Greetings, Glancers! When I was finalizing my thoughts on Side A or Side B, I found a random snippet of text in the middle of a couple of paragraphs which didn’t seem to relate to anything within those paragraphs, so rather than lose it I’m going to use it as my non-sequitor intro to this post – ‘I think the album may have been a greater success if it had been released in the 80s. It’s an alarming change when viewed alongside their debut, and is very much an MOR pop rock record with singalong melodies dripping out of each song’
Holidays In Eden has a touch of The Who and The Police. Not for the first time in the band’s career. If there was any song on this album which felt familiar it was this one – I don’t see how I possibly would have heard this before, unless it was on a movie soundtrack, but since hearing it I have been scratching my head to try and place where I know it from, if I know it at all. Having said that, it’s a bit of a shark-jump moment. I’m not sure what the intent was for this one – there are spots of nice music – the quiet guitar parts in the verses, maybe the lyrics, but the bouncier moments are bizarre. It turns into this weird clownish thing with H sounding like Sting, the keyboard sounding like a moped struggling to start, and a rhythm which just irked me from the off. All I could think of when hearing the bouncy moments in this was Bob Mortimer dancing – in fact, here’s a clip of the exact moment I’m thinking of. That’s the same song, right? I struggled to find enough to say about this one because I had to skip through those bouncy bits. There’s a non-eventful guitar solo… the riffs are uppy downy but in a nauseating manner, and the ending is a ludicrous dead stop.
Dry Land restores some sanity and normality to proceedings. The guitar in the intro and verses reminded me of Somebody’s Baby from Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It’s a particularly earwormly chorus. Earwormly? I don’t know. I think this album, more than any other so far, has the best selection of singles. The right songs were picked as singles, and the most melodic of these have been my most played songs around the house up this point. To the extent that I’ve caught my daughters shouting ‘Alexa, play Cover My Eyes’.
H gives a laissez-faire, sultry vocal for the verses – almost like he’s being coy or playing hard to get – and he saves the bigger notes and expression for the chorus. It’s a very strong performance for a melody which dips and peaks suddenly and wouldn’t be the easiest to perform in such a smooth and relaxed manner. I found myself not paying attention to the rest of the band for this one – there rhythm and percussion side of things is consistent and happy to underpin the vocal, while there’s a lot of layers to what the guitars are doing.
The lyrics range from curious, defensive, pleading, afraid – the mental state of someone in love from afar, desperate to make the next move, but terrified of doing so. The object of these affections is somewhere between being placed on a pedestal and being seen as a natural solitary soul. I think this sentiment should be fairly universal for those of us who have fallen for a certain type of person, and allow ourselves to be wrapped up in a torment of indecision, adulation, and self-doubt. The language is easily understood and the words allow the difficult melody to navigate freely.
The first comment I jotted down for Waiting To Happen was ‘a wedding first dance song. Possibly even more so than Grendel’. That was before I heard the first Holidays In Eden Part 1 Podcast episode where Sanja referred to a track on Side A as a Wedding song – to be honest her pick was probably the better choice. At the very least, this a lighters up song. Does the, presumably older, audience who attends Marillion shows still use lighters or do they use phone like everyone else?
It’s a pure power ballad – if I think of early 90s power ballads which were going out of style by this point – stuff like Wind Of Change, Always, Mr Big’s To Be With You – a few of the ingredients which made those so successful can be found in this one, though there’s a higher percentage of emotional desperation and yearning in Waiting To Happen and reduced levels of cheese. It was apparent on my early listens that the lyrics felt more poetic, though my mind and ears could have been dazed by the spell the music put me under. It’s quite lovely – the ‘nicest’ song on the album but probably out of the four most commercial songs on the album it’s my fourth favourite currently. Which means it’s my fourth favourite song on the album.
There’s quite a tonal difference between the verse and the chorus, and even within the pre-chorus, and it’s here that the twist on the power ballad formula becomes apparent; Most power ballads are unashamedly about being in love, or falling out of love. This musically bounces back and forth between those in a musical sense – if we think of being in love, that is a positive thing which we would attach a major key or major chords to, while a break-up or some related anguish would normally be played to the tune of minor chords. We have both, and the lyrics further blur the lines to the extent that it’s never really clear which side of the debate we should be on. I’ve tried to write my thoughts on this with some degree of clarity but have given up numerous times – the summary of my thoughts going somewhere along the lines of ‘the verses point to positives and negatives, the chorus points to positives and negatives’. Assuming this is an H lyric, we’ve come to learn that he does write in this vague catch-all way, but at times I questioned whether the song was even about another person or rather another version of himself. I’m sure the truth is far more simple. No matter what it’s about, it’s another lovely song, part of a quartet of lovely songs.
I’m not sure what the thought what process was for This Town – ‘you know all those terrible Country one hit wonders you hear on US Rock Radio stations which think they’re heavy an bluesy but they’re really not? Lets do one of those!’
It’s not great – it’s tame and it’s silly, but to their credit they do sound like they’re having fun. It’s jolly and bouncy and there’s a couple of more interesting moments towards the end. It sounds like a car chase caper movie soundtrack. This is probably the song I dismissed most quickly on this album – a distinctly average rock song which ends with a tasty solo, but it’s too little too late to allow my thoughts on the overall song to change.
The Rake’s Progress was a pain to find on Youtube as a standalone track, with various ‘video blocked in your region’ messages and the only alternative being to play the track as part of a trio including the previous and next track. Then I remember Paul mentioning there being a longer three part piece on Side B, of which this must be the middle piece. I say this all because it meant I listened to this song less than most others. It’s a rambling piece – it makes sense that it’s part of a larger arc of music and if I’m honest it doesn’t really work on its own, whereas This Town and 100 Nights do. I’m not sure why they didn’t just make this the intro of 100 Nights. It’s fine but I don’t think there’s much here to make me seek it out.
100 Nights is the requisite epic to close the album. It feels like the proggiest song on the album, which is unusual because there aren’t too many changes in time signatures or tone or anything else. While previous songs have been labelled as dirges, this one felt more like a dirge to me primarily because it was all a little one note and felt like a slog to get through. It isn’t musically a dirge (as those are traditionally in the minor key or slower) but it isn’t very exciting. There is a particularly screechy solo in the middle which I was hoping would lead into a more interesting second half, but that second half is instead a louder shoutier version of the first half. The last couple of minutes are more promising and feel like a tacked on idea for a song they couldn’t quite work out how to transform into its own thing. There is a lyrical call-back to This Town. An anti-climactic ending to the album.
If anything, the lyrics highlight the boredom and indifference I felt towards the music, with the narrator bemoaning the repetition and monotony of his existence. There seems to be a bit about how fame changes you, but we’ve already been more than well-versed in this concept over the previous few albums, and many of the lyrics just seem like random nothings added to fill space – ‘you don’t know that I come here, but if you did, you would know why’ – I’m sure that means something that isn’t pervy, but vague, meaningless. There’s enough in the final couple of verses to suggest that the song genuinely is about… something… but I’m sure a hundred people could give a hundred different interpretations and they’d each be as tedious as the next.
On to the podcast and talk of steamers, which is one of the many terms for a type of poo my friends would have used in school days gone by, along with ‘the flock of sparrows’, ‘plopper’, ‘pebble dash’, ‘grunties’, ‘brown disgrace’ and the always controversial ‘depth charge’. Dry Land was apparently a song from H’s previous band repurposed for Marillion. Is popped out another poo thing? Or a boob thing? Everything’s a thing now. I’m glad Sanja picked up on how tricky the song is to sing – it is made to look easier than it actually is. Sanja loves it, Paul isn’t much of a fan but still better than average. Out of the four commercial poppy songs on the album, it’s my third favourite.
With Waiting To Happen, Paul and Sanja both agree it is a lovely pure love song, while I wasn’t so sure and sensed some negativity or cynicism. Maybe it was fear and apprehension coming through, translating to negativity? They both love it – it’s their favourite on the album. They don’t spend much time discussing this song, because there is worse to come… such as This Town which Paul was looking forward to before the album release due to some prior version being high in his estimation. He was therefore disappointed by what it became. The most similar example I have of this phenomenon in my own musical memory would be JJ72’s City. The band played this song live a few times after the release of their stellar debut, and had me excited to hear it on their second (above and beyond the singles they subsequently released). Imagine my disappointment when the album version of City stripped away all of the venom and force and emotion of the earlier version. The same could be said of much of JJ72’s second album. Radiohead did something similar when they finally released a studio version of the once glorious True Love Waits – and turned it into an empty collection of robotic noises.
The guys aren’t overly impressed or effusive about the final three songs – neither enjoy This Town, they’re fine, they both appreciate the lyrics of the final two parts, but Paul says the whole thing is a slog live. Is 100 Nights about The Invisible Man? In which case – pervy. I was half-expecting Paul to love this one because it’s a bit more prog-oriented, but no, that’s one of the reasons he doesn’t like it. I don’t hate it – I don’t care enough to hate it – and I have the luxury of being a Marillion pleb so I can say it’s a bit rubbish. Incidentally, I can’t hear the name Chris Neil without thinking about The Exorcist (Mac). They some up their thoughts on the album – some highish highs, some steamers.
We move into some talk of the other B-Sides which I haven’t bothered listening to, then the spoiler that the next album is both scary, dark, and a bit of a departure. They also made a film of the album. Paul’s making a big deal of it now, so I’m a bit concerned I’m going to think it’s shit. I’ve seen various posts on BYAMPOD on Twitter regarding the next album, but I’ve purposely avoided them. They give a little more info on where The Rake’s Progress name came from – fair enough. We’re (well, you’re) fans – the product is out there and we can’t be expected to lie to ourselves about our feelings. There are plenty of Manics songs where I will gladly kick Nicky in the nuts for giving them birth. Man… I hate when my wife crunches crisps with her mouth open. IT’S ALWAYS THE THIRD CRUNCH! <munch munch CRUNCH STOP!> I wouldn’t say I have this feeling about any song by a band I love, as I’ll just go out of my way to ignore it and not listen to it. And as die-hard fans, I think you’ve somehow earned the right to have strong personal feelings about this band you adore. Someone who blindly loves everything… that’s a more disturbing level of adoration that’s bordering on unhealthy obsession. I tend to trust the opinions of people I already know and can gauge our aligned musical tastes before choosing to listen to something they recommend. And as they’re my friends I can tell them their taste is terrible without getting slapped. I knew nothing of Paul’s musical tastes before starting out on this nonsense but the general area of Prog is something I wanted to expand into and I was happy to give Marillion a shot.
The rest of the episode is a a listeners’ letters thing, so maybe my email will be answered. Beerman doesn’t like Cover My Eyes. Go have another beer, man! The next bloke loved the band already but has seen his love revitalized thanks to the podcast – that’s great. I have to admit, I don’t know if I would have been a fan if I had heard the band when I was the same age as when Paul first heard them. Back then it was all grunge and metal and angry men shouting stuff angrily… and sounding angry when they did it. Whether or not this was a maturity thing, their general sound I doubt would have pulled me in. If they had been a band with a little more mysticism surrounding them or more cult credibility then I would have given them a chance in my teens.
The next email is from ‘Pee Twitcher’. It looks like a lot of those contacting the Podcast are those who ‘lost their way’ around the release of Holidays In Eden. Charlie likes walking his dog and was in University in 1991. I was 8 in 1991, but that should not matter to any of you. My email does pop up and yes, I am also disappointed I’m not really called Carlos and lack the balls to genuinely change my name. Hey, I am also a shy man, but thanks for the kind words and to anyone who keeps showing up to read these posts. Also, apologies for that really badly written email – hearing it read word for word was yuck. It’s tricky finding more than one band that you can honestly say you truly love and want to spend time talking about and sharing that love for, and that you have a personal story with, while also being knowledgeable about their history and inner workings. Maybe just go completely leftfield and both plod through the works of Scatman John? I’m not a music merch fan either… one of my earliest G’n’R t-shirts is a really rare one that is the envy of new fans. It’s not signed or anything, and there’s probably thousands in existence, but you never see it on anyone. Thanks for the answers and another shout out!
Some more emails from fans from Sweden, fans who only joined after the Fish era, and people looking forward to Paul and Sanja’s thoughts on Brave. Before we get there the guys have a bonus episode on Marillion’s 10th Anniversary which I will be listening to but probably not commenting on. Roll on Brave. Thanks to those reading who have come here from the Podcast, and for any of my existing readers, why not hop over to Twitter and Podcast places and give BYAMPOD and Marillion a listen!