other songs. During the militaristic shouting section, there’s a nice surge of backing orchestration but rather than building to some explosive finish the song goes off in a more soothing direction for the finish. Soothing isn’t entirely accurate, but it’s accentuated by another one of those smooth Gilmour-esque solos and a more relaxed, toned down rhythm and percussion section than anything else in the song. From the very jaunty opening which sees Fish going all in with his theatrical tics alongside a bouncing, giddy synth, to the snazzy guitar and Text To Speech middle piece, this song was much more of a grower on me. On first listen it didn’t feel like a satisfying conclusion to the record, but I’ve come around on it in subsequent listens.

Being a lad from Northern Ireland, my first instinct on hearing ‘Armalite’ and ‘sniper’ in the opening verse was to make for under the table and phone the filth. Those were some of the small handful of lyrics I caught on first spin and given the album was released at the height of ‘The Troubles’ it seemed reasonable to assume the song was in part alluding to what was going on with the IRA et al. By the end of the song though, the lyrics seemed to cover over topics such as disillusionment, shitty parenting, the media, and organized religion. All of those can be connected quite easily to the topic of our silly little civil war, but just as easily it could be about some other riot or dispute or uprising I’m unaware of.

Having then gone back and read the lyrics, I’m guessing my original assumption was more accurate than I expected – ‘Emerald Aisle/isle’ is mentioned, kids being drafted into the Army (or alternatively a terrorist group) is a blatantly called out topic, and the whole song is punctured by violent allusions and language. A problem I’ve always had with songs which mention this conflict is that inevitably writers tend to pick sides – even from well-meaning pap released by the likes of Lennon and McCartney – which simplifies a battlefield history so strewn with misdirects, overlaps, and bullshit that any single truth is nigh-on impossible to grasp for long. If this is what Forgotten Sons is about, then it takes the seemingly more mature, even respectful approach by admitting there are no sides – only grief and pointless death. Hell, even saying that could get you kneecapped here. Yay!

It’s at this point in my post that I take a pause from the music and head off to listen to what Paul and Sanja make of it all. As always, any comments I make on the Podcast episode will likely be jumbled and less coherent than the mess I’ve already scribbled above. Paul used to invite his friends round to listen to Marillion. In my day it was Nirvana and Guns ‘n’ Roses. Then later it would simply be 6 hour sessions of Goldeneye and Diddy Kong Racing. Paul does admit he thinks the first song is a very strange song to have hit so high in the charts – something I mentioned somewhere miles above, but he then says the song was more about one of Fish’s girlfriends changing into a bit of a posho after going to Cambridge. To be fair, any of my friends (acquaintances) who went to Cambridge were already poshos. Sanja loves this one, and it seems like it’s still a live fan favourite. There’s some single Artwork, so I’d better check it out. It’s another shifty, psychotic jester holding a blade and a cucumber. Why he’s scalped a dinosaur and is doing a Davey Crockett with it is anyone’s guess. I wouldn’t have known that was a cucumber from the artwork – it’s more accurately just a big green… thing.

I have never named a car… or anything really. I named my cats and children, that’s about as far as I would go. Interesting that they changed up the drummer – I mentioned this song (and much of Side 2) has a lot of tricky drum parts which would be a pain in the arse performing live. I was wondering if I would ‘need’ to watch the videos. Sometimes videos let me down, especially when they’re from a band known for being artistic. Like my beloved Manic Street Preachers – as intelligent and well-read and well versed in art and literature and ideas as they are… their videos are balls. Parkes with an ‘e’ – I forgot to Google him. Paul raises an interesting one – there are plenty of songs and bands I love because they struck at the right time in my life, and upon re-evaluation they’re not as interesting or impactful or ‘good’. However, I tend towards still enjoying songs I once loved even as I recognise them as not being very good, but in general the bands I loved in my early days are bands I still adore now.

Sanja doesn’t sound like she enjoys Chelsea Monday much, but does enjoy the intro. She mentions the song feeling overly wordy – I think I’d be more shocked if the song wasn’t wordy. Paul doesn’t like this one – interesting – and that seems to be opposite from most Marillion fans. Given that I have no idea what Marillion fans like this is all interesting for me. Looks like I’m on the majority side here as the song was probably my second favourite. I should probably remind readers that I do look the old dirge – I wouldn’t call this a dirge in the negative sense – and I did find it one of the more emotive songs. Maybe the association to Genesis has added to Paul’s dislike of the song, while I’ve just heard it for the first time with no such association. Or maybe he just doesn’t like it. We can agree to disagree here, definitely one of my favourites. I never liked V For Vendetta like all the naughty little rebel boys did.

Onto the final track, and as anticipated the song is about ‘The Troubles’ but more concerned with the kids being sent off to die because they had no other prospects and the politicians convinced them that it was a glorious, heroic thing to do. A bit of the old Dulce et decorum est about it all then, and sadly fuck all has changed since WWI. Go and watch the movie ‘71, which is set in Belfast and follows a young soldier abandoned by his regiment in the midst of a riot – it’s great, and just about the most tonally accurate movie about the whole nonsense that I’ve seen. Hell, I grew up in the 80s and 90s in the middle of it all, and I still felt removed from it. I was never shot. My town was only (completely) destroyed by a bomb once. You get used to whatever your environment is. I missed the bit about the brick while typing, need to go back and listen. Hey, growing up here – even now, having a brick or indeed a shoe or a bottle thrown at you is not unusual, if you hang around certain areas. I quite enjoyed the anger in the lyrics and it did feel convincingly personal. I haven’t had many issues with any of the lyrics so far – possibly because the bar is set so low lyrically by most bands that anything with a sprinkle of artistry seems close to genius. Incidentally, I don’t have an issue per se with artists writing about a conflict or an issue that they have no first hand experience with… but if you’re going to do it, be prepared for the backlash. By all means do it, but most conflicts are such a clusterfuck that you’re never going to please everyone. Look at the stuff with Roger Waters and the Middle East. Nah, I’d rather not. Still, like I say, I feel that Fish took the right approach with the song – anyone can agree, or most can agree, that going to war isn’t the nicest thing.

There we go. My thoughts on the album? I mean, read everything above if you really want to again. I’ll probably listen to it again, but I see only Chelsea Monday and the title track staying with me – maybe one or two of the others will continue to grow on me. It’s a fine first album – Paul has said the band changes a little after this release. Plenty of bands get much better, plenty get worse or stop. Using the two artists I’ve mentioned most in these posts – Iron Maiden’s first album isn’t that great, while Generation Terrorists by the Manics has plenty of classics but in some ways doesn’t sound like anything else they would do afterwards. The cover art is cool, better now that some of the details I missed were pointed out – without having a big vinyl in front of me it’s hard to get the full impact. Next time is… Fugazi? That’s a band.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Script For A Jester’s Tear!

Love’s Sweet Exile

Love’s Sweet Exile: 2/Okay

Another song which I’ve always felt could have been cut from Generation Terrorists, even though it’s a clear centrepiece and a distillation of what the band was all about at the time. The lyrics are fine, the spitting slogans about alienation, angst, the video provocative in its sexuality. The music is certainly heavy enough and there are hundreds of different guitar parts zooming around, including a singularly brilliant solo – it just feels too chaotic and in the end becomes boring – none of the melodies speak to me, I don’t particularly enjoy the vocals, and the drums feel too static.

Misheard Lyrics: We buried the woman, it’s a faker world too.

2: Classify machines that were understood

3: City reflections for our misery

4: Rain down any nation

5: You no factor love of everything inside

6: Everything immediate becomes destroyed

7: These two moons can’t wait for us to breathe.

Actual Lyrics: We blur into images of state coercion. 

2: Classified machines die misunderstood

3: City reflections pour out misery

4: Rain down alienation

5: Unified collapse of everything inside

6: Everything of meaning becomes destroyed

7: There’s too much concrete for us to breathe.

Spectators Of Suicide

Spectators Of Suicide: 3/Good (Heavenly Version)

I’ve always been torn between which version I prefer – the album or the heavenly version. I love the build up in the Heavenly version, but the vocals are tripe, whereas the album version has a drugged, dreamlike quality, the sound of bleeding out in a bathtub. The difference in tone between the two songs is vast, and if they ever recorded an updated studio version of the Heavenly one where James actually sings throughout, then I suspect it would be a big favourite of mine. The album version is still a highlight, a poignant, soft, overly produced moment in an album not known for subtlety or strong production values. The shimmering electric guitars, the phasing, the soft acoustic backing and harmonies which make it sound like Nicky can actually sing, the beautiful chorus and thoughtful lyrics all merge well – it’s just a little overlong.

Misheard Lyrics: Obedience to love is free desire

2: Free heroin drugs for those who never beg

3: Exporting in society’s eyes

4: Sick around a lifeline/sits around a lifetime

5: It’s safety in bed

6: Advertised and dead/Advertising death

7: Under curfew from beyond barb wire

8: Spitting ass from our mouths

Actual Lyrics: Obedience to the law is free desire

2: Free heroin shots for those who never beg

3: Exploding in society’s eye

4: Cigarettes a lifeline

5: It’s safety in death

6: Advertised and fed

7: Under curfew from neon barbed wire

8: Spitting glass from out mouths

All Is Vanity

All Is Vanity: 4/Great

One of the heavier songs from Journal For Plague Lovers, in an album filled with guitars, foreboding, and dark moments, it is notable in that many of its lyrics popped up earlier on the song Picturesque from the God Save The Manics EP. That song is vastly different from what we have here, and indeed this song feels like the distilled version of what Richey was saying when he left behind his folder of lyrics. It starts in sinister fashion with a driving, ominous drum and bass combo, but it isn’t until the guitar takes over that driving bass riff that the song truly takes hold. There’s the sense of routine, an inevitable, unstoppable march in the music, a sound which breaks free in the wonderful chorus with Bradfield unleashing a furious barrage of vocals and guitars. And that’s really it, the second half of the song is simply a repetition of the verse and chorus, no changes lyrically or musically. But it manages to be powerful and sinister nonetheless in barely three and a half minutes.

Misheard Lyrics: Heaven shape for days

2: My luxury of one war died

Actual Lyrics: Haven’t shaved for days

2: The luxury of one more dye

Best Actor – 1979

Official Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Jack Lemmon. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers.

It seems appropriate that the final Awards of the decade should end with such a 70s looking list. Dustin Hoffman got his win as the sympathetic Daddy Kramer, another extension of the everyman characters he had been playing for much of the decade and becoming one of his most famous roles. It’s difficult to argue against him getting the win, even if I’m not the biggest fan of the film. The same could be said for any of the nominees in this category this year – Jack Lemmon would have felt like a veteran nomination, but for the fact he had already been nominated several times, and won twice by this point. Lemmon is the power plant worker who believes something is amiss and that a meltdown is imminent, tries to convince first his management and then the general public that the plant is not safe. Lemmon was also best as an Everyman, here is frustration growing steadily and convincingly – it’s easy to see why the public may not be able to tell if his character is genuine or has lost his mind.

Al Pacino grabs another vote for one of his lesser known 70s works, this time as the jaded and fiery Defence Attorney who ends up defending a Judge he has a difficult past with. As it’s Pacino, you know you’re going to get plenty of grandstanding and explosive speeches, and that’s precisely what he delivers – while not letting the sympathetic side of the character down. Roy Scheider basically plays Bob Fosse in All That Jazz – a workaholic and pressure addict who refuses to stop or accept when enough is enough. He fully embraces his many vices and Scheider is perfect for the role – just intense enough without becoming something to be lampooned, and jittering all the way to his character’s inevitable conclusion. Finally, Peter Sellers feels like the bonus nominee here, not someone who really stood a chance against the other four. Having said that, it may be his best role, if not best performance, because while it lacks the obvious silliness of his more renowned work, this one feels more true to who he wanted to be as a performer. The character is ideal for him – a simple-minded, simple gardener who somehow becomes advisor in The White House. Honestly you can take any of these choices and not be concerned.

My Winner: Dustin Hoffman

See the source image

My Nominations: Dustin Hoffman. Al Pacino. Roy Scheider. Peter Sellers. Martin Sheen. Klaus Kinski. Phil Daniels.

As much as I’d like to put Mel Gibson here for Mad Max, I think the performance grows more in the sequel. It seems odd, especially in retrospect, that Martin Sheen wasn’t nominated here for Apocalypse Now. Possibly it’s a case of him being overshadowed somewhat by other performances in the film – with both Brando and Duvall stealing their scenes. But Sheen’s is the performance which holds the entire process together – we see the war and the journey through his eyes and he becomes increasingly crazed as the insanity around him intensifies. Klaus Kinski, in a year with a few notable vampire performances, delivers one of the all time best performances as a fanged monster. Obviously he is more visually horrific than the more romantic take on the creatures, but that doesn’t make him any less convincing, intriguing, seductive, or sympathetic – a credit to what Kinski was able to convey. Finally, Phil Daniels gives what I think is one of the finest British big screen performances of the decade in Quadrophenia – it’s authentic as hell, powerful on a number of emotional levels, and it is arguably one of the best performances focusing on teen rebellion, angst, and alienation. No-one else is ever going to go for him, so I will.

My Winner: Phil Daniels

Let us know in the comments who you pick as Best Actor of 1979!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Script For A Jester’s Tear (Side A)

Cover Art By Mark Wilkinson

Greetings, Glancers! I hope whoever reads this nonsense has been enjoying it so far, because there is plenty more to come. In this post, I find myself finally delving into the first Marillion album, the ludicrously titled Script For A Jester’s Tear. Why is it a single tear? Or is it tear, as in ‘hark! The jester has a tear in his codpiece, and I can see his fiddle’?

As I mentioned last time around, that title conjures up a hundred images and songs that I’ve already seen and heard – everything from Blind Guardian’s Script For My Requiem to CITV’s Knightmare. I don’t think Paul and Sanja have suggested in their previous episodes that this album is an extension of the sound of the four songs we’ve covered so far, but that seems like an educated guess. Paul has mentioned that the Pre-album songs and the first album form some sort of mini phase for the band, a phase which doesn’t continue beyond this album, so I can only assume it’s more of the same. Not that the four songs I’ve heard have had too many blatant common threads running through them. Beyond a couple of their biggest hits I don’t know what other sounds and styles to expect from the band, but I’ll gamble that this isn’t their Viking Metal Deathcore album.

The podcast is split into two episodes, one for each side of the album – meaning either (or both) that there is much to talk about or that the album is very long. Wikipedia tells me that… it’s only 46 minutes long, which is about bang average. It also tells me that the album went Platinum, charted at seven in the UK, and features two Top 40 Singles, neither of which I believe I’ve heard. In today’s post, I’ll cover Side A, which is the title track, He Knows You Know, and The Web. Maybe it will be a shorter post…

If you’re new to all this, my process is that I listen to the songs a few times before checking out the lyrics and writing my thoughts. Then I listen to the related episode of Between You And Me to hear what Paul and Sanja think of it all, before returning with final thoughts. Maybe what they say will make me re-evaluate whatever my initial opinions are. Or maybe I’m too stubborn to be changed. First up, is the almost nine minute title track.

Spoiler alert – my first thought halfway through my first listen of the opening number was ‘I think this is my favourite Marillion song yet’, quickly followed by ‘I hope the rest of the album is as good as this’. It really is a wonderful little mini-epic. It has as many tonal and melodic shifts as Grendel but it pinched me on a greater emotional level. Some of the slower sections didn’t do as much for me, but they didn’t bring down my enjoyment of the song as much as the slower equivalent pieces did on Grendel (which wasn’t a great deal to be fair). I’ll call it out now – I have absolutely nothing against slow sections of songs, I’m not some sort of jacked up speed freak, just in these two songs in particular those pieces weren’t as delicious as the rest. Like the chocolate on a Toffee Pop is the least delicious part – if that was Lindt, I’d be a five pack a day guy.

I’ll touch more on lyrics once I read those later, but the first time I listened to the song through my Echo Dot, the vocals were clearer – except for the one line I picked up in my initial listens ‘I’m losing on the swings/I’m losing on the roundabouts’ instead sounded like ‘I’m losing all my swings/I’m losing all my underpants’. Which is clearly the better line.

The song’s subdued, yearning opening is reminiscent of quite a few Prog album opening tracks – a quiet opening which expands to something greater. Fish’s vocals in the opening have a touch of Dave Gilmour, but without the rasp. It’s mainly Fish accompanied by piano, and he seems to be singing of the past, and maybe by extent, regret? Some sort of flute type instrument (which is probably keyboard) comes through to accompany a more forceful vocal before the underpants section begins. I had a minor shock at the initial transition to a louder dynamic when I first listened, because I thought the song was heading towards some faux-reggae/Madness sound. Instead though, the fingerless leather gloves come out and we dive headlong into a full blown 80s anthemic, fist pumping section. A younger me would have been throwing the cushions from the sofas to the ground and leaping across them playing a rock star version of The Floor Is Lava if I’d heard this when I was a kid. Before Mummy came with the wooden spoon. That’s the sort of nonsense I got up to.

The quiet section already mentioned is fine – I enjoy the tingling guitar and the woo-eee-woo-ee sounds which intersect these moments, but the transition out of this part is a little odd, with an off-kilter change of note in the vocal. I can live with that, as it moves into a mournful yet inspirational final minute or so where I feel like the truth of the lyric comes out, the repeated refrain of ‘Do you love me’ shedding light on the song and album title.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from the opening track, or the album – was it going to be similar to the songs I’d heard so far, was it going to be a concept album of mood and music, or more socially investigative like Queensryche. From the opener at least, it’s very much its own thing. Fish’s vocals feel stronger, more mature, more controlled here and musically the band seems brimming with ideas and confidence. Lyrically, it’s another tome. By my third or fourth listen I felt like I had a fair understanding of the song from what lyrics I could discern – a loss of innocence, of childhood, a tirade of missed opportunities, the fear of aging and forgetting and letting go, the anguish of growth all sticky taped to colourful medieval imagery.

I didn’t notice that the lyrics repeat, not until I checked them on Google, so clearly I wasn’t paying that much attention. I like when bands do this sort of thing – repeat not only a single line or word, but an entire verse or two, but with an entirely different musical and vocal approach. That has always been an experiment I’ve wanted to conduct – giving different groups or individuals the same set of lyrics and ask them each to write a song – then see how wildly different the songs and genres are.

Most of the lyrics follow the poetic leanings I’ve come to expect, although not every line hits – ‘to bleed the lyric’ is the sort of 6th form goth nonsense everyone used to write, but that’s a tiny handful of a great big flurry of fists which mostly land and produce a knockout. Towards the end, the character, taking on the literal or metaphorical image of a jester seems to be accepting the loss of his love, but if anything it’s the delivery of the vocal which elevates the words – feeling pours through to the extent that I don’t always care what is being said and I get the gist of it via the emotion produced. It’s a less theatrical, or more restrained, approach, which generates a more raw result.

cover art for Script For A Jester's Tear - Side 1

Listen, I’m trying to be succinct with this, but I have a tendency to allow my fingers to ramble. Lets move onto the second song, which has been teasing me for a number of days because I kept hearing the opening few seconds after the opening track would end. My first impressions of this song were that it was a night driving song. I’ve mentioned it before on the blog, but the cassettes I used to listen to while my parents were driving use home after visiting relatives hours away from my house – there must have been some instrumental or tonal quality to those songs as I continue to equate songs with a similar quality to those night driving sessions. He Knows You Know fits the bill.

It’s not as impactful as the opener and certainly not as complex – it’s a solid atmospheric rock song. The opening guitar riff and vocals reminded me of Somewhere In Time era Maiden, that feeling heightened once the synth pounces. The verses further the moody vibe, though I was disappointed when the drums kicked in with a slower pace than I was expecting. The synth shifts close to the halfway point, this time sparking thoughts of 80s horror movies, and then the groovy instrumental middle pours tumbling, looping guitar and synth riffs which dance off each other. At various points the drum and bass punctuate more harmoniously and create an interesting time signature.

From my various listens, the main lyric which stands out is, of course, ‘problems. Problems problems. This word pops up again and again, and even recurs in the spoken outro. I’m not the biggest fan of spoken word pieces in songs – the few times I’ve felt like it improved the song or the album are in The Wall and various Alice Cooper efforts. I cringed somewhat when I first heard the ending, less so on further listens, but I still got the feeling that it wasn’t necessary. I don’t know if this plays a larger role in linking the song to the next, or if it’s part of a wider recurring motif, but as a standalone I could live without it.

Scanning the lyrics, there’s a lot of obvious drug allusions employed – from paraphernalia to feelings – it all appears to revolve around guilt and self-disgust and the futile trust/distrust of the authority figures who are supposed to help but are fallible humans too, possibly with their own motives. Songs about addiction are a dime a dozen in rock music but at least there’s a unique artistic flourish to the words and images poured out in this one.

Onto the final song for today. The Web is another nine minute beast, so be prepared for another twelve paragraphs. My opinions on music are largely governed by feeling – how a song makes me feel is more important to me than how original or innovative it is, how popular it is, how influential etc. Everything comes after the way it makes me feel and how successful the song is at making me feel the way it is designed to. The Web didn’t make me feel much of anything. I can’t say the song bored me, but a good example of how I felt is, after my third listen Grendel came on and I wanted to listen to it rather than refresh and start The Web over again. Another example – I’ve already listened to a cover version of Script For A Jester’s Tear and a Fish live version – The Web I can’t see me listening to much again, never mind going down the Fishhole. Incidentally, that Fish live version needed a second guitarist.

The Web does begin in a way which suggests it will be a similar trip to the first songs – a lot of synth blasts and then a time and tone shift inside the opening 30 seconds. The whispered and near-spoken vocals are characteristic of what I’ve heard thus far – unsurprisingly it appears to be another verbose tale. There is a beast of a guitar solo somewhere in the middle which scratches and hastens and steadies, bypassing a drum section which seems like a call back to Achilles Last Stand. Elsewhere, I enjoy some of the bippy boppy synth laser sounds and at times I sense moments from the Rocky score dipping in and out.

As I was left a little isolated by the music I didn’t heed the lyrics on most of my listens, so I’ve no clue what the song is about. As I read the lyrics – which again elevate the song thanks to their off-beat poetic musings – the song could be about loneliness and depression. ‘The Web’ seems like a metaphor both for being trapped, and for the cyclical nature of things, particularly the feelings of being unable to progress, and that these feelings only grow the longer you remain trapped. The narrator does come to a realisation and seems able or prepared finally move on by the end of the song. Self-explanatory, but done with a more sublime touch. It’s always better to write ‘interesting’ (something I have always ignored – Ed).

Onto the podcast. I see in the blurb for the episode he mentions Homer’s Odyssey – which just happens to be one of my favourite books of all time. Long time Glancers to the blog will now that I was obsessed with myths and legends as a child, and I’d read The Odyssey by the time I was ten. I studied Latin for seven years in school because of this (yes, I’m aware The Odyssey was Greek but it, and The Trojan War as a whole overlapped with much of the Roman Literature which I studied – namely The Illiad), and in my first year at University I added Classical Studies to my Major as a bonus – just so that I could spend more time arsing about in Toga Town. Whether or not I mapped out a massive plan for a screenplay aimed at bringing the Trojan Trilogy to the big screen, with hundreds of characters and their intertwining backstories, I’ll leave up to you to decide.

I didn’t pick up many references to The Odyssey in these three songs, but then I wasn’t looking out for those. There was something about a Cyclops in The Web, but I’m sure there’s a lot more I skimmed over. Let’s have a listen. March 1983, eh? One month before I was ‘released’. Paul says the band was the big boy of British Prog in the 80s. I always (prematurely) called The Wall the logical closing point for Prog. Sanja likes the first song and gets sucked in by some of the earworms – which I can attest to having listened to the song about 20 times now. The song was ‘inspired’ by Fish’s breakup with Kayleigh, who I didn’t know was a real person – that’s maybe the only Marillion song I defo knew before starting this journey. Fish writes the song, admitting the breakup was his fault – cool. The lyrics are ‘up themselves’, but yeah it’s difficult to do that when you’re emotional and dealing with such a personal issue. I assume kids still write poetry – I certainly did at that age, but I wasn’t cool enough to have had a girlfriend to have broken up with.

Have you been on a roundabout these days? They’re so safe. They’re locked to only go a certain speed – when I was young it wasn’t a roundabout unless you were hitting G-forces and could feel your tongue slithering back down your throat as you hit 500 rotations a minute. Plus there’s all that spongy stuff on the ground now, rather than gravel and broken bottles of Buckfast of my youth. Fish does seem like an emotional chap, so I can understand the difficulty of singing certain songs. I can’t make it through singing Shock To My System by Gemma Hayes without my voice breaking – no idea why. Sia breaking down in her live performances of Titanium is wonderful – not a dry eye in the house. It’s cool that the band still play the song live today – I know Fish isn’t still with the band, but presumably other original writers and players are. A lot of bands who have been around the block for multiple decades don’t touch their early material in the live setting.

He Knows You Know may or may not be autobiographical, but I didn’t know it referred to not telling the person that they have a problem – he knows. That may be the worst sentence ever written. They don’t talk much about the song and Paul then tells us that he’s not a huge fan. I prefer it to the third song. I certainly haven’t listened to it as much as the first. This transforms into a chat about Prog and Marillion’s relationship to the genre – I get the sense I have similar feelings to Prog as Biffo – albeit he sounds like he has listened to a lot more than I have – I want to like Prog but I prefer bands with progressive elements, bands known for pushing themselves because that’s what they want to do rather than fit a particular convention. If diehard music fans have any rights (we don’t) it’s that we can hate or give zero fucks about whichever songs by our favourite bands that we please.

Final track comments – I was going to write that The Web didn’t need to be so long, but Sanja got there first. I agree. The song morphed from an older track – as I haven’t plugged The Manics in today’s post – they would frequently write a lot of crap songs, discard them, but then take the best parts and jumble those together into a new form to make a good song. I imagine many prog bands do that, with epics coming from extended jam sessions. They mention the song being better live – yeah, I’ve seen that happen but I tend to prefer live songs when I’m actually there and elsewhere stick to the studio versions. Yes, I can hear some ice cream tones there – mine still comes on Thursday nights – right up to Christmas week, Lockdown or no. Okay, I see a loose Penelope reference from what Paul is saying, but I never would have picked that up from the lyrics. Don’t worry, Penelope and Odysseus did get back together in the end, having watched every single one of his men massacred, drowned, and/or eaten by a Cyclops/turned into swine. Of course Odysseus goes on to have an ironic and tragic end when killed by his son (not Telemachus), conceived during an infidelity with Circe. Of course Telemachus would go on to marry Circe, so everybody’s brother turns out to be their dad, or possibly son…. Greek mythology families get complicated. Anyway, Paul likes this better than I do. Nah, He Knows You Know is better – I think I’ve proven I’m the bigger fan now.

I used to like Oasis, but that wore thin fairly quickly – I gave them a good four years. Paul proceeds to have some sort of stroke. I’m away to Google Taylor Parkes, then maybe listen to Side Two.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Side A of Script For A Jester’s Tear!

Bored Out Of My Mind

Bored Out Of My Mind: 3/Good

An unusual B-Side to go along with the anthem of Motorcycle Emptiness, but an interesting counterpoint. The title says it all, as this mainly acoustic cut discusses boredom, failure, lethargy in typical Manics phrasing, and with a lazy tone of procrastination. The music still manages to be interesting, and the melodies are engaging from start to finish, while the atmosphere created does achieve that dull sense of lying in a heap on the floor without being arsed to do or see anything. There’s a neat little guitar outro, overall a good B-side but not one I can imagine having too many fans.

Misheard Lyrics: I tried everything to get alone with you

2: The night’s too long son when he doesn’t care.

Actual Lyrics: I tried everything to get along with you

2: The nights too lonesome when the heat doesn’t care

Locust Valley

Locust Valley: 4/Great

With an experimental sound that would return on 4ever Delayed, Locust Valley is a significantly better song than many which made it onto Know Your Enemy. It’s easily one of their best rock songs of the period, with emotive melodies, a fantastic chorus, and swirling broken up riffs which are pulled away, sucked up, and spat out again in  whirlpool of distorted noise. There’s also an excellent guitar solo, suitably strange and flying all over the place, but one which builds and crackles and leads expertly up to the final chorus in a glorious peak. The outro also feels fresh and interesting rather than a simple re-tread or fade out.

Mishead Lyrics: Elusive and de-smiled

2: Art correspondent school behind

3: Long item blues

4: Too shy to portrait stand

5: I feel I want some company name

6: My first attempt’s an empty fail

Actual Lyrics: Elusive and dismantled

2: Our colours form the truth behind… or A correspondence school behind – no-one seems to know

3: Long Island Blues

4: The shattered portrait’s frame

5: I feel the words and Company names

6: Of his attempts at empty fame