Nightman Listens To Marillion – Less Is More!

Less Is More (Marillion album) - Wikipedia

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like an age since I’ve listened to any new Marillion material, and it looks like I’ll have to wait a little longer, because Less Is More is Marillion’s… acoustic album? Is it acoustic, or is it simply re-imagined? The ‘less’ part of the title makes me think that this is a collection of stripped back versions of existing songs – less faff, less volume, and dare I say it, less energy. I’m curious to see how the band changes these songs, and if the ‘less’ actually does turn out to be ‘more’. I understand that there is one new, previously unheard song, which presumably ties in with the approach and tone of the other songs. Or maybe it’s a two and a half minute, 110 bpm, punk sung about tits. Lets find out.

Go kicks off the album by presenting me with a challenge; will I remember the original versions of any of these songs? Glancing at the track-list before listening, I recognized and remembered most of the names. If you put me on the spot and asked me to hum a piece of each from the names alone, I’d struggle with quite a few of them. This is odd, given how much I love music and how easily I can recall advertisement jingles or Incidental music from 80s TV shows that I may have only heard a handful of times over thirty years ago. It’s especially odd given how many times I’ve listened to each of the original versions in a relatively recent time. Does this mean it’s harder for me to learn and retain new music now that I’m older, or does it mean that Marillion’s music doesn’t play magically capture my attention like other bands do? <Shrugs>

The main thing I remembered about Go was its intro. I couldn’t have hummed it for you, but I could ‘see’ it in my head. When this new version played, I convinced myself that the version in my head was wrong. Then I realised that the band wasn’t simply playing acoustic updates, but that they were in fact re-imagining the songs, more or less from the ground up. Uber-fans like Paul will debate over which versions are superior or preferred. I’ll leave such debate to those guys, but for my part, I liked this. H sounds wonderful, the vocals are front and centre, and the more laid back and intimate feel accentuates his best qualities. He doesn’t need to be some booming tour de force, but is much more impactful when he sounds like he’s leaning on your shoulder and dripping honeyed musings into your ear from inches away.

It’s a credit to the production that this approach is so potent – stripping songs down can often drain the energy and oomph of the original, and when you’re a band like Marillion who aren’t exactly known for energy or oomph you need to be careful to retain what makes their music so powerful in the first place – their intimacy, their sense of commune, their tragedy and beauty. I think they manage this with Go. While the keyboard drive of the original has been removed, we instead are treated to sneaky tickles of violins, xylophone style keyboard tinklings, and a confidence in the song’s melodic core.

Interior Lulu opens with some near Asian guitar and keyboards, feeling like one of those 80s/90s Hollywood/Hong Kong/Japan crossover movie soundtracks – Black Rain, Rising Sun, Rapid Fire, Big Trouble In Little China, Double Impact. I half expected H to have adopted the persona of a muscle-bound, one-liner spouting martial artist for his performance. Alas, he merely perks up and gives us some RAWK vocals. Maybe’s it’s the stripped back nature of the music which gives him the freedom and space to push his vocals more here, but he does give a little bit of grit throughout the song. It works very well, it’s more convincing than some of the recent attempts at harder rock songs, and his more traditional vocal approach is on point too.

What is less convincing are the transitions. Up until the three minute mark, this is a great song and a great performance. As per the original, the song has a series of twists into new territory, but many of the transitions are almost are non-existent, making this feel like a collection of near unrelated parts. I’m sceptical that they could have done anything else with these transitions beyond conceiving a more lengthy instrumental piece to guide the music more naturally from one section to the next. The second half of the song feels more chaotic than the first and while the performances remain solid, I doubt it’s a song I’ll return to much – a shame given that I did enjoy those opening three minutes so much.

I should mention here that this is likely going to be a shorter post than usual given that we don’t need to talk about the lyrics again – that is unless Paul tells us that the lyrics were given an overhaul too. What I will say is that the re-imagining does seem to help the lyrics come through more clearly and cleanly than in some of the originals, but my central focus in my listens to this album has been on how the music has been re-framed.

Out Of This World is a song which has made my Marillion Playlist for car journeys, and I remember it being one of my favourites from Afraid Of Sunlight. The studio version was all about atmosphere and tone, helped greatly by the keyboards. On Less Is More, those keyboards are gone and we have a less atmospheric, more plaintive clean keyboard approach. The guitars are kicked up to front and centre, at least in the opening moments. As such, the song takes on a different tone. It’s not as gloomy, but feels more lonely. It feels more like a cry for help.

Out Of This World has plenty of transitions and they feel more organic than those on Interior Lulu. They are sudden, but not out of left-field. That being said, the final couple of minutes didn’t have much of an impact on me this time around. I think it would have been interesting simply to end the song after the last ‘only love will turn you round’. Sometimes it’s cool when bands just remove a piece of a song when doing a re-recording or a live rendition etc.

Wrapped Up In Time has always been a gorgeous song. I talked a little about the Less Is More version when I was doing my Happiness posts. No matter what the form the song takes I’m sure I’ll love it – this version is good, but there’s something niggling at me; I don’t think the definitive version of this song has been made. If it has been, I haven’t heard it. I think the core of the song and it’s potential are so strong that someone, someday will make a better version. Or more accurately, one that will be definitive for me.

It’s strange… this version at once feels too long and too short. The song is played at too glacial a pace, but it ends too soon. The arrangement here leans more into a Gospel/Country sound when I think they should go folk or full overblown power ballad. I don’t know what I want my version to be, but I’ll know when I hear it.

The Space was one of those songs which convinced me that I was going to like H as a vocalist, writer, and presence in the band. It’s a bit of an epic, it has a great atmosphere, and it’s a song which takes full advantage of having a full band involved in its creation and execution. The Less Is More version, as the name suggests, is over a minute shorter. Not only is the time cut, but much of the original’s atmosphere is gone, removed in favour of a more displaced Jazz approach. It works in its own way, but part of why I loved the original was because it was unashamedly silly and bombastic. We lose the crazy solo section, which I don’t mind being cut, but more of a loss is the follow-up vocal section where H channels Sting. The Less Is More version just peters out from an already drained point. It does get points for perhaps having more of a haunting and subtle ending in its final seconds. Similar to Wrapped Up Time, while I think the original version of The Space is the definitive one, I feel like there is a better stripped down take than what we have here.

Hard As Love is a song which gets stripped down both in terms of time and sound. It was Brave’s near over the top Rock song at over six minutes long, while here it’s a gentle, slow song at just over five minutes. It’s one of the more obviously different versions on Less Is More with the bulk of the song being H and piano. The guitar crunch and the gruff vocals from Brave are gone, and instead we have something tame in the Coldplay sense. As such, it takes on a different potency, a tenderness free from the reins of the Rock blow-out. Hearing this, it made me think whether a darker, slower version of the song may have worked better on Brave to match the tone of that album. The original song isn’t one I’ve gone back to much since finishing with Brave and I’m not sure that this version will make my Marillion playlist. Quality wise, or preference wise I’d put them on a similar level even though the band does a good job of making the two quite different in tone and content.

Quartz was always something of an airy, spacey song which compensated for the lack of a strong core by plastering a load of studio trickery all over it. An acoustic version is certainly brave – how do you replicate the studio trickery, never mind attempting to make a decent song over something that was quite barren? It succeeds more on the first point, but on the whole it takes a song which was already on the dull side and exposes its weaknesses. The opening three to four minutes are meandering and lifeless, even if all the twinkling and riffs make solid attempts at bulking out the song, while the closing couple of minutes are quite strong. The closing solo and vocal melodies are highlights, but it’s too little too late.

If My Heart Were A Ball is another adventurous choice given the length of the original song. This rendition loses the bombast of the original and goes all jazz club – nice. Except, I don’t like Jazz, so not nice. Like Quartz, the opening minutes do very little for me and I can’t see me, or anyone else, choosing this over the original. It has a different flavour, but it’s simply not very interesting beyond its concept of stripping down a big Proggy boy. For a minute in the middle it’s a little more interesting, but it then fades away into tepid musings. I can applaud the ambition and bravado of the attempt, but it doesn’t really work.

It’s Not Your Fault is the new boy. It’s sweet enough – almost childlike in its simplicity, like an Imagine or a Let It Be. It’s the sort of thing that H does very well – exposing lyrics and emotion. I quite like it, but in opposition to the rest of the album it’s a song which feels like it needs some additional instrumentation to bring out its strengths. It feels a little unfinished and I’d like the chorus to feature a few more lyrics rather than just the title repeated over and over. Elsewhere the lyrics cover familiar ground for the band – it’s very open, it’s less cryptic than their lyrics sometimes get which aids in the overall lullaby effect. I’d be keen to hear a more fleshed out version if such a thing exists.

With Memory Of Water, there’s only so much you can do with it. The original was already very short and simple – converting it into an acoustic or stripped back version would seemingly take little effort. The Less Is More version is a little more intimate and feels less cinematic, and the slightly increased pace helps it feel less like an interlude. I prefer the H performance in the original, but he’s still very good here. There’s not a lot to it, but I would have no qualms about having it on a playlist.

This Is The 21st Century seems to be a quite highly regarded song in some Marillion circles, but in its original form I was ambivalent about it. Bits I enjoyed, bits I didn’t. I much prefer the Less Is More version and the stripped down nature allows the melodic qualities of the first half to rise to the top. We lose the bananas guitar solo but the piano climax makes up for the loss. It’s half the length of the original so almost all of the atmospheric soundscape stuff has been omitted meaning we have two very different versions of the song. An eleven minute stripped back version wouldn’t work at all. Which version you enjoy more will be down to your personal preference and your mood in the moment.

Finally, Cannibal Surf Babe is throwaway fun. I wasn’t much of a fan of the original, but I get it. This one isn’t too different – it’s very loose and the band are clearly enjoying the performance, but I don’t like the vocals, the talking, or much else. It’s not a mess, but it’s not something I’d ever need to hear again.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

Over to BYAMPOD and… are the guys covering the whole album in a single episode? It’s a long one (lovely), but it seems like they’re talking about H’s new solo EP too. Maybe they’ll just fly through Less Is More because the bulk of the songs have already been covered in previous episodes, albeit in their original form. Or maybe it’s a two-parter. Of course, I could just listen to the thing before wastefully typing this nonsense, but then I’ miss out on my million words a day quota.

We begin by talking about that new EP – I have not heard it, but I’m sure it’s as lovely as a Long One. Before releasing Less Is More, the band released a bunch of Live albums and curios. I haven’t heard those either. The band were burned out, but still wanting to do something. They decided to re-arrange a bunch of old songs in a semi-acoustic fashion, whittled down the list, and were ready to go. At the time, Paul wasn’t too impressed by the album and felt it was lacking in almost all respects, but in this re-appraisal he is more positive. The general consensus seems to be along the same lines – some people are uninspired, other people found preferred versions of songs within. I think that’s the way most of these things tend to go.

We get going with Go, a song which Paul felt was a little pointless due to its similarity to the original. It’s a song which relies on energy, especially when played live, and here the guys feel it has that energy drained. I felt this too, but that the new arrangement also increased some of the more gentle and melodic qualities of the original.

With Interior Lulu, Sanja didn’t notice many differences and that it’s lacking the funk of the original. Paul thinks that the song lacks the potency of the original’s ending. Not much more to add. Paul and Sanja both feel that Less Is More’s Out Of This World is the better version. I liked most of it, but felt the second half dragged a little. Paul says that this is the case when the song is played live, but he enjoys it here and wishes it was longer. That’s the complete opposite of what I said and that they should have cut out the ending entirely. Controversy all around, then.

Wrapped Up In Time is another song which the guys are favourable on, with both thinking this is better. It could be a bit of the ‘newness’ factor – sometimes when you hear a cover or new version of a song, that newness leads you to enjoy it more than the original, but sometimes that newness fades. Sometimes it doesn’t, and the new thing becomes the definitive thing. I felt that, while I liked this version a lot, it still left me wanting. That definitive version is still out there, somewhere.

Sanja found The Space funky and soulful, but again lacks the energy of the original. Paul agrees that it’s not an improvement and is another of those songs which feels somewhat plodding and unnecessary. Both guys enjoy this take on Hard As Love – particularly Sanja, and both may be convinced that this is the preferred version. Quartz sounds unfinished according to Sanja and that the loss of the bass is detrimental. Paul thinks the whole thing is a patchwork, but that the ending solo is sublime. Sanja prefers this version of Heart – Paul thinks it’s fine but isn’t a huge fan of the original in any case. Incidentally, I haven’t been taking notes on how many songs the guys prefer over the original. Or how many I prefer.

Sanja enjoys It’s Not Your Fault more than Paul, who says H wrote it as an adult lullaby, while Paul loves the lyrics more than the music. Paul prefers this take on Memory Of Water, Sanja prefers the original, while I’m in the middle – for anyone counting. It’s not very different. Sanja prefers the Less version of 21st Century, while Paul doesn’t think it works very well. He still likes it, but it’s not on par with the original. Naturally, I felt that this version was much better. Finally, Cannibal Surf Babe happened.

The guys think the album is more for the hardcore fans, while being a bit of a cash in. I like albums like this in theory – I have a whole series (mostly unpublished) about bands I wished had made an MTV Unplugged album, or something similar. While this isn’t quite that, it’s a similar idea – stripped down versions of songs we already know. As a music fan who gets passionate about many bands – I want more material from them, and if something like this bridges a gap between albums, then I’d rather it existed than didn’t. What I’m not a huge supported of is multiple Greatest Hits or multiple Live albums. One of each is more than enough. Even though Iron Maiden has released a couple of the best Live Albums ever, they are more than guilty of ripping the arse out of it. It seems like every new album is accompanied by a Live album – yet typically the setlist doesn’t vary much. And they never shy away from a ‘new’ Greatest Hits every few years.

I think that if you’re going to do it, do it different. Make it somehow unique – something that you wouldn’t expect from the band, like Metallica’s S&M. Make it worth hearing. Put on a new track or two. Make the new version drastically different. Radiohead’s From The Basement series are a great example – Radiohead typically giving new life to songs that I don’t think work particularly well in their original form.

On the whole for me, it’s an album which suffers from two key issues, issues which many albums of this ilk fall foul of; the wrong songs were selected for this experiment, and the wrong approach was taken on the songs that were selected. I use ‘wrong’ subjectively. I’m a minor Marillion fan by all accounts, and while I have my own list of songs I’d like to see given the stripped down treatment, the lifer fans would have personal lists too. I like that they didn’t just pick ‘easy’ songs to play safe versions of, but by the same token many of the songs which were selected simply weren’t very strong to begin with. I’ve often said that the strength of any song (if we’re going by my own personal metrics of melody and emotion) is whether or not it retains its power when stripped down to its most simple parts – a vocal and a single instrument. Some of the songs selected didn’t have that core to begin with, instead relying on atmosphere and what the band and Producers can concoct in the studio. If choosing a song like this, you can transform the thing by pushing the core into a different genre, changing the pace, even twisting the melodies, but for some of the more dull entries on the track list, the band simply cut away the chaff and played slower.

On the other hand, some of the revisions are much more successful and come to close (or succeed in) surpassing the originals. I had a couple I would choose over the originals and a couple that were on par. It’s not an album I see myself returning to, and I don’t expect many others would. While I appreciate the idea of these albums, the only one that ever truly worked for me was The Gathering’s Sleepy Buildings. Still, at some these bands will be no more, and it’s nice that we got one more album from them, even if it may not be essential.

There we have it! I’m away to cut and paste my comments on the second half of the album here, meaning that this will turn out to be quite a long post after all. But that’s Less Is More out of the way in a single post. Up next is a bunch of other side projects. I’ll probably give them a cursory listen but likely won’t post on them unless they change my life. Go listen, go comment, do all of the stuff!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 2 (Part 4)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! This is surely the last part now, right? We only have a couple more songs to cover. I hope Marillion had the foresight to give their next album a one word, one syllable album name so that I don’t have to type a similar monstrosity as my blog post title. No more balls, let us get to it.

Especially True has a nifty opening, a guitar attack which isn’t complex or particularly aggressive, yet ticks more boxes than WIWWY. The verses are a more withdrawn affair, and once again where we expect there to be a chorus we instead get a… louder verse? Whatever you call each part, I enjoy them both. It’s a song which seems to be caught in two worlds – the lyrics alluding to the USA while the vocals are very exaggerated in an English way almost as it H is aping Liam Gallagher or some other Britpop boy. There’s that drawling, curling of the vowel sounds so that ‘cliche’ becomes ‘CLEE-SHAY-EE’ and ‘USA’ becomes ‘USAAY-EE’. There’s a brief, quieter interlude which leads into the song’s final driving minute or so. This second half, even though it too has a slow tempo, feels more potent, urgent, and rocking than WIWWY while being led by a solid riff but lacking anything notable from the vocal melodies. It’s one of those songs that I enjoy when I hear it, but instantly forget it when it’s done.

I enjoyed the lyrics to Especially True once I read them in black and white -I didn’t think I would given what I imagined to be a lot of slang an cultural references while listening to the song. It’s a lyric which is conversational yet poetic, poetic yet not obtuse, it makes references with feeling like a catalogue, and it clearly gets its point about alienation across. As my old Latin teacher used to say, it scans very nicely. You can read the lyrics out loud, and it has that poetic rhythm allowing the words to roll off the tongue effortlessly. If I’m being picky… and I’m sure there’s a reason they picked ‘Yorkshore’, but on reading that line it feels like a one syllable place name would have fit better from a rhythmic perspective. If that’s my only criticism, then we’re in a good place. No matter, we can counter such ‘rhythms as read’ easily in song by adding another beat or stretching the music to allow for more space. As for what it’s all about? There’s the alienation we mentioned, there’s the confidence in overcoming what seemed alien and scary. I know it’s not the case, but it almost feels a little like a song which is aiming at winning over an American audience – the whole ‘America I’m ready for you’ is the sort of thing a teenage, debut album, first tour wannabe might be thinking. Is that what the song is recalling – H’s first time in America? I’m sure the guys will fill us in.

We close on the near-anthemic Real Tears For Sale, a song with a guitar sound and an overall tone which reminded me of Red Hot Chilli Pepper’s Californication. We aren’t treated to any more H rapping, and it’s far from funk, but it has a similar minor key melancholy and yearning chorus. It would have been a solid candidate for a single if they trimmed down that 7 minute run-time, and like any number of Marillion songs it feels like it was written and released too late. This would have fit nicely in that post-Grunge Millennium-uncertain era of the late 90s, early 2000s. By 2008 that era, and the rock music which came with it, was long gone.

The build-up to the chorus has enough intrigue and tension that the release of the chorus is solid, but it’s a shame that the chorus is lacking something I can’t put my finger on. It’s just the name of the song repeated, which isn’t a problem in itself, but there’s some repetition or dullness of melody which doesn’t quite capture the anthemic nature I think they’re going for. It’s not a chorus that pulls me in and encourages me to sing along with fists in the air. It almost gets there, but not quite. Maybe it works for others, and I’m sure if I was hearing it live I’d get swept along by the vibe and the crowd.

Trimming to make a radio-friendly single would of course mean that much of the middle section, or the entirety of the second half would be edited out. The middle section is a little too empty and drifting for my tastes. The piano takes on a near Harp quality, there are swelling waves of percussion and layers of guitars which come and go. I’ve never been a fan of the effect which makes vocals sound like they’re coming from the other side of a tunnel – too much distance and reverb – H has a bit of this here before instrumentation begins to build up again. This build up is strong, and the payoff of the chorus returning is decent, capped off with Rothers tearing it up. Musical genius that I am, gatekeeper of all this is objectively correct, I would have trimmed up to a minute of that middle.

Reading the lyrics, I was reminded of Brave and its central character, at least in the first part of the song before it seems to switch over to H’s perspective. Here we seem to have another girl who has led a difficult life, but no matter how much she has been battered or changed herself or sold herself, there’s still a person with feelings and inherent value underneath. She is then compared to H, the performer who has had a life in the spotlight,  given himself up to vices, and felt the consequences. The pain he felt was turned to verse, to art, to something which others can consume but even though those feelings were made solid and sent out into the world, their spectral origins stayed within their host. Is there bitterness that such a thing is possible, that people pay to hear, see, and own these tears? In any case, there is anger, as epitomised by the closing verse and repetitions. It’s perhaps interesting that this song, with those lines, is what closes the album. Take from that what you will; maybe it’s meaningless, maybe it leaves us in a dark place, or maybe it is an attempt to close the book on those feelings and move on.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We jump over to hear what the World’s Second Most Popular Marillion Podcast has to say about it all. A choice of jackets to wear while walking between tents, it seems. It’s snowing here in the North of the North – not as much as last week, not as much as in January, but a light, wet dusting. Just do what I do – wear two t-shirts, then strip one off mid gig. Then strip the other off too, and get thrown out. While I’m not going to a gig, my flight to Menorca is in the AM this year. For the first time, we’re going to drive on the day rather than stay over at the airport hotel the night before. Saves a bit of money, but adds a bit of stress. What if we wake up late, what if the car breaks down, what if a Godzilla attacks us on the way – the usual.

Sanja assumed from the rock opening of Especially True that she wouldn’t like it, but that turned out to not be the case. She likes it, she even likes the guitar (electric), and she thinks it’s one of their better, heavier songs. Paul compares it to WIWWY and says this is a better attempt at that style. I did see that Heart Shaped Box comment on Twitter and I can see where the comparison is coming from, but I can’t say I felt it. It doesn’t have the full on quiet/loud dynamic and it doesn’t have the darkness, anguish, or the fury. Maybe that doesn’t detract from what Marillion intended though. Regardless, I encourage everyone to listen to Heart Shaped Box, a song which may be my least favourite off my favourite Nirvana album.

Especially True just has more to it for Paul – more melody, more depth, more variance. He then makes the point which I made somewhere up above about Marillion being influenced by other music a little too late. It seems like Paul isn’t going to shed any light on the lyrics beyond his interpretation. Before then, Sanja says it feels like a song about being a tourist in the US. Fair enough. Sanja says sometimes the US feels culturally alien, often moreso than non-English speaking countries. I think we’re all conditioned to love America, such is the influence of their culture on us from the moment we’re born. I’m no different – when I played with my friends when we were young, invariably we would adopt American accents and the game would be somehow related to guns and bad guys. I’d love nothing more to be a rich XYZ and spend a year driving from State to State, eating shite, seeing the sights, going to all the theme parks. This doesn’t mean we can’t, or that I don’t criticize the place and some of its people. Any time I’ve been there, it feels a little like home, but taken to extremes in different directions. Everything’s bigger, louder, more annoying, more exciting. Seriously though, sort out those toilet stall gaps, what the fuck is wrong with you?

I’m in a job where I work with Americans every day, many of them are my friends, and I’ve been drunk with them both in the US and in Northern Ireland. It’s always interesting to hear what people think of my part of the world, but typically it falls into two categories; those who bunch NI and The Republic together and assume we’re the same, and those who know a little of the history and are somewhat apprehensive to bring it up in conversation or are actively scared of us until they see we’re just people too. For anyone reading – I personally don’t care if the North and South unite in the future. At one time I would have stated a preference for remaining as is, but with the state of the Tories, the disaster of Brexit, and my personal disdain for the Monarchy, I’d be more than happy to be a United Ireland once more. It’s amusing attempting to explain a fraction of our history, The Troubles, any of it really to whoever may ask, but I have heard some truly bizarre things from both my colleagues and people I’ve met on my travels. One person was absolutely bewildered that we had electricity (in the 2000s), another was amazed that most families had cars, a couple didn’t believe me when I said that we didn’t live in thatch houses. I’ve been asked how many times I’ve been shot (less than the average American), how many times I’ve been arrested, and whether or not it’s safe to go out at night/wearing US colours/alone, and what to say when kidnapped. It’s cool, we know what the world thinks of us, and we think less of ourselves.

In essence, Paul says the song is about alienation. I wasn’t sure about that ‘England below’ line, but I took the same meaning as the guys do, but elsewhere the song remains a mystery. Which is fine. That leads into Lucy’s favourite song, Real Tears For Sale. I’m of the opposite opinion of Sanja in that I prefer the first half. Or maybe, I like the first third, the last third, but could do without the middle. The second half definitely expands upon the first and improves upon the chorus. Paul re-iterates that he doesn’t mind when Marillion play heavier, but that it works best when the thing still has a tune. I agree. I listen to a lot of Metal, some even on the more extreme end, but my favourites always retain an overt melodic quality. I hesitate to use the word ‘Pop’, but look at some of my long-term favourite heavy bands – Metallica, Iron Maiden, and while we’re on the topic, Nirvana. Strip away the distortion and the harsh edges, and many of the songs are, for lack of a better term, Pop. There’s a reason why those guys sold so massively and have lasted the distance, over and above their peers. Their songs were simply better, more memorable, more catchy.

Lyrically, Paul says it’s another one about fame. He says it’s inspired by Britney Spears, which makes sense given the head-shaving line. I didn’t notice that, but then it has been a long time since that incident and she’s not someone whose life or music I have paid much attention to. Does the connection to Brave still work? More importantly, it’s about H too, which leads us into a discussion on sharing our personal thoughts, something which often seems to put people off. I’ve never had an issue with sharing my own thoughts on feelings, perhaps odd because I’m a pretty quiet person, but I’ve never felt uncomfortable talking about how I feel. I am conscious that this does often make the listener uncomfortable, so I only do it around ‘the right person’. Or on this blog. Incidentally, the few times I do write about this stuff on my blog is usually in response to BYAMPOD. Buy one therapy get one free, I guess. I understand there’s still this stigma about blokes shouldn’t talk about emotions which, in my experience comes from women almost as much as men, but that in today’s world it’s more common and ‘acceptable’ to do it than when I was a teenager. I’ve always been a big feely boy though, when I want to be. Like they say on social media, if you don’t care, keep scrolling.

I’d be curious to see if there are Marillion fans, long term ones I suppose, who don’t pay attention to the lyrics at all. Are there fans who listen to Marillion and think ‘oh shut up, you Woke Nancy Boy’? There probably are, but to me that’s bizarre. I’ve never understood people who can claim to be a fan of a certain type of artist when that artist leans one way when the fan goes the opposite way. I can understand that you might enjoy a catchy song or two, but to call yourself a fan, to spend money and support the band, to travel to see them live? Especially when it’s not exactly a mainstream artist. You see this more often when the artist is more successful – you can’t scroll through an artist’s latest social post without seeing the now infamous ‘they should stick to music and forget about politics’. I don’t get it. I get why people feel this way, but I don’t understand how they do. How do you get to that point in your life, what turns in life, in logic, gets you to being a fan of an artist but attacking them for something they’ve probably always believed or supported. Taking the Manics as an example close to my own heart – a famously left-leaning, notoriously political, feminist, androgynous, working class band – they still get comments by people claiming to have been fans from the early days and attacking their thoughts on X, when X has been a thing they’ve always talked about.

What are we talking about again? Whores? The Manics? That line stuck at as something which seemed out of place rather than non-PC, but I mostly took it as a ‘this is what society says’ line rather than H or Britney or whoever saying it themselves. Maybe it was supposed to be shocking. Manics, feminist as they are, also used the word back in the 90s when it was in more regular rotation – junkies, winos, whores/the nation’s moral suicide. Then again, that song is titled Of Walking Abortion which is about as shocking a title as you could find nowadays. Is Real Tears For Sale more about these feelings being cheapened when they’re sold, when they’re performed ad nauseum? Sanja doesn’t think there’s any judgement in it, while Paul says it starts out as a media-blaming song and ends up being more about H and his own feelings on fame and the impact it has had on him.

With that, we are finally done with this feckin’ album. I’m going to move on to a new album now, but it’s not Marillion, it’s some 2020 thing called Pop Smoke. Don’t know anything about it. Then on to Less Is More, it seems. Normally at this point for this kind of album, I would ask what Paul and Sanja’s ideal Single album track-list would be, but I think it would just be Volume 1 as it is. Let me know if that’s the case. I said way back in my first Volume 2 post that I don’t think there’s anything strong enough to make it on to Volume 1, but I’d probably change that opinion now. I didn’t love Volume 1 as much as Paul and Sanja do, and wouldn’t have any issue if one or two of Volume 2’s tracks snuck their way into Volume 2. Would they work along with the tone and vibe of Volume 1 – maybe not? If we look at other Capital D Double Albums which you can buy separately – Use Your Illusion being maybe the most famous example – you can pick and choose your favourites from each album to make your own single, standalone thing. When I wrote my Favourite Songs By Manics Album posts, I did a similar exercise where I made my own ideal tracklist of each album by cutting out the crap I didn’t like, and adding in the B-Sides or rarities released around the same time to make something superior in my eyes. In this day and age of playlists, it’s even easier to curate your own version of any album, your own greatest hits, and completely ignore everything else. What a time to be alive.

Next time around it’ll be a new album! Until then, comment, share, like, subscribe, check out BYAMPOD, and do all the other things. That Mind Furniture song was cool too, with a touch of Rush/Coheed & Cambria thrown in.

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Volume 2 (Part 3)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with (maybe?) the final part of our Happiness Is The Road listenthrough. There’s still quite a few songs to talk about, but with Paul and Sanja heading off to see the band in… I want to say The Netherlands… they might want to wrap up this album so we’re nicely set up for whatever comes next. Luckily, I have already finished my thoughts on the final songs so all that remains is for me to commentate on the latest BYAMPOD episode. Elsewhere, I’m listening to a few more of the Non-Iron Maiden albums which the Iron Maiden boys have made, and finishing off my reviews of the best albums of 2020. Let’s get to it.

Throw Me Out transitions in very neatly from Older Than Me, helped by the fact that the songs are equally paced. This is also something of a hinderance because it highlights the aforementioned potentially dull qualities of the previous song. Two slow, sleepy songs in a row has the potential to bring an album’s energy down, but if done well it also has the potential of being a little highlight section. Throw Me Out is a more musically dynamic song than Older Than Me, and is another short song. Together, they largely avoid becoming the mid-album dirge which they risk becoming. The organ in the intro makes me think… France? The violin, or synth violins, the spiky guitar jabs, the horns or clarinets, all add depth and flavour, and for the second song in a row the backing vocals are of the breathy, sighing nature. I’d like to say it’s another song which has a bit of a Beatles feel to it, Sgt Pepper era, but it’s maybe not as overt as in other songs.

Lyrically, the most interesting thing to say may be that this song comes straight after Older Than Me. One song is about being in love with someone and seemingly stable and at peace, while this one is the complete opposite. Throw Me Out, as the title suggests, is about the collapse of a relationship. There’s a lot of blaming – blaming the other side (you threw me out of my life), blaming the self (I tore apart my oldest friend), and what comes across as passive aggression and self-pity (don’t worry babe, I’m recyclable). I like the use of language here – it’s simply, but effective. ‘Throw Me Out’ is a term which has always inspired some sort of fear in me. I can’t see it’s an exclusively British term, but growing up with shows like Eastenders and Corrie where marriages were constantly falling apart, that phrase was in regular usage and would strike a chilling gash if heard in my own house from a parent or relative. This use of common phrases is played again and again ‘two’s a crowd’ a clever derivative of ‘three’s a crowd’. We all know what ‘three’s a crowd’ means, so dropping it down to the binary makes it somehow more sinister and ugly. ‘No more trouble, no more strife’, is of course a play on ‘trouble and strife’ being slang for ‘wife’. There is also a thread of futility and meaninglessness to it all – like all of the things which caused this break are unwarranted or fixable – the use of ‘seem’, ‘opening drawers’, ‘making a mess when you’re trying to clean’. Those individual phrases we could easily break down further to speak about the narrator’s confusion or inability to recognize either the impact that these things had over time, or that these are not at all the reasons for the break but simply the only things he could come up with afterwards. We could ask if those phrases are not merely literal. In fact, this is perhaps a song which could be used in a GCSE poetry exam as there are so many ways to pull it apart.

One final point to mention is something which maybe other people haven’t caught. I could be entirely wrong, and it could be entirely meaningless anyway, but listen to how H sings, how he mouths ‘you seem to want’. Catch anything? Listen to how he phrases the final half of ‘want’. Hear it? He’s smiling. That phrasing and sound is only produced by singing the world while smiling, while stretching your mouth a certain way. It’s very subtle and if you’re not hearing it, that’s fine. Maybe it’s in my head, but I’ve listened to that section over and over and it 100% sounds like he deliberately smiled on that word. Was it for a theatrical reason? Was it to add a little more spite to the tone? Or was it simply because Rothers happened to walk past the recording booth with 500g of Lurpak?

Half The World brings a spell of warmth after two musically or lyrically cold songs. This is a lighter, brighter song. It feels like a summery, and it reminds me of some of Marillion’s previous songs which evoke driving with the top down beside a beach on a summer’s day. I’m happy to be completely wrong about this, but the ‘do do do’ section sounded very familiar to me when I first listened to the song. Either I’ve somehow heard the song before – maybe it came on as a shuffle track while I was typing up notes from a previous album (thought usually when that happens I hit pause and don’t listen), or I’m imagining it. Perhaps I’m confusing it with something similar, or maybe the song has been used in some TV show or advert. Being used in a TV ad was my first assumption, but then the reality of Marillion being used in a TV advert hit me and sounded unlikely.

With its bright and melodic chorus and its ‘do do do’s, it feels like a single. It doesn’t have the potential of being a smash hit, but you get the sense that if they’d written this song for a new artist or if some new solo performer or random pop act had released this as their first single, it could have made the top 20. Released at the right time, with the right pretty face, I see no reason why this couldn’t have received some radio play and a spot on TOTP. The band sound relaxed, H takes a breezy, laidback approach to the vocals and sounds smooth from top to bottom, and the harmonies in the chorus work as well as any factory made pop hit. There’s not much of a guitar solo to speak of, but there is plenty of layering and Rothers effectively suits the needs of the song again without giving in to any temptation to fire off any unnecessary twiddling.

I’ve mentioned serving the needs of the song a few times already, but that’s exactly what the lyrics do. The song feels summery and evokes carefree driving – the first line is almost literally that vibe put to words. There’s a bit of the old Irish ‘may the road rise to meet you’ to the sentiment. I half-expected more cynicism to be apparent in the lyrics when I read the ‘boy you choose to live with’ line, like the narrator is the jilted lover hoping for some vengeance to befall the ex, but it never comes. The song never becomes dark, it avoids being self-pitying, there’s none of the finger-pointing we’ve seen in other lyrics. It’s stays sweet and genuine throughout, with the narrator hoping only for good things and that maybe one day the two can be friends one day. I am of course positioning the narrator as the person who was jilted, but there’s nothing to suggest this is the case. It could equally be that H (lets not say ‘narrator) was the one doing the jilting and is hoping that one day the ex can forgive him or not be angry anymore. The ‘friends’ line is usually the sort of thing someone says when they break up with someone. In reality, based on what we have learned of H’s relationships through his lyrics, it seems more likely that he was not the one to end the relationship. It’s a simple, sweet lyric, and my only final comment is to say that I thought the chorus began ‘beautiful girl’, not ‘you’re a girl’. My ears don’t work sometimes.

We reach Whatever Is Wrong With You, a song which Paul has given his infamous ‘steamer’ label to. Honestly, I don’t get it. I can see if from Paul’s perspective; he doesn’t like when Marillion tries to do a traditional rock song. There’s usually one or two of these on each Marillion album and I don’t see this as much better or worse than any of the others. It’s not as overt an assault on the ears as Most Toys and if anything the only criticism I have for it is that it’s too slow for what its trying to achieve. Paul had mentioned on a previous episode that H, and the rest of the band sound like they sleepwalk through their performances, that the performances are laboured. Some of that likely comes down to the pacing, and H doesn’t exactly give it any welly, but considering the pacing of most other songs on this album, and on many of Marillion’s albums, the only crime seems to be that the crank up the volume and distortion without getting any payoff. For me, it needs to be faster. It doesn’t have a lot of edge. If the intention was to make this ‘the rock song’, then fucking go for it. It’s barely over three minutes long as it is, so crank it up, warm up those biceps and play the thing like it should be a two minute punk song.

I don’t think the song is bad, setting the performances aside. If you play it faster, it has more impact, but if you completely took the guitars out and made this a piano led song it would work just as well. Taking the softer approach, you could even slow the pace further and get some joy. I enjoyed the melodies in the verses and chorus – even the pre-chorus – I think I said in a previous post that this was the only song with a standout melody to me when I first listened to Volume 2. The only moment I found myself humming afterwards was this chorus. It’s a very simple song – there’s no getting away from its traditional verse chorus verse structure and some very static drumming, and there are no surprises, tonal or key changes. But that’s fine. For a band that I have accused of often sticking to one thing in an album and never having any oomph, I can give them credit for having a placeholder for that oomph moment, even if they feel to pull it off.

It looks like this was the single for the album, so I can understand why they didn’t go all out. For me, there are better singles and this could have been the unashamed ‘we’re still young and can still rock’ moment, had they fully committed. Make it a fun, quick, live song to get the blood pumping. On the lyrical front, it’s not exactly chart friendly fare. You can ignore them and just singalong with the chorus, but a deeper dive makes things more suspect. No matter the angle I come at the lyrics from, I can’t shake a sense of distaste. Does it border on making light of mental illness, or is it simply talking about two people whose individual curios brought them together? Each of the parts following the ‘we need to talk’ intros can be seen as random or possibly taken from a real life event, but for the listener there isn’t much to grasp beyond the sense that someone is exhibiting unusual behaviour and that it’s seemingly escalating. It’s a shame that the lyric doesn’t resolve anywhere – it just peters out after the second verse. I’m going to need an explanation for this one.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We begin BYAMPOD with the shocking revelation that Dream Sanja has been cheating on Dream Paul. I have those every so often and it’s bizarre how it does piss you off for the rest of the day. Add to that the stress of their upcoming Marillion trip and the ever-present threat of Cov-Id and a cat which, like mine, cannot abide closed doors and we’re off to a ripper! Rothers and Hackett together – Rackett? Racket club? It all makes sense. It sounds like we will have at least one more Happiness episode.

Paul reveals what I expected about a few of these songs – that some of them are leftovers from Somewhere Else. I didn’t place them at that time, but they definitely have the tone and quality of being leftovers. Sanja says that Throw Me Out was her earworm of the album and Paul makes a prophecy that the band will be playing it live, for the first time, at an upcoming show. Sanja highlights the additional instrumentation as giving it a special quality and they agree it’s a very Beatles influenced song. The guys touch on the lyrics, unsurprisingly about H being kicked out circa Somewhere Else. Sanja expands on what I called out on the lyrics – the minor nature of the reasons for the relationship ending and the bitter tone. Paul takes a slightly different view that the biggest stuff has already been covered in H’s lyrics before and that this is just calling out all of the other little niggles. As mentioned above, I felt the song was dripping with blame and guilt but that it was scattershot, the result of sudden anger and confusion. When you’re hurt or in shock, your logical faculties aren’t on full steam and fingers are pointed outwards and inwards. I’m with both of the guys here. But I’m most right, cos this is my blog, init?

Sanja doesn’t have much to add on Half The World beyond it being a nice little song. Paul says it’s one of his favourites on the album and that it’s H’s best performance here, contrasted with the next song. I think I mentioned H’s vocals for Half The World (and Whatever Is Wrong With You), and yes he’s in his element here. As tired as he comes across on Whatever Is Wrong With You, I don’t think that song is heavy or harsh enough that he couldn’t do anything with it. A good singer, to paraphrase Jeff Goldblum, finds a way. Paul thinks it’s a higher tier B-Side song, but whether or not it’s deserving of a place on the album is debatable. On the cricket theme tune… I knew I knew the song from somewhere, but that’s not it.

Lyrically, Sanja picks up on a similar sentiment I’d mentioned. The ‘lets be friends’ vibe, or as she calls it, the ‘it’s not you it’s me’ vibe. Sanja and I seem to be on the same wavelength on these songs – I picked up on some of this stuff, but for this song I did say that it’s 99% more likely to just be a simple, sweet, non-sarcastic lyric. Maybe it’s because we’re so used to how H writes that we’re predisposed to expect a certain tone or meaning from whatever he does. Which leads us into Whatever Is Wrong With You, an apt title given Paul’s stance on Lucy, given she listens to the podcast. JOKE. JOKE!

Paul doesn’t rip the song as much as I was expecting – it simply comes down to him not thinking, probably rightly, that the band don’t do this sort of thing well, and the tempo. For me, it’s the tempo and the fact that they don’t go all in. They barely go half in, and the song is left in this bland middle ground. It’s like… you know those TV Talent shows where a bunch of hopefuls stand in front of industry talking heads and perform? Most of the music acts are you’re typical pop and soul acts, but every so often someone will do a rock song or play a guitar solo – the camera will cut to the judges and you’ll see them doing some sort of half-assed head-nodding or devil horns or air guitar, and it just stinks of being false. It’s the pre-requisite behaviour of someone who doesn’t really get it, but they’re aping the moves and the culture. For someone like me who has been steeped in Metal and Rock my entire life, without being a echo chamber fanboy, it’s easy to see through such bullshit. I think Marillion is capable of doing an aggressive rock song because they have the musical talent to pull it off, but for whatever reason, on this song they refused to give the song what it needed.

Sanja doesn’t like the song at all and calls out a single guitar moment. Maybe the much anticipated Manics podcast is off the table. For my own curiosity, Paul and Sanja, which Rock and Metal bands/songs do you guys enjoy. If any? We know Prog is a sub genre of Rock, and that there are in turn many sub-genres and styles of Prog. The H iteration of Marillion is on the softer side of the Spectrum – which is fine. As much of a Metal boy as I am, I’m a music fan first and foremost and the genre tends to not matter to me as long as I enjoy the song. Maybe save it for a Q&A, or maybe I’ll email it in separately, but which ‘true’ harder rock and Metal songs do you guys enjoy, and does that have any bearing on your feelings towards Marillion’s rock moments?

What do the guys make of the lyrics? Sanja is as confused as the rest of us. Paul says the lyrics are playful nonsense with no deeper meaning. I’m not so sure – I have my Sanja hat on and get the sense that there’s something more to it. It doesn’t have to be as sinister as I made it out above, but there’s something. It seems like too much of a coincidence to write the lyrics with that escalating quality. Or is that me reading too much into it? In which case, there are no loose ends to the narrative, because there is no narrative.

Which brings us to the end of this particular post – the final two songs and a wrap up will be coming next time, as we edge closer to present day Marillion. Let us know your thoughts in the blah blah blah!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Volume 2 (Part 2)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back for a run down through the next set of songs from Happiness Is The Road Volume 2. The guys had wondered if they could get through the whole album in a single episode, but luckily for us it looks like we’ll be going the distance – more episodes for us to enjoy!

Asylum Satellite 1 is as Prog a title as Marillion has devised since the Fish days. Long before I’d heard it, it already held a place of infamy in my head due to Paul referencing its horrible guitar sound in the past. I can see why he, and perhaps others, would consider this to be a grating sound. I’m not sure if it’s ‘supposed’ to sound harsh and uncomfortable, or if it’s meant to be just an interesting, spacey sound. If you think about a genre like Grunge – those bands knew that they were making ugly sounds with their voices and instruments, and leaned into it. I suspect this is simply a scratchy effect with Rothers thought sounded a little otherworldly and would suit certain songs – but that it had the by product of being unpleasant to the ears of many listeners. I don’t mind it; I’d probably be just as happy if it had been played clean or with any other effect, but it definitely isn’t the most appealing tone.

The song is nine and a half minutes long. Does it keep my interest for the entire duration? Not always. It’s a journey, but it doesn’t take many twists or shift gears. I prefer my epics to keep me guessing or to play out like a three act play in terms of engagement and pacing. This mostly remains plodding and returns to its central melodies repeatedly. That wouldn’t be a problem, but those melodies are mostly dull. Broken up by lengthy instrumental sections where Rothers gets to show off his new pedal, the only piece I truly enjoyed was the brief, plaintive vocal from H around the 5 minute mark. That’s a nice shift in tone and I wish the song had built from that point and gone in a different direction. Instead, we get another aimless and empty guitar solo and spacey instrumental which, yes, sounds like you’re drifting through space or whatever, but I imagine drifting through space is incredibly boring unless you’re under attack by Aqualish pirates. I don’t think any amount of chopping minutes out of the song would improve it for me – keep part of the intro, keep that middle piece, and entirely overhaul the rest of it.

The lyrics are similarly aimless and meandering and evocative of a journey. It’s nothing we haven’t heard from the band, or many other bands before – frustration, confusion, distance, all conveyed through a Sci Fi lens. It’s like that Halloween Simpsons episode where Homer gets on a rocket which is being fired into the Sun. Or whatever that episode was based on. Or like Battlestar Galactica. Or like The Odyssey. I like the idea, but in a nine minute song it says very little. The only line which may be vaguely interesting is ‘back in 22’, because we’ve just left 2022 and as far as I’m aware, very few people have gone galivanting through the stars in an attempt to spread Right Wing Christianity or whatever bollocks that musky fella is up to.

Older Than Me is a perfectly sweet song, maybe the most traditionally Marillion song on Volume 2 so far. It’s cleanly produced, it dispenses with the frills of the last few songs, and it provides a break in the album from the anarchy of Asylum Satellite 9. It’s just a little dull. It’s sleepy. It’s the sort of song which would verge on dirge territory if it was much longer. As it is, it’s just the right length to get its point across and retain its melodic and emotive qualities.

Like much of Volume 1, this is a showcase for Mark Kelly. I can’t tell if all of the little dings and bings are also keyboards or if they are some sort of percussion, but in any case it all serves to create this dreamy, fantastical sound, which of course serves the lyrics. There’s a risk when you write these almost opposing musical parts that they can conflict with each other and the whole becomes messy – the lead keyboard part and the more xylophone sounding part overlap and different points, but they end up complimenting each other even though they are both doing opposing things in isolation. Under all of this, the bass is doing a slight descending line to produce a resolution to the tension of each line. It’s all very well done. The breathy sighs of the backing vocals offer some additional layering and melody, and it’s an approach I don’t remember Marillion taking too often. Overall, it’s a great example of all of the various parts of the song working together to serve the whole – the lyrics serving the mood of the music and vice versa. I’d be interested in which was crafted first.

I admit there’s probably a case, if anyone wants to make it, for the ‘she’ in the song not being a person. Is it nature, is it the universe, that sort of thing. But that way lies madness, so I’ll stick with it simply being a song of lower tier infatuation, respect, love. The most simple explanation seems to be that it’s a song about the narrator falling in love with an older woman – that he has reached the point that the younger people he may have once been interested in and distracted by, no longer hold any allure. He doesn’t care that people may balk at him being with this person and any visible signs of age are meaningless because of the connection they have. It’s quite beautifully written and tender. If we’re following along the ‘story of H’ through his lyrics over the various albums, this feels like a new chapter in which he closes the door on the rock star playboy exploits of his younger days.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We kick off the latest episode of BYAMPOD with the chilling announcement that Paul and Sanja’s Marillion trip to the Netherlands is coming soon, and they’re not prepared for it. I don’t feel prepared for my trip to Menorca this Summer – the kids Irish passports have been rejected so we’re going right through that process again – but otherwise everything is in place. I say that I don’t feel prepared, but generally my wife does all the work and I just turn up on the day, hoping a couple of pairs of boxers have been packed. Menorca has become ‘our place’ – the first real holiday destination we all went on as a family, though this is going to be the first time we travel with our son. Good luck sleeping on the flight anyone who’s near my hyperactive three year old!

Fish’s competition – one ‘lucky’ winner going to his home to spend the day with him and his wife, sounds like the blurb for a cult-oriented horror movie. Dinner parties are not my thing either, there’s a formal pressure involved and I think of being forced into religious gatherings when I was young where I would have sold my soul just to get out of them. We don’t really have them in my house, thank goodness. Christmas, that’s about it. Pub – sure. Going to a restaurant, depending on who I’m going with, sure. Have I had dinner with any famous people… no-one anyone reading this would have heard of. Various Northern Irish pseudo-famous people, to the extent of being in Sport or Politics or some other nonsense I don’t care about. I can lie my way through any situation, but if someone gives me an invitation (intended or otherwise) to some punchline, lewd aside, or bizarre non-sequitur, you can be sure that I’ll respond in a socially unfortunate manner entertaining only to myself.

On to Asylum Satellite 1 and a Rothers quote about his guitar setup. Makes sense to me – I’ve never been fancy with my setup and just go with whatever sounds I can squeeze out of whatever I have. If I were a rich man, I’d certainly buy a few more pieces of equipment, but I don’t think I’d ever be a tech-boy. I’m more interested in the ideas and melodies when writing, and I leave everything afterwards to fate or the tech-boys. With that out of the way, the song has miraculously clicked for Paul. I was at a concert once – I can’t even remember who it was but I’m guessing Radiohead – and there was a guy with a pumpkin pie/Garfunkel hairdo who decided it was his role in life to stand directly in front of me for the entire show, with his arms folded, and didn’t move or sing or otherwise react for the entire duration. All 6ft something of him. In fact, the only time he ever moved was to re-position himself in front of me if I strafed to the side. It gives me no shame to say that he may have received a shin-related wound towards the end of the show during a particular rambunctious Nightman jump around session. I’ve never understood why people spend money to go to a show, and then visibly give off ‘anywhere but here’ vibes. This happens time and time again, the more gigs I’ve been to. It’s those guys, and then the people who are simply there to get pissed or stoned or start fights – I struggle with the purpose of their existence. I was stuck beside a group of these types the last time I saw Guns N Roses. That was a 100 Quid Plus show, and they sat almost the entire day, gradually getting more and more off their faces only to dance to Sweet Child O Mine, then resume their nonsense. I don’t get it.

Back to the song – it has grown on Paul and he now sort of likes it. Does this mean his opinion of Whatever Is Wrong With You is going to change? Rothers apparently improvised much of his work – on this song but also in general – while the song transports Sanja to a 1960s French film. I like Producers taking their songs apart track by track – what’s often most interesting is how much just gets shoved in to a mix and forgotten, whether it be a Producer splicing in parts from different takes, or one of the performers doing a bunch of overdubs and then those being added and swallowed up. In the old days, you would get a lot of ‘bleeding’ from different mics if the band was recorded their parts at the same time (for example, a singer might be recording his part in a booth while the band played along outside, but if they were playing loudly enough then part of that can be absorbed into the singer’s recorded vocals and offer something different from the actual, separate band recording). There was a Paul McCartney and Rick Rubin series where they broke down some Beatles songs and Paul was surprised by some of what they found when the tracks were isolated – all very interesting if you’re a fan. Yes, get Mike Hunter on. I’ll re-record whatever he says and everyone can laugh at my accent.

As epic a sound as the band may have been gone for, I can’t say it struck me as Cinematic and I didn’t get the feelings which Sanja did. It’s certainly spacey and futuristic, but it did little for me. Maybe in another 20 years it’ll mean something to me. I had just as little to say about the lyrics as I did about the music. Sanja goes down the Environmental route as the setup for the Space escape/exploration story, which seems reasonable given the band’s history and the increasing cultural awareness of this issue. She comments on the dual meaning of ‘Asylum’ which I admittedly overlooked or didn’t care enough about to catch, but that is interesting. Paul says he remembers H saying his inspiration for the song was simply about refugees and placing, perhaps undesirables. on a satellite and stick them in Space. Paul’s take is that it’s more generally a song about being an outsider, about feeling apart from whatever institution or group you find yourself part of or put in or related to. As out of touch as Matt Hancock is – I’m still mystified by the public electing to keep him in the show for so long. I get that him being tortured would have been good watching for a while, but the guy was good at the trials so any ‘justice’ by forcing him to eat testicles quickly waned, and I thought he would have been booted much earlier. Then again, the public voted for Brexit, so what the fuck to they know?

Not to make light of a complex issue, but I’ve long held the theory that we’re all outsiders, falling into two camps; those who want to fit in and those who don’t. That’s maybe a shit take, and it’s maybe be trying to resolve my own issues. I’ve always felt, no, I’ve always been an outsider. I make friends easily enough, but I typically prefer to be on my own, in my own space, or in my own head. However, I don’t like the perception that may go along with this – I don’t wish to come across as mysterious, wilfully distant, a social mess, or seem like I’m doing some bizarre reverse-attention seeking theatre, so that conflict compels me to argue that I’m not unique in these feelings and that we’re all in the same boat. Did a single word of that make sense?

I have actively rebelled against positions I’ve found myself in. For a time, nothing depressed me more than going out with my friends. These were people I loved. But I was utterly lost both during and after the experience. Was because what we were doing simply wasn’t my thing? Maybe I was simply growing more distant from them and felt like I had little to say. Maybe it seemed like they had their shit together, had a plan, and could cope with existing, while I had none of that. This would inevitably be turned, innocently, back around on me as I would be labelled ‘the quiet one’ while on the inside I was screaming. Conversely, in a one on one, or even with the same group but doing something different I would feel more like my natural self. Even now I struggle to understand the feelings and the behaviours I had – why was I like this? It didn’t, and doesn’t make sense.  While I can view all of this as something which happened a long time ago, I still feel it inside me, a doppelganger biding its time. I started having periods of what I now know as derealization, coming seemingly from nowhere yet possibly triggered by the fact that I did have shit together. That’s honestly terrifying – the world almost literally peeling away from my eyes like the encrusted pages of an ancient tome. I assume this is all some jumbled way of admitting that some form of depression has always been inside me, attacking out of nowhere, yet never with enough force that I haven’t been able to get through it.

In any case, I’ve always been happy to be an outsider, and ultimately secure enough in my self to be me without being concerned by what others may think of me. I’m going to write what I’m aware will come off as a terribly dickish thing to say, but people seem to like me more often than I like them. I’ll be funny or seem interesting one time, and people assume that’s me 100% of the time. Honestly, if you’ve read more than a few posts on my blog you’ll know that I’m really not all that interesting. That’s not to say that I don’t like the people who like me – 99% of the time I do, but some evolutionary, social trait of being an ape must have passed me by along the way.

I don’t feel like I need to be a part of any group – friends, job, fandoms, whatever. I enjoy talking about the shit I love with people who do, or might, also enjoy that shit – I’ve had a blog for thirteen years now – but I’m equally content with howling my opinions into the void. My need to talk doesn’t equate to anyone needing to listen. The by-product of this is loneliness. I miss the people I connected with and I get pulled into viewing the past as this rosy place, but when I take the high level perspective which Paul is talking about I can admit that I’ve always been this way. Back then I was physically closer to my friends and could more easily spend time with them, whenever I chose to. Now I live in the middle of nowhere, far from where I grew up (if you can consider the distance between one side of Northern Ireland to the other as far), and I’m more or less content even if I do get bouts of missing people. Enough!

How does this all relate to the song? Maybe all my rambling doesn’t, but what Paul says about being at a distance makes sense along with the lyric. We move on to Older Than Me, which apparently was planned for Somewhere Else. Sanja says the music has a nostalgic feeling, with Paul adding that it is just like a lullaby. Where I said it was traditional Marillion, Sanja feels like it’s not like anything else they’ve done. I suppose when I was saying what I said, I meant the chilled vibe, the slow pace. Paul doesn’t have a lot to add about the music, beyond it being sparse and simple. The lyric remains something of a conundrum, with Paul saying he thinks the song is praising maturity over youth while Sanja adds another layer in thinking that it’s a cousin to some of the previous songs in its opposing opinion to the mass consensus. The guys talk about society’s obsession with youth and how that has flipped in our culture from days or centuries gone by. Like Richey from the Manics said, ‘youth is the ultimate commodity’. I understand the attraction, especially the physical side of things, but as health continues to improve and lives continue to be longer than at any time in the past, it seems strange to me that we don’t rely on the experience which comes with age, especially when it comes to the Arts. Yes, it’s great to have new voices and perspectives and people who can connect more authentically to the latest demographic, but there has to be a place at the table for everyone. Extreme examples maybe, but if we’d binned Scorsese, Hitchcock, and Kurosawa at age 50 we’d have never had The Wolf Of Wall Street, Vertigo, Psycho, or Yojimbo. Similar examples can be found in literature and music too. I guess I have 10 years to go.

The worry for me is that, yes Marillion are still on the go, along with many bands from the 80s, 70s, and a handful from the 60s. But they are mainly legacy acts, living off an almost proxy fandom. Sure new kids are still, and will always find these acts and wish that they had been around to see them in their prime, but the concern is… are those types of acts being created today? Which bands or performers who hit their peak in the 2000s, or who are at their peak now, will either want to, or still be allowed to be relevant in their 50s? Beyonce? Bieber? Swift? No doubt some will, but will they create new music and will that music be recognized regardless of its quality? Will Adele’s inevitable album 50, be as revered as her 19? For me, as long as you want to do it, and can still do it, you should be given the opportunity to do so.

With that, we leave it for another week. I’m away to listen to some Metal which I missed first time around, another one of 2020’s most highly regarded albums, and finish off a Swiss Roll from Lidl – 10 portions my arse. Leave your thoughts in the comments, and as always, go listen to BYAMPOD!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 2 (Part 1)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! And Happy New Year for those of you who mostly come here for my Marillion musings – did you have a good NYE? Did Ol’ Beardy Claus gift you with some Marillion-related treats, or did you sadly open yet more socks from kids who couldn’t give a shit about your feelings, hopes, and dreams? As I said – Happy New Year!

I didn’t get any Marillion-related treats, nor did I receive any socks. A further nor (norther?) is that I haven’t even listened to Marillion since the early point of December. In fact, I don’t believe I got anything remotely music adjacent for Christmas, which is unusual for me. Switch games, sweets, books, and booze. And lots of popcorn, for some reason. I’m doing Dry January too, so all the booze is stacked up in a cupboard in the kitchen, ready to fall out and smash over the tiles when someone is too hasty in their search for Pringles, or whatever else is stacked in there too.

Is any of this interesting? Probably not. What is interesting, is that Paul and Sanja are putting on the Digitiser 30th anniversary special this summer – and you’re invited! It’s a 2 night event and tickets are on sale for both already, so if you want to be party to some naughty shenanigans sure to involve bins, beans, Monty, music, and mmmmmmm, then whip out your wallet and start clicking the things below:



It may well be sold out by the time I even publish this post (I’m writing this in early January), but worth a try. Sadly, you won’t get to meet whoever I am because I’ll be on a beach somewhere, abusing a Lilo. A shame, because I was looking forward to heading to London, getting on the wrong tube line, and ending up in Bognor Regis.

Happiness Is The Road then. Volume 1 was okay, wasn’t it? Some good songs which I’ve added to my Hard Drive in the car, some songs which I was less fond of. Based on what Paul has said, Volume 2 is the weaker album. Spoiler Alert – I have already listened to the album a few times at this point, and yes, it is the weaker album. While it has its own distinct vibe separate from Volume 1, and while that vibe carries coherently through the whole thing, it still feels more like a collection of songs than a ‘real album’. I wouldn’t go as far as saying it’s filler, or that it’s a bunch of extras more akin to a bonus disc, but I wouldn’t argue against someone of that opinion. It’s like the second disc How To Measure A Planet by The Gathering; noticeably inferior to the first disc, but not without its charms. In both that example, and Happiness Volume 2, you’d be hard pressed to find a song on the second disc which could replace something on the first.

But lets go track by track and see if we can eek out any reasons for this opinion. Thunder Fly kicks things off, and instantly looks to dispel one of my more negatively slanted opinions of Volume 1 – that it lacked a bit of oomph. It is centred on a twisting and hypnotic riff and, in its early moments at least, it rocks about as hard as Marillion ever does. H feels like he’s right on the edge of doing an Elvis impression while the song rarely stays in one place for longer than a minute. It leaps from straightforward riff rock to spacey zaniness to cheesy organ led Blackpool Music Hall OAP fodder. It’s a thoroughly strange song which seems to be trying to pack as much stuff into six and a half minutes as is humanly possible. The downside of this being that it lacks coherence, the transitions are jarring, and any parts that you may enjoy you don’t get to enjoy for long.

The upside of this is that the parts you may not enjoy are equally rushed through and cast aside, and when viewed as a whole it does have a wacky charm to it. In addition, it’s a solid album opener considering what’s to come. It’s a mish mash of ideas and sounds like the band is having fun just messing around. If you’re inclined to extreme bouts of positivity you could argue that it’s the band showing off their full creativity and vibrancy by touching on so many different sounds. It is a more experimental showing for the band than most of Volume 1 – adventurous almost to its detriment. For your regular fan, there’s still nice vocals and a nifty solo, but it’s difficult to clasp on to anything without it slipping away to another distraction. It’s also something of a showcase for some of the more jarring sounds which crop up repeatedly in Volume 2 – guitar and keyboard effects namely. It’s both coarse and spacious.

The Elvis antics I mentioned earlier are perhaps a deliberate creative choice when we have a gander at the lyrics. While Corn Flies are something of a pest and nuisance to those in the British Summer countryside, it’s a term I immediately connect with the US of A. Corn fields as far as the eye can see, insects buzzing wildly from stalk to stalk in the blistering heat, a young alien boy from Krypton frolicking in their midst. It strikes me as a very North American image, and multiple other lyrics in the album talk about the US too. It’s an album of destinations and of struggling to find a place in any of them. Thunder Fly, if I may hazard a guess, is less of a song about annoying insects which appear for a few weeks every year, as much as its about the other annoyances which we allow into our lives and cannot be rid of. This being H, such annoyances are of the romantic sort. Even perfect summer days and happy endings and visions of ideal places are corrupted by these annoyances.

We escape from Earth up through the atmosphere and head off to Planet Marzipan, a song even more disjointed than the opener, and one which could have had a minute or two shaved off its running time to make the journey feel less like a nauseous cryo-sleep hangover.

It begins promisingly enough, like a creepy sci-fi score suggesting a lot of drama. It perks up, accompanied by staccato bass and that guitar sound Paul has sounded his disdain about a few times. The verses are perfectly fine – late night talk radio funk – if a little bland. There’s too much space in the verses which makes it feel somewhat wasteful and where the chorus would normally be is something equally dull, but noisier. There’s a melody in there, but the band doesn’t do much with it.

Around the middle mark this all falls away and we’re left with another barren-sounding section. There is a lot going on here, but it’s uneventful. The little blips and bloops, nuggets of sounds, jangles are not used to enhance the sound but instead feel like, well, corn flies. Instead of building to something interesting, I want to swat it all away. The eventual building comes too late and also inconsequential. When you think it might be a jubilant building up through chords, it stays in the same place, crawling forwards while H mumbles and the music trawls through quicksand towards its end. Through all this, there are glimpses of interest, but they’re as fleeting as the kaleidoscopic colour blots we see when we blink. What is already a dull song is worsened by its length.

Lyrically, if the song were a Reddit post, it would show up on r/therewasanattempt. It’s a not quite stream of consciousness ramble, a bit like my blog. H is at least going for a vibe here, trying to write in a cutesy pseudo-Radiohead, pseudo drug-influenced way, but it comes off as false and even amateurish. If there’s anything I can say about H’s lyrics – they always feel honest. This doesn’t seem honest.

Still, a line here or there works, kind of. ‘Net-curtain lungs’ is evocative. The potency of whatever message there is supposed to be, is lost. He’s positioning himself as this confused bystander figure, floating through life observing the state of the world, and as such putting himself on some sort of pedestal. He offers no solutions or alternate suggestions to help what he sees as the plight of humanity – that plight here listed as fame and religion. Maybe I’m being overly critical. Maybe it’s fine. It just feels to me that he wanted to write in a very specific style, but that it didn’t come off. For me. Calm down.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We’re back with a new BYAMPOD episode. This is the first new track by track run through of the year, but the guys have treated us to plenty of other episodes since the Volume 1 walkthrough. In the previous episode, Paul did a bit of an overview of Volume 2 and its issues. We won’t cover that here, but it’s enough to mention that we have a fair understanding of his opinions of the album coming in to this episode. Incidentally, it seems like Lucy disagreed with Paul’s assessment of Whatever Is Wrong With You from his summary episode. We’ll get to my opinions of that song next time, but lets just say that I was surprised by Paul’s level of contempt for what I felt was maybe the only song which had a standout vocal melody after my early listens.

Paul and Sanja kick off by disagreeing over whether or not Volume 2 should have been released, with Paul reiterating that he feels there is nothing essential on it and that its release hurt Volume 1, while Sanja feels it’s more important for the fans to hear everything which the band has made, regardless of the songs being crap or not. I’m somewhere in the middle, when I think of my own favourite bands. I’m a big B-Side collector and will buy special edition re-releases etc, but I get those only for the new songs and I don’t much care for demos. I don’t need to hear every little piece of music a band ever makes, but if a band gets to the point of writing, rehearsing, playing, and recording a song, then yes, I want to hear it. Does it need to be a one-off solo release per song, or a collection of rarities, or a dedicated new album… I suppose it’s on a case by case basis. It sounds like what should have happened with Happiness Is The Road is that Volume 1 should have been released on its own, and then some time later, say one year, the album was either re-released with Volume 2 as a Double album, highlighting that Volume 2 was just extras, or release Volume 2 on its own, but still advertising it as ‘leftovers’ albums, as harsh as that may sound.

We begin with some quotes from the band about Volume 2, sounding mostly positive. Paul counters this by saying that the moment he heard Thunder Fly, he was worried that it was going to be ‘one of them’. Marillion trying to be heavy, when that’s not something they’ve been particularly strong at. Sanja doesn’t hate it, thinks it’s catchy enough, and is curious about whether it has ever been played alive. Paul is more positive when it comes to comparing it with the other ‘one of those’ songs, yet agrees that it is very odd and all over the place.

Anyone else think ‘Thrips’ sounds like a genital disease? ‘Have you seen Bob recently?’ ‘No, but I texted him and he’s stuck inside with a drooling case of thrips’. Sanja then does a strange impression of Unknown American. Paul and Sanja, if you guys are reading this, you need to edit that snippet into its own trailer and tweet it out. Is that good advertising – not only posting a link and a blurb to each new episode, but a soundbite to entice new listeners?

Sanja wonders if the song is comparing these little annoying creatures to certain people who at first seem harmless, but end up causing more damage. Paul loves the lyrics and thinks it’s about a girl who you become obsessed with and who may not be good for you.

We jump straight into the next track, and have a discussion about ‘addicting’ versus ‘addictive’. That’s absolutely one of those words which gets under my skin. It just sounds ‘wrong’. I like marzipan, depending on what it’s connected to. A Battenburg cake for examples – yum. A Christmas cake? Fuck off. Sanja had a mixed reaction to The Man From Planet Marzipan – she hates a lot of the bleepy bloopy stuff in the opening, the rapping, and a few other moments. Yet elsewhere, the scope, the atmosphere, and the other bits she love means the song is now mostly positive. It has always been Paul’s favourite on the album, and both prefer the second half. I preferred the opening half and felt the song fell apart in the second half. As much as Paul isn’t a fan of the album, he would still prefer to hear some of its songs live rather than the usual. I get that – for the more rabid fans of particular bands, we can agree with that sentiment, but for those who only see the band once, or once every few years, they probably want the hits.

Sanja describes Marzipan as a Sci-Fi song – a detached alien viewing humanity’s madness from above. I can understand that… I just didn’t care for the song or the lyrics. Sanja gets a lot more out of the lyrics than I did and Paul adds that it’s not even new territory for the band, even as it is relevant for the outsiders among us. I suppose I’ve always felt like this, no matter what age I’ve been. It’s a very strange place and we’re all weirdos clinging on. I’ve always been very happy with my own company, and I don’t really get social media as a whole and I’m the first person to admit I’m crap at keeping in touch with the people and things I do care about. AI taking jobs, population increasing… we’ll all be in Wall-E in a few years.

It’s true though – putting yourself out there, behind a screen where there is not direct 1:1, face to face conversation, is difficult. If you’re being sincere, if you’re being harmless, you can almost guarantee that if you have any sort of audience that someone will at best, not like what you’re saying or doing or at worst absolutely hate you and attack you for it. It’s that barrier which is both protective and preventative for the poster and the responder – authentic is you are, it’s not really you, and the shield of anonymity or distance means anyone can reply how they see fit with zero consequence. On that note, have you seen the nonsense I’ve been putting on Youtube recently? If you like cats sucking human arms – well, go ahead and Carlos Nightman that shit up. It’s… something, and is getting views in the tens of thousands, so why not give the people what they want.

The discussion has gone from Marzipan to Weed in a matter of minutes. The thing about… I know they’re not directly analogous, but weed in particular as a product when compared to something like beer… or anything really, they all have a chain. Someone, somewhere is always being exploited. Slavery is alive and well in our Capitalist world. It’s sickening to think of and it’s easier to ignore or be ignorant of. That’s not drugs, that’s the normal, legal, everyday shit we use. In the words of The Manics – ‘everyone is guilty’. Maybe you have less of a reason to trust the guy you buy your drugs from than the farmer you get your spuds from, but people in the know find people to trust and buy from. I’ve done and taken most things, purely because I’ve wanted to see what would happen. In most cases it was fun, and it’s easy to see how certain substances can become a very slippery slope. I don’t touch anything anymore, mainly because I’ve done it and don’t feel the need to do it again. That and getting married and having kids means I have less time for thinking I’m a witch by wearing only my leather coat and ‘riding’ a floor cleaner up and down the halls of the health centre where my friend and fellow reprobate used to work.

What Paul says about ‘slipping away’ is part of what I’ve assumed people mean when they say that they wouldn’t want to live forever. I’d love to live forever, or at least for a few hundred years. But obviously everyone you’ve ever known would die, you would inevitably become some sort of obsolete relic, perhaps to the extent of Robert Neville in I Am Legend, and maybe you would have zero connection to the present day because your formative pieces are so far removed from the modern culture. Would your brain short-circuit due to an over-abundance of information, or would you at some point cease being yourself because you’d forget so much of what you learned, or would you adapt? We’re only ‘supposed’ to be here for a short while, it seems. How would culture be impacted in these respects, if we were a species which expected to live 200 years? Are we avoiding talking about Asylum Satellite 1? I had anticipated we would get to that song in this post, so let me just cut and paste my thoughts out of this one and into my Part 2 post.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1 (Part 4)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! We’re at the end of Volume 1. Isn’t that nice? Maybe it’s the fact that the nights are getting shorter, maybe it’s the fact that I’ll soon be turning forty, or maybe it’s the fact that we don’t have too many Marillion albums left to go, but it feels like we’re coming to the end of something. Hopefully Paul and Sanja have something else up their sleeves, or down their socks, once their final word on Marillion has been spoken, but I’ll miss the routine of listening and writing and learning. Will it be a jaunt through a lesser-known Prog favourite of Paul’s? Will it be Sanja’s turn to choose an artist? Will it be the oft-rumoured Manics podcast which has only been mentioned by me? Whatever it is, I’ll be there.

Today though, we wrap up the final few crumbs of Volume 1, starting with Trap The Spark which opens like a more uplifting Radiohead. It’s a very sweet song with a trace of melancholy which may be self-imposed by my associations more than anything, what with H’s vocal ‘woo-hoos’ in the introduction reminding me of the severely underrated band The Delays. The band’s singer, Greg Gilbert was known for his gorgeous falsetto, which often convinced listeners that the vocalist was a woman. I’ve mentioned them while talking about Marillion before, because there are some slight, notable comparisons between the vocals, if not the music. Greg died last year, but was known for his ‘woo hoos’. If you listen to Valentinehopefully you’ll understand some of the similarities I’m hearing even though it’s a much bouncier song.

While Trap The Spark is a beautiful song, it’s another slow song which remains one of the sticking points I’ve had with the album. It has become much less of an issue the more time I’ve spent with the album, but it’s still in the back of my mind. Sometimes it’s hard to share those first impressions. I’m not suggesting this song should be faster, but maybe the album is missing something more up-tempo?

With that out of the way, we can talk about the good stuff. It’s another very atmospheric, very keyboard-led song which is confident in each of the turns it takes. I enjoy the little jazz-shuffle percussion in the first half, I love the tone of the guitar which sounds scratchy, distant, like shooting stars cruising through the atmosphere. As slow as the song is, I appreciate how it gets even slower after the second chorus, bringing the pace back a step and playing the final verse and chorus at that speed. That’s a little twist on what most bands do – usually if there is a shift in pace at the end of a song, things get faster or more frantic.

We get a suitably uneventful guitar solo during this slower portion which leads into a final mainly instrumental section to close the song. As always, there’s a lot of colouring and layering to the texture which really comes to life when you listen with headphones, but much of it still comes through with my trusty laptop speakers. As dreary as I still find the overall feel and tone of this album to be, even though I don’t intend ‘dreary’ to come with the negative connotations you might expect, the production is top notch throughout with Trap The Spark being no exception. The piano sounds are clear and given room to breathe among the swathe of effects and percussion, and H’s vocals are never under threat of being swallowed by the music.

My first thoughts when listening to this song were that the lyrics must be an extension of what has come bef0re; whatever it is you’re looking for in your life, whatever is special is fleeting and you need to trap it while you can. While I still assume that’s the overall intention of the lyrics, upon reading the words that assumption becomes less certain, and the words don’t exactly spark that interpretation. Would you get that intent just from the lyrics if you had never heard any other Marillion song, or knew anything about the band? Reading only the first verse and chorus without that context, the song seems to be talking about love and how it’s nigh on impossible to those most potent feelings forever, while the second verse speaks about someone yearning to be away from where they are currently, back to the places where they can recapture the spark. My only note on the final verse was in reference to ‘unhappinesses’, as I was reminded of the Simpsons episode where Selma tries to adopt a baby from China for the price of ‘10,000 happinesses’.

While I’m reaching with this one, and believe it’s just a coincidence of the song’s structure, I did enjoy how the first line of the chorus has a positive message – ‘Trap the spark and hold it there’, yet is played with minor chords (minor chords known to sound sad or negative), while the second line ‘you can’t, you can’t’ is the negative message but is accompanied by the major chords. Is that something?

A State Of Mind is as close to an up-tempo song as the album gets, even though it’s not much faster than anything else. It’s the little drumstick beats which make it feel faster than it is, it’s the radio friendly chorus which kicks off the dreary shackles. Paul has made reference to some fans not enjoying H’s falsetto – I could see some of those listeners being put by his vocals in the first chorus, but the good news is that he switches to his chest voice in the second chorus and gives it some welly.

I’m not sure what the bird sounds in the intro are supposed to convey, but in general whenever we hear birds in any song we tend to think of a new day or sunset. My best guess is simply that the lyrics mention the sky and looking down on the world… and birds live in the sky and look down? Sometimes these kinds of sound effects can be grating for me, especially if they’re pushed to the forefront of the mix, but it’s subtle enough here that it adds something to the overall vibe. I just don’t know what that something is.

On top of the second chorus kick up the arse, the song attempts to go bigger and anthemic in its final couple of minutes. It’s mostly successful – the interlude with more ‘woo hoos’, with the guitar echoing those ‘woo hoos’, the bass and drums building, all leading into the last chorus section is very cool. I don’t know if it’s a strong enough chorus melodically to get every fist pumping in the crowd, but it feels like it was a song written so that the fans could get their jumping clogs on.

Elsewhere, beyond some slight wavering in the first chorus, the vocals are excellent. H’s voice is smooth and calming in the verses and unbreaking when he hits the big notes, while remaining sumptuous in his emotive delivery throughout. I don’t have much to say about the lyrics, beyond some of the religious tones about creation, looking down from above, spreading a message etc. Who is the ‘he’ who came down from the sky? What is the song saying? What is this State Of Mind which he wants to spread, and which will help those who are ready to KNOW and GROW? As a standalone, the song doesn’t convey anything concrete to me and only holds any substantial meaning when taken alongside the other songs and messages we’ve heard till this point.

We end (kind of) on the centrepiece of the album, the title track, the epic. At ten minutes long, it’s most likely the song which came with the most expectation. If you have a song which is considerably longer than the others, that’s the one which will raise a few eyebrows. While Paul has been referring to this as ‘Her Penis Is The Road’, in all honesty I had a different understanding of the lyrics in my first listens, and it’s one of those ‘once heard/never unheard’ scenarios. In my first listens of the album, I had it on in the background while working, at just let whatever vibes and melodies connect freely with me without putting much effort in from my part. Once the chorus dropped and I heard H clearly singing ‘Auf wiedersehen, La Roache’, I admit to doing a bit of a double take and wondering why Marillion would be writing a dedication to Ken from Coronation Street. Roache. Bill Roache. Ken from Corrie. Do you see?

Seriously though, that’s what H is singing. Sort out that diction. There’s absolutely no way he’s saying ‘road’. It’s clearly Roach. Not that I, as a Manics fan, has any leg to stand on when their lyrics and diction are all but indecipherable and sound like ‘teachairstolenchildpeaseeapuaslongasdareIrightsAREUSED!’ Bonus points for any Manics fans who can guess the song from that.

In a twist on the format, I’ll talk about the lyrics first as they’re arguably more interesting than the music. What I found most interesting is how strong the lyrics are and yet I paid zero attention to them until I Googled them. In most cases when I’m listening to these albums, it’s around the third or fourth listen before I try to focus on the lyrics with any real effort, and only after then do I Google them to see what I got wrong. But with this song in particular, none of the lyrics (apart from Auf Wiedersehen) made any impact on me. Imagine my surprise when I Googled the words and recognised how personal they were, how pertinent to the overall album mindframe, how impactful they are. It makes perfect sense that these lyrics make up the title track. You have to assume that the title track of any album is the symbol, the emblem, the crown jewel of that album. Given all of the themes brokered on every other song, this song feels like a summary of it all while also being an apt thematic closure to the album’s story, while also being a standalone story in and of itself.

I don’t need to go line by line, or verse by verse, through the lyrics; it’s enough to say that it’s a lesson gently preached, not proselytized, a personal testimony which grows with urgency as the music builds. There’s an outline of the lesson in the opening, a bit of personal context, history, and anecdote in the middle where the narrator learns this lesson, with the finale being a repetition of the lesson with a pleading delivery for others to work it out.

In following along with the lyrics as the song plays, I think that some of the vocal effects and mumbling delivery are what distanced me from the lyrics in the first place. I have to careful not to out myself as a hypocrite given the absolute shambles of how The Manics attempted to convey their politics in their early days, but surely you want to be as crisp and clear as possible in your delivery? Vocal effects, odd Brando-as-Corleone-pronunciations… these things muddy the message. Or do they force the reader to go searching for the lyrics so that they can read and understand and therefore the message hits more effectively? Why am I picking on H when I have little issue with how many of my favourite singers are even more obtuse in their vocals – I’m looking at you Tori Amos and James Dean Bradfield? Maybe it’s just the singing out of the side of the mouth thing that pisses me off.

Is it just me, or does anyone else get Twin Peaks vibes from the synth opening? Once the vocals come in, it feels more like a Funeral Service. Or, more accurately, the soundtrack from a movie scene showing the hero’s spirit passing on and gliding upwards towards the light of the heavens. A little sad, a little calm, a little happy. Mostly sad though. Taken with the lyrics, which are mostly of the positive if bittersweet nature, I haven’t decided if the music feels apt or entirely out of place. Maybe it’s that the vocal melody and delivery sounds so forlorn. The vocals are like a groan of despair and goodbyes rather than the happy ‘I’ve just found the answer, guys!’ message which the lyrics promote. To bring up that word again, it’s dreary.

Yet it’s not a dirge. I do like the music, I do enjoy the melodies, the structure of each section, the building of intent, and each band member is at the top of their game. I just find it odd that music is as dreary as a wet Sunday afternoon in the Northern Ireland Winter, from start to finish. Even though the lyrics are positive throughout, even though the music climaxes, and while there is a hefty chorus – none of those feel joyous or euphoric. Much of the song flits between Eminor and Aminor – for long swathes you’re trapped between those two chords and there isn’t a sustained period of the song in which the major key takes the lead. That in itself isn’t usually enough to evoke the dreariness, but combined with the pace of the song, the length of the song, and the fact that the guitars and keyboards don’t offer a counterpoint to the underlying minor chord basis all lead to a gloomy nature.

What else is there to say? H sounds a little like Sting towards the end, while there are a lot of standalone guitar parts there isn’t a blatant solo – perhaps unusual for a lengthy rock song, and much of the guitar, bass, and percussive work feels like a jam -moments improvised in the studio. Which leads nicely into the final song – Half Full Jam. I don’t know if this is a hidden song or how it appears in the original CD, but there isn’t much to it across its six and a slice minutes. It seems to be as the title suggests – a jamming session. Revolving around a single riff, the rest of the guys add their bits and bobs, with H mostly repeating the same handful of words and melodies. There are military marching drums, lots of keyboard faffing, and it gets louder in the middle. It’s fine. Bit of a strange way to close the album if it was meant as the true last song, more understandable if it was one of those ‘fast forward for three minutes and 47 seconds after the last song to find the hidden track’ jobs.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

Over to BYAMPOD and we kick off with a bit of controversy. I must have missed all of this – was it on Facebook? It led to Paul considering if his humour was too inappropriate for some listeners. I mean… everything’s going to be inappropriate for someone. Anyone can find anything offensive. It’s a wider discussion and I’m not qualified for it. I tend to think that life is grim and short and as a species we’re able to find most things funny, for whatever reason. I find humour in most things, though I’m going to be tactful in who I’m dealing with. I have a blog and probably make offensive comments with humorous intent, and there’s probably someone out there who might be triggered or offended or made angry. BYAMPOD probably has a decent-sized audience too, so you’re not going to be able to please absolutely everyone with everything you say. Differences of opinions on songs, some jokes will land, some won’t, others might be too on the mark. It’s more difficult to be tactful when you’re not speaking 1:1, and when you don’t know who the hell might be listening on the other end. So, should we be dull and say nothing at all, should we put certain topics in the bin from the outset, should we offer some sort of warning at the start of an episode if a certain topic is raised, or should we just be ourselves and deal with whatever might happen after the fact? I think most of us who grew up with Digitiser have a fair idea of Paul’s humour, and having spend a few years with the podcast and the Youtube content, it’s more than safe to say that Paul and Sanja are wonderful, socially conscious people who will laugh at themselves before sniggering at others. Sanja then sums it all up better than I’ve written here.

Don’t us Patrons get access to the unbleeped material? Straight into Trap The Spark and Sanja gushing over H’s falsetto. I like it, but then I love high-pitched male vocals. That was, by and large, how I chose to sing back when I did, and most of my favourite male singers are not known for their deep, swinging ballix, husky vocals. Some will like it, some won’t. Paul loves the song, Sanja calls out the guitar work, and Paul highlights the Waltz-like nature of the middle section. Lyrically, Sanja says it recalls Wrapped Up In Time while Paul says there are many call-backs to other songs. It has become an ever more impactful song for the guys given what has happened in their lives recently – the fact that an individuality past, present, and future can be here one moment and gone the next, never to return. It would be the single greatest invention in the history of the world if that spark truly could be trapped. Then Sanja gets confused by a cartoon dog.

Sanja suggests that we should all try to trap whatever sparks we can, even though we might not always get the results we want, and we shouldn’t expect to hold on to those things forever. Paul lists some of the references to other songs, which I never would have picked up on, and that the song boils down to wanting to hold on to something you love. Where does that spark go? Gobbled by Langoliers, into the wind to be breathed in by a billion lungs, or uploaded into an endless universal Cloud where everyone who has ever lived can inter-mingle forever? Any time we get into detailed discussions on grief, I have to bring up The Body – an episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Known as one of the finest TV episodes of all time, it’s arguably the best depiction of grief in, well, anything. Do the guys need to make a Buffy podcast? BYUFFPOD?

Paul and Sanja then turn into cats for a few minutes in their cover of State Of Mind. Sanja didn’t love the song when she first listened, but it eventually clicked, and she loves its building nature. Paul has always loved it and it ticks their pop/rock/should have been a hit box. Sanja says it’s a song about us pulling together as a species and moving forwards, while Paul doesn’t have much more to add beyond it feeling quite self-helpy. We then get into the ills of modern society, or society in general as it’s been this way for thousands of years, which takes me to one of my ex (living) girlfriends who did indeed drop off the grid and currently cycles about Europe with a tent, selling her arts and crafts and helping on farms and building houses. I’d like the travelling part. Helping people by doing stuff? I’m too lazy. NICE LITTLE PENIS. LITTLE?

At least it’s not just me who calls out H singing in a funny voice, and Sanja highlight’s Mark’s great work. She notes that there’s so much going on, lots of little bits adding to a ‘cosmos of sound’. Paul reads an H quote where he says much of the song was a jam – interesting that I called that out in my coverage of the song as it definitely sounds improvised, but I didn’t think it actually was. The song was a grower for Paul and while it’s not a favourite, he likes what it does for the whole album. As such, he doesn’t have much to say about the music or the lyrics. Sanja says the song is a summary of the album, and of H’s experience with the Power Of Now book. Looks like they’re saving Half-Full Jam for next week, along with some other bits. I doubt I’ll post about that, but who knows.

As always, do the likes and shares and listens and comments!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1 (Part 3)!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! After last week’s tragic saga of woe, let’s hope today’s is all kittens, sunshine, and pina coladas. We’re still talking about the same album, so chances of that are slim. We kick off with Liquidity, which we presumably won’t have much to say about. It’s a solid, short, instrumental piece which loops and builds upon the same recurring keyboard motif. There’s a lot going on and it’s fairly intricate for what is very simple at its core; the tinkling, dripping bits of synth effects, the cymbal taps, Rothers twiddling with his (volume) knob, and lots of other cool little pieces all serve to make a cinematic whole. You could imagine this played over long, sweeping drone shots of a David Attenborough show, with desolate snowy lands unfurling from Winter darkness and melting into the first droplets of Spring, new-born mouths yawning, wings stretching, eyes searching upwards for the sun. A Koyaanisqatsi like montage of life zipping by.

It transitions very smoothly into Nothing Fills The Hole. To continue the montage metaphor, I can imagine the landscape switching from the tundra to the safari as the song progresses, shots of thrashing rivers and playful big cats as the chorus peaks. But we’d be getting too far off course because this is a very human story – as touched upon in the previous post, us humans have decided we need more than just the hunt. Mere survival, eating, procreating doesn’t sustain us. While our cousins throughout the animal kingdom seem to need only the minimum requirements for life, we are crippled by doubt, malaise, and the search for a remedy often becomes our meaning. Jeebus, here we go again.

The song is like a mantra, lyrically, musically, and in terms of vocal delivery. Just like Liquidity, the opening of the song seems to loop and build. It doesn’t quite follow the Golden Ratio, but it has that style of setting out a melody and rhythm and building upon it with each iteration. Musically, the opening feels like an extension of Liquidity, eventually eroding away to become its own thing. Very cool how the vocals begin as eerie whispers which fit the Liquidity tone, but as the vocals become more human and clearer, the music moves away from those instrumental roots.

As all this looping and repeating evolves, the lyrics are delivered as a mantra, a shopping list of needs and wants, coming across as being both willingly repeated because they’re an important part of the person’s make-up and shouldn’t be forgotten, but also as a sinister, inescapable, buzzing set of addictions constantly distracting and crying for attention. It’s cool then that when the chorus arrives, it feels like breaking free, like the head crashing through the surface after being held under water. The sudden Motown blast is almost euphoric, but then it’s almost impossible to find a Motown song that doesn’t feel happy-clappy.

While there’s a lot of truth and a lot of philosophy in the lyrics, I couldn’t help but compare Nothing Fills The Hole to Most Toys. They both grasp at the same material, with one more cultured than the other. While I couldn’t disagree with the sentiments, there’s still that nagging feeling that I’d like to at least have the chance to get, see, and have the things I want, believe, and dream of. I understand that many of my wants and dreams are material, silly even, and that once I had them, I would likely move on to the next thing. But that’s not necessarily a negative. I’d suggest that’s almost natural. Maybe life is less about being fulfilled, and more about constantly moving and progressing. There’s futility in searching, but also purpose, as much as there is in finding. To H’s credit, he doesn’t outright seem to be saying that all the silly things we want aren’t important, more that he’s documenting his own struggles and that even when he finds the freedom, the nirvana which philosophy suggests is the final, perfect state we should aspire to, he doesn’t last a week with that and still moves on. It seems to be an admission that, well, nothing fills the hole, not the wants and needs and dreams, nor even the spiritual stuff which is generally the response people give when asked ‘what is most important’. Maybe the answer is the search, the moments between the search, and what we learn along the way.

Woke Up is the album’s summer song. It’s the only song which felt warm in my early listens, perhaps because it has a touch of the Indie to it, with its Britpop riffs taking me back to the Mid 90s teenage summers of yore. It’s bright, warm, and hopeful in the same way that the ‘coming up’ songs on Screamadelica are. The only thing missing for me is a bit of pace; as it is, the song fits with the many other slow to mid-paced songs the album has to offer. It’s almost a missed opportunity to not make Woke Up a little faster and more energetic, and I don’t think it would have sacrificed much of the relaxed, summertime vibe the song is going for.

Elsewhere it isn’t the most musically diverse song on the album. It’s an old-fashioned rock band song, dropping much of the keyboard and soundscape approach which has been a trademark up to this point. The keyboards are not completely absent – starting after the first chorus the guitar backing from verse one is replaced by keyboard swirls, but these are eventually clawed back and drowned out by several layers of guitars and backing vocals. As the song enters its second half, there’s a final quieter approach to the verse orchestration where it’s drums and simple keyboards only, and then onto a faux-string laden climax. In a three-minute song with as standard a structure as you’ll ever get by a band like Marillion, they have the experience and artistry to provide something musically different in each verse, while not offering anything too challenging or variant.

Lyrically, we’re talking about movement again, and at least on the surface it seems to be referencing touring by calling out all of the different types of cities and times of years it’s possible to wake up in. The final line, along with the repetitions of ‘you woke me up’ also suggest that it’s tangentially a love song, but the overall lyric isn’t direct enough to hit the other marks you expect from a love song. While it’s fine, I’d say it’s one of the more wafting and uneventful lyrics on the album. If I’m being overly critical, I could say that the lyrics are a missed opportunity too. Aside from the expansion of ideas in the ‘City full of snow’ verse, the other verses don’t offer a lot of insight or poetry. Instead of ‘city that doesn’t sleep/full of rain’, why not play on that idea of sleeplessness? Have a word, something which relates to sleep or is ironic, instead of ‘rain’. Same with the ‘down by the sea’ – a reference to something seasidey in the following line instead, plus that would create a nice poetic throughline from one verse to the next. Am I asking for too much? Elsewhere, I don’t have much more to add so let’s hear what Paul and Sanja make of it all.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

We start with some soothing Sanja sleeping/meditation techniques which reminded me of that Simpsons episode where Homer tries to lose weight by listening to some self-help cassette in his sleep, but mistakenly receives a tape on expanding his language skills instead. Remember when The Simpsons used to be good? Wrinkle In Time was very very bad. Don’t watch it. Speaking of Disney-lite, Hallmark movies, we’re getting close to Christmas which means I’ll be watching more Lacey Chabery festive delights and reviewing them on the blog. LIKE AND SUBSCRIBE!

The guys call out Liquidity as a mostly Mark Kelly solo, emboldened by the producer. Apparently, the title was inspired by Mark and his former partner having a shared dream. A weird phenomenon, but it seems to happen every so often. The guys compliment the transitional aspects between this grouping of tracks, while Sonja seems to channel Drong when he smells a bit of football up his peripheries. Paul and Sanja are very positive about Liquidity and the band’s confidence in leaving it as it is without forcing it into a ‘song’.

Sanja is a big fan of Nothing Fills The Hole, how theatrical, or music-theatre it is, and has added it to her personal playlist. She highlights the swirling, repetitive, building nature, while Paul calls it ‘Prog Soul’. Prole? Paul mentions Funkadelic, which of course ties in with my later name dropping of Primal Scream’s classic from decades later. Paul says that Marillion does their version of Soul better than they do their version of angry rock, which seems fair enough. They’ve never, or very rarely been a band who plays fast and are happy to be languid. Any time they’re angry, it never comes across musically through the use of volume or distortion or venom or any of the other traditional hallmarks of rock. Their anger is more internalized, or like the guy who mutters about the bad situation after everyone else has left the room or moved on. But, they are very good at the slower stuff, the pain, and the self-exploration.

We’ll never find out what the song means lyrically, because Paul can’t be arsed going upstairs to find the magazine which the explanation from H. The guys give their own thoughts, which roughly aligns to everything I said – whatever H wants, and he’s tried a lot, none of it has filled that hole. We all have our needs, our holes, and our opportunities to fill them. Matron. Bonus Manics lyrical reference alert – ‘too many teenage holes to fill’ is the more adolescent version of what H is talking about here. There’s no escaping how uncomfortably sex-oriented that line is, and I’m sure it was written to be ambiguous, but the entire song (Yourself) is more accurately about the emptiness of teenage existence and the quest to find meaning in your own body and to live up to an impossible level of physical expectation. Lovely.

As I suggested, the song is an admission. Paul fills in the gaps by telling how H had come out of a relationship, had been struggling for a while, could never find happiness or contentment, but once he found the Power Of Now book and began working on this album, the steps to being content were put in place. Paul and Sanja share their own journeys towards loving each other, and loving themselves, which is very sweet, and honest, and sad in places. I’m not sure why I’ve had my own issues with this – I’ve always had low self-esteem, I’ve never particularly thought I was important, and most of my relationships till now have been unhealthy. But I wasn’t good then, and neither were the other parties. I mean, I’m still a mess, but aren’t we all?

We slide in Woke Up as Sanja compliments the musicality and the production, and the Indian-style approach. I think that’s just the keyboards pretending to be violins, but the Eastern vibe is very clear. Paul thinks the song is a shameless Who rip-off, while I called out its 90s Britpop-ness. Of course, The Who were one of the major influences on 90s Britpop. Paul highlights Wake Up as one of their best pop-rock songs and they both call out how it feels like a literal revelation.

Paul compliments the lyrics on the rhythmic side of things and Sanja mentions the call-backs to previous songs about touring and travelling. Both guys add that it’s also about love, about the impact of personal changes on how you see the world or how you see the same old places with a new light. If you’re loved, you take it with you, no matter whether that love is for another or for yourself. What it love? Don’t hurt me. Don’t hurt me. No more.

And that’s where we leave it, not before an assault on charity workers. Scum of the earth, they are. If you agree, make sure to listen to the pod, retweet, comment your most hated charity, and all the other things. If you’d like to tell me you love me, that’d be weird but by all means drop a comment and I’ll be sure to block you. Enjoy!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Happiness Is The Road Vol 1!

Marillion – Happiness Is The Road, Volume 1: Essence (2008, CD) - Discogs

Greetings, Glancers! It feels like an age since I last typed a single word about Marillion. An age in which we’ve seen one Monarch replaced by another, several PMs chewed up and spat out, and probably some other important world events I’ve failed to pay attention to. Paul and Sanja have crept up, leaped on, and sprinted away from their hundredth episode and are currently careening onwards towards… well, let’s just say that their Manic Street Preachers podcast is inevitable at this point.

It has been quite the journey; entertaining and enlightening in equal measure. I’ve learned about a band I had heard of but knew next to nothing about and beyond the music, it has been just as enjoyable sharing in someone’s passion. It feels like there’s not enough of that in the world.

I have been busy. Real life busy. I made a post a while back about being burnt out with music – writing about it, listening to it, and wanting to get back into my movie posts. I don’t know if this malaise has passed into my feelings on Happiness Is The Road or if I would have felt this way regardless, but one word kept cropping up again when I was doing my early listens of the album – dreary.

Calm down. Let me try to explain. When I first blasted the album, it was through Youtube. I was unaware, but it played both Vol 1 and Vol 2 as if it were a single album; songs were played out of order and the length and breadth of the thing was as exhausting as it was exhaustive. Too many songs followed a similar pace and tone, and too many lacked the honey dripping banshee call of Marbles. It felt like a big, big album with not a lot to say. The album made me not want to talk about it. I was also in a place where I wasn’t ready for a sprawling brute. I wanted music which would slap me about, kick me to the ground, steal my wallet, then do a Rumpelstiltskin dance beside my bleeding body, but instead I got over an hour of music akin to roaming through a barren, hungover town on a Sunday after being stood up for a date. An oddly specific reference.

So I took a step back. I listened to other music. I knew I was almost certainly wrong in my initial assessments. I listened to BYAMPOD and learned that Happiness is actually two distinct albums rather than a double. That made things more palatable. I updated my USB for car journeys with my favourite Marillion songs. I asked the neighbour’s son when he was going to fix my fence after he left the handbrake off and reversed into my garden. I discovered that my Amazon Prime subscription has a lot of Marillion music so started using it instead of Youtube, and in doing so I was able to split Vol 1 and 2 as intended and found out the true running order of the songs. I also found out that the album is like 60 quid on CD – what’s that about? I finally was in the place where I could listen to the album without being a dick. Or, less like a dick than usual.

Dreamy Street is, not for the first time, a brief and atmospheric toe-dip opener. Like much of the album to come, it’s a keyboard and synth showcase. It feels sullen and downbeat, light on lyrics and percussion. If you listen closely, some of the background synth underneath the central keyboard line seems to be playing a drifting A/E/D/C# descent, which is very similar to the G/D/C/B vocal melody later in Wrapped Up In Time (I thought it was the same until I played both on the kids’ keyboard and noticed the difference, so I’m leaving in the rest of this paragraph to show what I’d originally written). It’s very faint and played in a different rhythm which makes me think it may not even be intentional. But these are smart musicians and producers so I can only assume was purposeful – on its own it doesn’t add anything to Dreamy Street itself and those four chords don’t relate to the bulk of Dreamy Street’s chord structure in any way so it feels like it was added as a level of texture and foretelling.

I suppose that’s interesting, which is great because I don’t have a lot else to say about the song. It is dreary and makes me think of empty, wet streets rather than dreams. The keyboards do one thing, the vocals do another, and the bass bumps along underneath at various points. It sets a tone but one of unease. That’s something I’m likely projecting on to the song with rather than anything that was intended by the band, but this sort of loose playing always leaves me with a sense of unease – three instruments doing their own thing without really complementing each other, and making that be how they complement each other.

As is frequently the case, I made up my own incorrect lyrics; ‘I had to strain this monkey inside of me’, for example. Like the music, the lyrics form a mood piece. A dude in a half-conscious state, chilling in the sunshine. If there’s one word which this song and this album does not evoke for me, it’s ‘sunshine’. Music that I equate to sunshine either has to sound laid-back and relaxed, or light, summery, and bouncy like The Beach Boys. We can rule out the latter immediately, but I can’t say that Dreamy Street fits the former either – it feels too forlorn, introspective, mundane while to me a relaxed chill song should evoke very little beyond sitting, smiling, and tanning. No idea why I suddenly got so stuck on this completely irrelevant point, but there you go. As you can see, I made zero notes on the lyrics beyond them creating a mood.

This Train Is My Life wouldn’t be a song I’d accuse of being dreary if I heard it in isolation. It builds and it shifts and it peaks, working well as a standalone. I think the dreary tag still somewhat applies because it’s another mid-paced song in a mid-paced album. But it’s a good, mid-paced song which recalls similar songs from Marbles. It’s Marillion’s vibe, happy to sit in third gear. That isn’t meant as the insult it sounds like, but while I like the song there is a touch of cruise control to it.

For overt positives, the production is stellar with a lot of clarity and a lot of little quirky pieces flitting around under the hood. Even the vocal mix is playful, with H harmonizing randomly in a line here, a moment there. H sounds at his best once he steps it up in the second half, and I appreciate how the guitar solo comes at the tail end rather than the middle, in which we instead get a quiet section with much of the lush instrumentation driven out. Even though the song doesn’t pick up the pace, the peaks it reaches towards the end make it feel celebratory if not quite anthemic.

Before I talk about how much I enjoyed the lyrics for This Train Is My Life, I do have to call out one line. Or one word, specifically, and I’ll be curious if Paul or Sanja mention it too. Stroby. Stroby. Even typing it makes me a little uncomfortable. Stroby stations… we couldn’t have come up with some different? I know this is just me and how certain words give me the icky, but it feels clunky and out of place (he says after writing many un-edited and ill-planned paragraphs). Yes, that one caught my eyes and ears.

Elsewhere, lyrically, very good. Evocative, brings to mind a sense of movement, of fleeting experience and chaos. You can clearly read it as the life of a touring rock star and as a metaphor for the sickening, ungraspable pace of time we all feel slipping by senselessly. In many ways it’s a perfect lyric for explaining that shadow mood I’ve talked about in previous posts. The music doesn’t fully capture that mood, but the lyrics do. When I try to explain that mood, that vibe, that tone to someone, the best way I’ve been able to articulate it is by saying that it comes from all of the late night car trips I would go on as a child – I would be half-sleeping, half watching the world and its shadowy roads drift by, the air heater blowing in my face, some song teasing me to dream in the background. Far from being the unique mood I thought it was when I was young, it’s something most of us feel at some point and H puts it into words beautifully here, while also touching on companionship and the other themes I’ve mentioned. ‘Parallel lines/parallel lives’ was the standout line when I first listened – even more so once I put the other lyrics together – a concise, snappy comparison which says a great deal in a few words.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

On to BYAMPOD then. I notice as I listen to their hilarious intro (introad?) that I didn’t really talk about the artwork. It’s jagged. Like warring aerials. Like satellites trapped in barbed wire. That’s about it. Her penis is the road? I had my own mistranslation.. but we’ll get to it when we get to it. Apparently, the album is and isn’t about the destination and/or/but not the journey. With that confirmed, we talk about dead mice. My cat keeps them outside, thankfully. I fully expect to see an animated man with a man-sized thumb coming up in an upcoming Digi.

Between the previous episode and this, we learn that the album was a mixture of jams and songs recorded for previous albums. The band gave blog updates as they were recording. I like that approach for some bands, it feels like you’re invited to peer through the curtain. For other bands, I prefer the mystique is maintained. It was during these blog posts that the band confirmed that Vol 1 was a concept album – not something which was apparent to me in my early listens. Paul has mentioned Rother’s guitar sound a few times in previous episodes – I’ve early Asylum Satellite a few times now and I don’t have any issue with the sound, if it’s what I’m thinking of. It just like it has a lot of a chorus effect on it. The band also fully embraced the digital creation process, chopping and changing and experimenting as needed.

Paul comments on the relative simplicity of the lyrics, and how it fits with the theme of the album, and further how it fits with The Power Of Now. There’s a lot of grief in the album, something I picked up on more than there being an overall theme – sometimes we bring our own lives to an album, picking up on stuff that may not even be there, or heightening what is there.

Dreamy Street apparently sounds like the Eastenders theme. I didn’t catch that at all, so I’ll have to listen. I did pick up on the Wintery feel. That’d be the bells. Sanja connects the lyrics to Buddhist symbolism – tea ceremonies and monkey minds. They are more positive on the song that I am and also feel like the mood it conveys is more positive – why then did I find it so grim? Maybe it’s because I don’t drink tea?

On to This Train Is My Life, which goes back to Marbles. The end section dates back to Holidays or Brave. So it is a cut up song of different pieces, like I called out above. No, wait. That was Essence where I mentioned that. That’s in the next post. But I can see it for this one too. The guys like how the sound captures the feel of a train journey, and how much of an improvement…how different the production sounds here, contrasted with Somewhere Else. Sanja likes the propulsion of the song – there’s a tension which builds and is never static. Paul ties it back to the themes of the album and the book which inspired it. Nobody’s mentioned stroby stations yet. Sad face. The life of a touring professional must be bizarre. It’s something I’ve always craved though, to some extent. I’d wager most of us have an inherent wanderlust. When I was younger, I loved the idea of being a long-distance truck driver. I think I wrote an easy about it in Primary School – one of those ‘What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up’ assignments. I loved the idea of not being attached to anyone or anywhere. Always on the road. Staying up late. Seeing the world pass by. Listening to music and following no rules but my own and the road, man. I was too young to be concerned with bills and delivery deadlines to meet. Now, I’m content to never leave the house. Still, there’s always that pull.

While I was writing all that, the guys were pouring their own hearts out. Go listen. There’s an H quote about the origin of the song. Stroby stations! I don’t have much else to say, so I’ll just add how cool I think it would be if all railway lines were accompanied by foot and cycle paths. Think about how easy it would be to travel from place to place! Ignore the practicalities (and safety concerns) of that becoming reality, but I like the idea of cycling down to my local train station and then following the train tracks in to the city or wherever. Yo Elon, get on it!

We close with the guys saying how much they love the album. I don’t think I’m at that level. I haven’t given it the headphone treatment yet, and I’m almost always doing something else when I’m listening to music these days, but I’ve given it plenty of loops and it’s good. I like it. I don’t love it. Maybe I’ll get there one day. Until then, share your thoughts on the album below and go listen to BYAMPOD and let Paul and Sanja know how you feel!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Somewhere Else (Part 3)!

Somewhere Else by Marillion: CDs & Vinyl

Greetings, Glancers! This should wrap up my Somewhere Else coverage before we move on to… actually I’m not sure what the next album is. Lets get straight to it.

The Wound brings a sense of urgency after the more pedantic pacing of the last couple of songs, and its opening is brimming with drama. At over seven minutes long though, it’s difficult to sustain both drama and urgency. As this the case with many of the songs on Somewhere Else, it’s overwritten and unfocused. There’s no need to add the slower section, it cuts out the immediacy and energy of the opening and feels like an outtake from one of the previous couple of songs which was cut and pasted here instead. If The Wound had ended around the 3 minute mark and may have made for the less abrasive partner to Most Toys. 

The final four minutes are not strong enough to be their own thing either. There’s little in there to get my juices going as it slumps along like a sullen teenager. Defend the lyrics in this half – they’re fine and they complete the story of the song, but the music is too meandering and displaced to make any impact.

The song is about trauma – perhaps that’s even too strong a word for it – but it’s about a wound which never heals no matter the attempts to make it go away. It’s an emotional wound, but the lyrics treat it like a raw, physical entity with a life of its own. H has anthropomorphized pain like this before, but it gives a detailed sense of the long-lasting hurt. What is the wound? The wound is your life. H’s own life, or is he being reminded of someone else when he hears a song on the radio? I can see an argument for both, given how H has written about himself and his partners before. Hell, I could even see an argument being made for this being about Fish. It’s not about Fish, is it? The lyrics deserved a better musical accompaniment.

The Last Century For Man is H going back to the Radiohead reserves for a few more ideas. I don’t have many issues with this, with crimping from other artists you enjoy, trying to emulate them, or subconsciously allowing their sounds to be infused into your own. All bands do this. But it feels more blatant on The Last Century For Man – there are at least a couple of OK Computer songs which are very similar to this – the guitar tones used, the melodies, atmosphere, pace, and overall style make me think that the band said ‘we want a song with sounds like The Tourist, so lets do that’. Again, I’m not going to say that’s necessarily a bad thing as any artist wants to celebrate their influences and take parts of what they love while putting their own twist on it. The issue comes when there isn’t a lot else to say about the song outside of its influences.

The Last Century For Man feels like an album closer. It becomes more classically grandiose than anything on OK Computer – the string sections feeling more like a traditional swelling than the jagged Bernard Hermann or Krzysztof Penderecki influenced nightmares which Radiohead employed. It covers a lot of ground in its near six minute running time and feels less repetitive and meandering than the last few songs. It still follows a similar lethargic pace, but there is more interesting stuff going on and the hooks are more notable. It’s one of the few instances in the album where the departure from the central idea is successful – rather than hurting the song, the last few minutes which depart from the first half’s ideas, are complimentary.

Are the lyrics prophetic? Is this the last century for man? It’s easy to say it doesn’t look good, between hard fought freedoms being eroded, pandemics bringing society to a standstill, the climate doing summersaults, and Neighbours being cancelled (yes, I’m still pissed about it). Not to mention the cost of living rises. But this isn’t the last song on the album. It ends with Faith. Is that a bit of hope at the end of the tunnel or a vain, clawing guess akin to offering thoughts and prayers in lieu of any decisive action? As a species we’ve rarely been more safe, more healthy, more knowledgeable, more free. Every previous century has had its own share of catastrophes and every society has its doomsday purveyors – it’s only natural to fear the unknown, and the greatest unknown is the future. Keep fighting, vote, do what you can, screw what you can.

Faith is the song I mentioned near the start of my first post. It’s the only song which grabbed me in its first seconds on my first listen. It’s lovely, tender, great vocal, simple, earnest. And yet… and yet. It too falls into the trap of doing too much. What should have been a neat little coda for the album, a song which does what it needs to inside two minutes, instead goes off into another unnecessary middle section. I like the middle section, but it’s not as good as the opening minute or so and I think the song would be perfect without it. Even the return to that melody and style for the final minute isn’t as potent.

On top of that, and not to make any unfounded accusations, but that guitar riff… it’s Falling Away With You by Muse, isn’t it? It’s slower, and they change it up for the second bar, but come on. Here, I’ll even link again. I don’t mind – that’s one of my favourite Muse songs, but as much as Muse were influenced by Radiohead, this feels like Marillion being influenced by Muse. That particular song, as is the Muse way, becomes more bombastic and ridiculous, but the gorgeous opening is similarly gorgeous to Faith. The comparison to Blackbird may be more obvious, but for me it’s closer to Muse. Look, I don’t care, it’s worth calling out, they’re all good songs which each do a thing I like, so why wouldn’t I want more?

The lyrics I’m not too sure about. I could say they ramble on and attempt to make some vague disguised point without really saying anything, but again it feels honest and earnest so lets give the boys some credit. Is it about having faith, but not in the Evangelical sense? Having some belief that there is more to life beyond what we see and feel? I don’t think there is and that those feelings are a mere response to the thoughts which biology and circumstance have given us, but it’s a feeling which has spurred us all on for thousands of years, leading to some of the finest art and greatest minds we’ll ever know. As long as Faith leads to questioning, I’m good. As long as it’s honest, as long as all options are considered rather than the easiest or the one which suits your existing pre-conceived ideas.

What am I harping on about? What is H saying? Knowledge without proof, belief without reason… to me those are not good things, but being romantic about it… sure, the unspoken sensation which I lack the ability to put into words if I try to describe it – that’s what I feel about you. That’s what H is saying. Love isn’t a real concrete thing, but it exists, we feel it, it’s here in my hand. If it’s just about love, then sure, lovely. I suppose it makes for a better lyric than ‘my feelings for you are due to an emergent process of shared evolutionary traits passed on through successive generations in order to promote the survival of the species and protect us from things which might eat us’. I see that standing as much a chance of wooing a partner as my dad’s oft-repeated piece of Robert Burns thievery – presented here with copious apologies – ‘long and thin goes too far in, and doesn’t suit the ladies/short and thick, does the trick and manufactures babies’.

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With that slice of Highland lewdness out of the way, lets hear what Paul and Sanja make of the last few songs. They begin by wondering why this album has had more BYAMPOD than something like Clutching At Straws. It’s a combination of things – perhaps this album had more personal context or wider context than Clutching At Straws, perhaps there was more banter, maybe it was the heat, or maybe it is because the guys are more confident now with the format of their show. Not to say they weren’t confident before, but maybe now that we’re so many more albums in, they are comfortable with saying everything they want to and not rushing to get to the next thing.

Sanja’s not a fan of The Wound beyond its atmosphere and the rhythm. Sanja then compares a moment when H sings to Tim & Eric. I’ve heard Paul and others (including real world friends) praising Tim & Eric but to my knowledge I have never watched a single second of them – even though their humour is probably right up by hole (street). It seems like one of their characters sings and sounds just like H. The comparison’s there, but only as much as both do a bit of a faint, warbling falsetto.

Paul sees the first part of the song is just trad rock which Marillion have never been the best at, and like me he sees the second half as a slog. It’s interesting that the song was designed by Marillion as being flipped from their usual ‘slow part first, fast part second’, but lets be honest – every band in the world has followed both approaches. Like me, the guys don’t have a lot else to say. I could see the first part of the song working in a live setting, if it were to segue into a different song – cutting out the second half.

Paul and Sanja both love the lyrics, with Sanja saying that the focus has been on the wound rather than the cause and that the imagery as a creeping thing reminding her of Stranger Things. Paul makes some personal comparisons with his own life and is open with how the lyrics were deeply relatable. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all relate to happy, sunshine, lambs and sugar lyrics instead of the darker stuff? Personally speaking… it’s always the dark stuff. Stuff like ‘Pete cumming at you with a creampie’.

Sanja likes The Last Century For Man, even if it does have a creepy opening. Matron? She appreciates how the music complimenting the lyrics and enjoys the transition from climax to quiet. Also matron. Jesus. Paul hates it, saying it’s dull and a prime example of Marillion trying to sound like other bands. I think Wicksey mentioned that it was like Subterranean Homesick Alien (which it does) while I mentioned it sounds like The Tourist (which it does) and after those comparisons Paul can’t unhear them. Sorry for that. Lets hope he doesn’t listen to Falling Away With You. ‘Every song I sing’s like Someone Else’? What would Marillion ripping up the rule book sound like? Do they do that later? Few bands have made such a departure as Radiohead between OK Computer and Kid A. You can reinvent yourself and morph gradually over time – most bands who last beyond a few albums do that, often by necessity, but few simply go ‘fuck it, now we’re a different genre, now we’re a thing that may not have even existed before’.

Paul’s biggest issue though is that the song is simply dull. I didn’t find it as dull as some others on the album, or at least I thought it tried to be a bit more interesting. The lyrics are interesting too, mainly because of the discussion we can have about them. Yes, it’s obviously about people doing stuff to kill the planet, but there’s a definite cynicism – but is it H or is it a character? As a writer, you write yourself into your product – even if you don’t mean to. But you usually mean to. This all adds up to the song feeling uncertain of itself. Does H feel the weight of expectation that he has to write about these topics? To chuck in another Manic Street Preachers comparison – they started out as a very openly political band at a time when music was all about getting loaded and having fun. In the last twenty years where we’ve seen freedoms eroded, the wars in the middle East, rampant consumerism increasing beyond recognition, the rise of the Right Wing across the globe, Brexit, Bush, Boris, Trump, seismic shifts in the political landscape – Manics fans have been waiting with baited breath to see what the lads have to say about it all in the music and lyrics. The band’s response? Absolutely nothing. Songs about Artists, songs about aging, the past, and confusion. The closest we get are the odd one-liner about not giving up the fight, tempered by admissions that they don’t even know what to fight for anymore. Their response to the weight of expectation has been to do what they always have done – whatever the fuck they want. I could throw in some hollow sentiment like ‘you’re a writer, so write what you want’, but I’m in no position to comment from my holy position as lofty observer.

On to Faith, which I imagine they’ll love (until they listen to Falling Away With You). Sanja does indeed love it – sweet, heartfelt a folk vibe, and she joined the Marillion Facebook group just so she can vote for it to be played live. Certainly it’s the one that jumped out to me in my first listen. Paul says it’s one which had been around for a few years in a more stripped back fashion, and people were therefore a little disappointed by this, I don’t want to say overproduced, but new version. Now, I haven’t heard the earlier version, but I can definitely get behind this sentiment. Staying on topic with Radiohead – this is something they have been known to do throughout their career – they’ll write songs, play them live frequently, and then they show up maybe three or four albums later, generally in a vastly different format. The most obvious version is True Love Waits – a song they released live in the early 2000s but which only made it do a studio release in 2016. The song is completely different. Radiohead puritans will not accept any degree of criticism and say that the Moon Shaped Pool 2016 version is the pinnacle – but it’s muck. It’s a dull, hollow, garbled dirge and not a patch on the heart-breaking original. On a lesser known note – JJ72’s City was an extraordinarily fun and energetic live song, but when it appeared on their second album all of that fun and vibrancy had been completely sucked dry and replaced by torrid verses and an anti-climactic chorus. It happens.

Paul simply states that the lyric is comparing love with magic, which is as succinct a way of saying all that needs to be said. And we don’t say much more about it. We move on to an overall discussion on the album’s place in the Marillion canon and plan for next week’s wrap up. Sanja’s task for next week is to go listen to Paranoid, The Tourist, Subterranean Homesick Alien, and Falling Away With You. In general, following up Marbles and too many slow and dull songs has led to an overall average effort. It’s not bad, but perhaps some more editing and maybe a few replacement songs would have helped things. There’s a letters page coming and I realise I may have sent mine to the wrong address, so I’m away to forward it to the correct one. Bonus points for laughing at my email pic because I look like a murderer.

As always, go listen to the podcast, sign up on Patreon, comment, like, share your thoughts below and with the guys on Twitter!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Somewhere Else (Part 2)!

Somewhere Else by Marillion: CDs & Vinyl

Greetings, Glancers! Today, we return to Marillion’s Somewhere Else, the album with the unenviable task of following Marbles. In my Part 1 post, I concluded that the album was something of a mixed bag and very much scrawled a tick in the ‘does this song have good parts and bad parts in equal measure’ checkbox you see when Downing Street sends out their yearly Music Census. Will Part 2 follow suit or slide off a smelly cliff into Crap Creek?

Somewhere Else gets us back to what Marillion does best – chilled, atmospheric music with a melancholic edge. The first time I heard it, the opening gloomy but gripping mood had me lapping it up like a puppy at a pool of vomit. I was ready for it to be one of my favourite Marillion songs… but it loses its way. It goes on too long and perhaps has one section too many. Around the 3 minute mark the song seques into a Britpop, Beatles-esque section which tootles along for over a minute before morphing into an instrumental sequence which eventually leads into the booming ending. I think that the majority of that middle couple of minutes breaks up the momentum, tension, and sonic quality of the song and drags the whole thing down. There’s an excellent 4-5 minute song in here which hits all of my personal beats.  While I think it’s a B Grade song, even the easily missed moments such as the guitar complimenting the vocal melody on one of the final ‘somewhere elses’ are in themselves A Star material.

The intro and opening verse is some of my favourite Marillion work. If I were more technically proficient and savvy with Music Theory, I’d love to do a deeper breakdown of even the opening thirty seconds, because it’s so rich in detail and emotion, and made my body react in ways that are typically only reserved for my most favourite bands and songs. Hopefully it’s enough to say that the combination of the keyboard dancing between Minor and Major and the ghostly, wafting guitars creates that shadowy tone I’m always harping on about. It’s a tone which almost forces introspection. The verses are gorgeous, the chorus is too but could have been trimmed, the Britpop piece from 3 minute loses much of the minor chord impact and I the song doesn’t find its way back to A Grade quality until the the ‘Everyone I love’ section takes us into the crushing finale. While the middle section certainly doesn’t feel like it belongs in another song, I don’t think it needs to be here. I’m sure there are plenty who will enjoy that section and see it as a necessary bridge or maybe even prefer it to the start and finish, but for me it just slapped a roadblock between the two strong pieces.

The lyrics of Somewhere Else are what I wanted from Most Toys. This is the personal, incisive, insightful stuff I live for, this is what makes someone a fan and not some passive listener. It’s not new ground, but it feels like a summation of all of H’s previous attempts at examining the Rock lifestyle, its worth, and his relationship with it. They also lose their way in the middle, arguably becoming vague to the point of nonsense, but as with any truly great lyric its power doesn’t lie solely within the words themselves but how the words correlate to and collaborate with the music; this is where the opening and closing of Somewhere Else excel. I can feel the pain in the music, I can read the pain in the lyrics, smashing together to create a sense of grief even if it isn’t clear what has actually been lost. It’s like hopping channels and catching a snippet of someone crying, screaming, emotionally shattered on the News – you don’t know who this person is, you don’t know any of the details, but you know this person’s life has been ripped from them and in that moment you feel a fraction of that emotion yourself – not just a brief wave of empathy, but a shuddering ripple deeper in your core.

H’s delivery of the opening lines help things – the song has some of his best work. Some of his most unusual work too as he goes full falsetto to the extent that he doesn’t sound like himself. I love a falsetto. This is how I sing, or did when I used to. But I get that it’s painful for some listeners and I’m curious what others think of it. I’m not convinced it entirely works – maybe there are a few too many ‘look at myselfs’ when keeping that falsetto as a more brief surprise would have enhanced its potency.

A Voice From The Past has a haunting piano intro which does a good job of piquing my interest from the outset, but rarely expands beyond that to go anywhere interesting. I could see people calling it a dirge because it’s slow, its melodies are vague and bland, and it neither changes pace nor introduces any dramatic shifts in tone. There’s an increase in volume, a growth in instrumentation and chaos in the middle and this leads to a brief break in the lead piano motif, but for all intents and purposes the overall tone and feeling doesn’t vary. I’m not convinced that cutting any time from the song would improve it – some songs are beyond help. I don’t mean that to sound as harsh as it will come across on screen, it simply means that speeding things up or cutting out sections would either not improve my opinion towards the song or would change the song so much that it becomes something entirely new in which case I would be evaluating this new thing on its own merits.

I do like that piano melody – it’s a great way to start a song and could have led to something more interesting. It does a good job of setting up the introspective mood which allows H to tell the story of the lyrics. That introspective mood also forces the vocal melodies to be dull and derivative – it’s very close to being spoken word in places – but even in the space between the vocals, the music meanders along in loops.

The lyrics are more engaging than the music and the interplay between the words and sounds is very close, with the peaks in volume equating to the eruptions of written anger. I don’t know if the song is about a specific person, or if its a generalisation or characterisation of an imagined or potential individual or group – there are enough references to death, disease, germs to suggest that we’re talking about some unlucky soul who just happened to live in a place and time which wasn’t safe for them and is asking for help to ensure that the people who come after him will have more safety and better opportunities. Fate, circumstance, and futility come up – issues often ignored or not considered by those of privilege – and I can see an argument being made for the music deliberately being made to suit the mood of the lyrics and vice versa. As a call to arms, a rallying cry for change, it gets lost under the collective shrug of the music – protest songs and anthems tend to work best when the music is anthemic.

No Such Thing has much in common with A Voice From The Past – slow, introspective, gloomy in its outlook, and built around a recurring motif. Here, it’s a haunting guitar in place of the piano. The song’s placement in the album could be a major plus or a significant minus depending on the listener – the two are so clearly a pair that it makes sense to have them together, but the fact that both could be considered dirges means that having two such songs in a row risks creating a skippable section in the album.

That being said, this is a much more musically interesting and astute song. I like the riff, but it does wear thin around the hundredth rotation. The song is considerably shorter than A Voice From The Past and never reaches the point where I’m waiting for it to end, but I’m not sure there’s enough good stuff in there to make me deliberately seek it out or choose to put it on repeat. Interesting drum timbre, the bass is doing subtle funky stuff underneath, and the various twinkles and swells of the keyboards create a warmth that was lacking in the previous song.

The vocals are a little more than the one note slog of the previous song – the rotation of the song’s title a shade different each time, a slightly different note, inflection, or emphasis on a particular word and the reverb airy effect to add a somewhat robotic quality. I’m not sure what the intent was behind that effect – is it making a satirical point that the people who would make such statements are ‘there’s no such thing as an answered prayer’, are hopeless robots? I don’t think that’s the case because previous songs suggest H does feel some of these statements are true when it comes to women, religion, etc. Then again, some of these statements go against what H has said previously, so who knows? Is saying ‘there’s no such thing as the ozone layer’ him mocking climate change deniers, or him saying the atmosphere is now beyond repair?

I’m sure someone could or has spent more time going through the lyrics line by line to look for patterns or opposites than I’ll be arsed to, but one thing which immediately leapt out was the seeming opposition between the first two statements – ‘an unanswered prayer’ typically an argument made by people grounded in the reality which they see, atheists and scientists for example, and the ‘no such thing as an ozone layer’ typically made by those who deny science and typically accept things on faith. Unless, as mentioned, it actually means that there used to be, but we’ve destroyed it. Continuing the reality versus faith line of thought, there seems to be little connection to ‘no such thing as an action hero’, unless you want to define God in such terms. This opening verse more than anything creates an aura of helplessness – nobody is going to help you, and our environment is fucked. This continues into the second verse – everything is hard, every day is a pain, and you can’t escape.

The third verse is more of the same – you can’t hope for something more than this life, although the ‘easy girl’ seems out of place and fits more in the fourth verse and its overarching paranoia and cynicism. The whole song does a great job at conveying this gloomy, hopeless outlook, and feels like it could have fit on Brave as much as it fits here.

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The Heatwave hits its peak as the guys recorded their next Somewhere Else episode, while here in Northern Ireland our one day heatwave has long since passed. We begin with a little more history covering some of the songs which were written before Somewhere Else but which would instead end up on later albums or B Sides.

The guys enjoy the title track, not least because it wipes the memory of the preceding track. They find it the most Marillion song on the album. The ending is some of Paul’s favourite Marillion work while he thinks the many minutes before could have been cut. Same with me – I would certainly cut some of the middle section and I don’t think it would lessen the impact of the ending. Sanja gives her perspective on the lyrics – how H’s rock star lifestyle has been manipulative and of less value than a regular career. She does a much more detailed read than I did, making sense of some of the more vague lyrics which I glossed over. My high level overview hits on the obvious central point of H examining himself and his lifestyle with a critical eye. Paul adds the interesting point that, perhaps, Marillion’s greater success since H joined over the solo career of Fish is down to H’s ability and willingness to put his emotions on the line and be vulnerability and therefore being more relatable to the rest of us.

H being H, the song is more influenced by love, relationships, and feelings, than fame. H attributed the end of his relationships to his rock star lifestyle – everyone I love is somewhere else. The more vague elements of the lyrics are simply what H was looking at when he was writing. That ‘Mr Taurus’ rhyme never sat well with me either but I let it go because it feels as nursery rhymey as the music which surrounds it. I was convinced that the opening line says ‘shit’ and that the ‘ship’ I read on Google was a typo. ‘Ship’ is now irritatingly used as a short form for ‘relationship’ by youtubers and idiots these days, but now back then. Maybe he was trying to make it tie in to all the spacey stuff later. ‘Shit’ is better.

Oh, Paul then goes on to answer one of the questions I sent in last week for a future postbag episode. I promise, I had not heard this episode before I sent those three questions. My question was ‘what’s your favourite run or sequence of songs without a dud on any Marillion album’. Maybe this isn’t his absolute favourite. Lets see what he thinks of the next couple of songs as I found them both mostly dull and potentially skippable.

A Voice From The Past he loves the drifting sound and the lyric. For me it was mainly the piano and lyric which worked, but the piano was just so repetitive. It was the Make Poverty End song. Makes sense. There are plenty of songs and pieces of fiction which hinge on those warnings from the past. I briefly commented on the lyrics and didn’t pick up that this was the poverty song, but taking it out of that context it does seem to be asking people to think about others for a change, a thought which has somehow become political because politics is such nowadays that the opinions of the other side must be attacked without question, almost without exception. The Left is no longer seen as the working class party for all, but The Loony Left, synonymous with whatever religious, financial, or biological strawman The Right can cook up. Enough!

Back when I was genuinely writing lyrics, I would painstakingly write and rewrite till they were what they were supposed to be. Still shite, of course, but shite I was proud of – difficult to flush and hard to forget. With these posts and the vast majority of my blog, I just type and go with my only edit being a quick check for typos. A writer by trade should of course take a hell of a lot more due diligence with what they publish, even running it by your editor and colleagues, and anyone else who may have a perspective. This paragraph is a good example – should I just delete it because Sanja is now talking about Almond milk (I’m an Oatley boy) and whatever they were talking about with respect to writing has now passed. Ah well. Go with my charity idea from the previous post – not saving the world, but making incremental, achievable fixes to reduce the amount of nonsense we face. Number 9. Number 9. Number 9.

Paul does a nice transition between Planet Caravan and No Such Thing – I can’t say I noticed this even as a Black Sabbath fan (ish). I will say that this trippy, now called Stoner/Doom Metal style, has been aped many many many times over the years, with plenty of bands taking their complete inspirational from that single song. Sanja takes a shot at the lyric after Paul saying he doesn’t really know what it’s about, while I went off on one about religion. As the guys suggest, it seems to just be a song of hopelessness, while Sanja says it could be a call to arms for us to make the world better for ourselves, before dampening the mood by saying she’s been cheating on Paul. /S.

Not to harp on again The Manics again, but there’s quite a lot of the defeatism of The Holy Bible in H’s lyric here, and quite a few closer similarities in the metaphors. ‘Just an ambulance at the bottom of a cliff’. ‘Beauty she poisons unfaithful all, stifled, her touch is leprous and pale’. ‘The only way to gain approval is by exploiting the very thing that cheapens me’. It has been a while since my last Manics mention, so humour me. It has been a cynically charged episode, so it fits. Incidentally, new Manics reissue of Know Your Enemy coming, with a couple of ‘new’ songs. Man, that album was slaughtered upon release. It is a bit of a mess, but it’s a Manics mess. It’s raining again.