Nightman Listens To Marillion – Marillion.com (Part Two)!

marillion.com | Racket Records Store

Greetings, Glancers! We’re back with the second half of an album I’ve gone back and forth on quite a bit. My first listens were quite positive – maybe skewed slightly because I was expecting it to be a pile of balls – then I began picking up on niggling parts which pissed me off, and then I came back around again and see it as your good, old fashioned, somegoodsomebad album.

The wonderfully titled Built In Bastard Radar is another tale of two bits. Possibly more than two bits. One bit is the spoken intro – in my experience spoken intros can fuck off and this one is no different. The other bit is the heavier guitar riff, not the twiddly George Harrison stuff but the crunchy Blues part – that’s Stranger In A Strange Land by Iron Maiden, right, the guitar riff just after Bruce sings ‘no brave no world’. I’m not attempting to make groundless accusations – I just happen to like Stranger and found a mini comparison. It continues; the lead vocal melody feels like it’s cribbed from If I Needed Someone by The Beatles. There’s another melodic comparison related to the vocals but my brain is overloaded at the moment by misremembering other songs that I can’t say what it is. 

It’s another mid-tempo rocker with enough twists and turns to make it stand out from the crowd the laidback summery verses, the crunchy blues parts with organ accompaniment, the SOS radio static chorus. Each verse rotation offers something different from the one before – a more pressing beat on the toms and snares, some keyboard twiddling – and the musical interludes in between are not repeated. It would be simple to call this (and many other songs on the album) straightforward rock songs, and that would be accurate, but they’re embossed by a talented and experienced group of musicians who are capable of better just nudging them by smithereens above the usual stock.

I couldn’t tell if the lyrics were taking the (unintended?) stance of unwarranted male guardianship and bloke morals – the old classic ‘why would go be with someone who’s not good enough for you when, you know, maybe I’m good enough for you’. If I feel it, that’s not enough to suggest it’s there, but I do feel it. The song begins with a great opening verse – no idea what he’s going on about but ‘best of there the Angel said/as daylight burst behind his head’ sounds good. A moral quandary. We also have ‘baby you can’t lose it/you’d be mad to choose it’ which is roughly the level of lyrics by 8 year old daughter is writing at the moment. I can’t criticize (much) as every so often your song simply calls for a line like that and nothing else seems to fit. This is a tough lyric to… well ‘justify’ isn’t the correct word, but it leaves a sour note given some of the crap which goes on in the world when people takes these feelings too far. Lets be honest, as a man we’ve all had these feelings… maybe when we’re sixteen. Suck it up, move on. I’d be very surprised if this one gets a Live airing at all, as it’s a very dated and misguided lyric even by 1999.

Before we get to the closing two 10 minute plus songs, we have a rather sweet and defiant love song. Tumble Down The Years is a contender for my favourite song on the album and showcases what several of the other songs could have been had they been run past an Editor another time or two. There isn’t an ounce of fat on this one – not an ounce of Prog either – but it does exactly what it needs to; it isn’t showy, it doesn’t feel artificially extended or designed purely within the studio. It’s a song you could play solo and it would retain most of its quality. There’s a lot to love, for me at least. I love its simplicity and purity, and I love the lead guitar tone – clean without an irritating twang. Sure it feels incredibly cheesy, but I can look past that if the intent and sentiment is honest. It’s not the first time the band have written something which sounds like it could be the intro music to a teen drama, and it isn’t the first time they’ve written something which feels like it could be a Wedding song. Assuming the fan base isn’t put off by its earnest simplicity or cheesy whiff, I’d guess this is a favourite from the album.

As lovely as this song is, the bitter aftertaste left by the previous song’s lyrics plays a part here. Which is unfortunate, as this is so lovely. To force myself past those feelings, why not call out another tenuous Alice In Chains link as H here sings ‘Damn the river’ which is the name of an Alice In Chains song taken from the same album as their song Rooster which I referenced in part one. Is ‘damn the river’ a popular saying? I hadn’t heard it until I heard the AIC song. The whole lyric, while no individual line leaps out, is pure and wholesome and snuggly. Naturally, there’s probably some real life horror story behind the lyrics and it’ll make the song completely depressing.

I was fully expecting the final two tracks to be the best songs here, purely based on the fact that they are long and that the longer songs on previous releases had been standouts. But. BUT. Neither of them are very good. For me, neither Interior Lulu or House are memorable or justified in their length. They’re just not very exciting and pull down the whole album. Interior Lulu begins promisingly enough with it’s restrained tribal beats and experimental sounds. But there’s no emotion to found, the melodies are too one-note and monotonous, and for four minutes the song goes nowhere, drifting in this space of producing useless sounds. There’s a two minute freak out in the middle which…. fine, I guess, but it’s the sort of stuff Zappa and co were doing in the 60s.

Post-freak out we get a different series of verses and music, but the downcast tone of the first four minutes is still present. The vocals and melodies are more interesting and you can tell H is trying to express… something… by the way he attacks the lyrics. The next few moments are peppered with better moments – the switch to acoustics, good guitar solo, crashing cymbals – somewhere amidst the gloom a better, shorter song is poling its head out trying to not be smacked over the head by the pressure of band members thinking they need to go bigger and longer. Cut out most of the opening quarter of the song, rejig the middle, and leave the last few minutes as an instrumental (because WTF are you at with the vocals, H?), and you’d have a stronger 7 minute ending track.

I don’t know what Paul and Sanja make of this and the next song, whether they will feel they are the saving graces of the album or failed attempts at recapturing former Prog glory. Or somewhere in between. The fanbase too – are these favourites? At this point the most interesting thing about the song is the name, and perhaps the lyrics will shed some light on who or what an Interior Lulu is. Lulu liked to shout…. is it about screaming on the inside? I had to Google Louise Brooks, and of course I remembered her name, some of her history. These verses do vividly conjure an image of this woman, her ruses, needs, and urges. It’s not a pleasant picture, but at least it’s poetic. A life of excess and carnage. If I were being picky (and I am) I would say it’s a little dated by ‘virtual pages’ and even ‘e-mails’. The ‘use the anger’ verse sounds like it could be just as much about H than whoever this character is. Or is the character H? I’m aware this is all getting very Line Of Duty, just as I’m aware how many infinitives I’ve split during this post.

I don’t know how all the tech stuff fits with the life and character of this woman. ‘Microsoft and tears’ feels like it’s just an excuse to fit another tech word into the song. The final verses at least hint that this person has spent (wasted) a significant portion of her life online, disconnected from reality and emotion. But what forced her there? What’s the consequence? No doubt Paul will have an H spiel prepared so I’ll wait for that.

House is a dribbling, monotonous end to the album. I’ve never been convinced that having two long songs at the end of an album is a good idea. It’s fine if the whole album features epics, and even better if those epics are actually good, but when you’re already tired and when the first long track wasn’t that great the last thing I want is something even worse. While there may be a decent song shrouded by mistakes in Interior Lulu, I’m not sure the same can be said for House. I’m all for looking at it but not seeing it, but I’d rather not be hearing it. Interior Lulu had the good sense to blend different elements across its 15 minutes, but House slaps down a looping warble (which, while dull, is fine is small bursts) and for ten minutes that’s mostly what we get. The light of the chorus is all too brief. Nothing the piano or brass or guitars or vocals do really detract from the monotony. From what I could piece together from the lyrics, I’m guessing that’s the point. Divorce. The dull ache of ending. The want for the endless to end. Holding on to memories and resentment in equal measure. It’s not a nice thing to go through (I imagine), and listening to it is fairly boring too. If I have some positives – good production, the various sections swell and blend well into each other, and a lot of the tinkling and synth strong type stuff is fine. More sax parps…. everyone plays their part well… I don’t mind long songs and long prog, but I do have a lower tolerance when it feels meandering and artificially stretched. I bet this is a fan favourite – don’t hurt me.

I think I could tolerate this as a five minute song. There’s no justification in most of the second half of the song – there’s letting music simmer and sit, and there’s pressing and holding a single note for five minutes. I found the second half of the song more like the latter. I am keen to get into the lyrics though; from what I could pick up they seemed pained, and if there’s anything I enjoy reading about, it’s the suffering of others. Especially if I can then use it to make fun of them after they make me sit through ten minutes of crap.

It’s another divorce/split song. The silence of a house when you’re the only one in it, after good noise and bad, half the house is gone, eyes staring out, hiding inside. It’s a good lyric and it deserves better music. The lyrics do accentuate the sense of dull, restless, futile struggle and continuation which the music goes overboard on – the struggle of those at the end of a relationship and the continuation when the other person is gone. At least the song and the album leave on what is hopefully a positive – the repetition of ‘we try again’ – unless of course that’s another example of being unable to commit to the breakup of what is clearly an unhealthy relationship. Is is ‘we always fight and hate each other but we try again’, or is it ‘that’s the end of another relationship, but I’m alive, so we try again’? Shit.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

On to part 2 of the Podcast. We begin with Paul and Sanja’s thoughts on Rich which I covered in my Part One post. Before then, Paul lists some of the other hits which were released in 1999 – mostly a load of shite. Is this leading in to a ‘everything was shit in 1999’? Yes, it was certainly a transitional period, but all of the Nu Metal and pop-punk stuff was coming out – at least in the US. And all of the ‘The’ rock bands. Rock music had a massive 5-6 year resurgence around this time before disappearing completely. Paul lists some albums from 99 – most of which I either haven’t heard or didn’t like. Here’s some albums I recommend from 1999 which Paul didn’t mention –  recommended all – Blondie’s No Exit, The Slim Shady LP (there’s a case to be made for Eminem’s early stuff to be Rap Prog…. maybe… yikes, saying that’s going to piss a lot of people off), Aphex Twin’s EP Windowlicker, Lene Marlin’s fragile Playing My Game, the mighty Californication, Lacuna Coil’s In A Reverie, Muse’s Showbiz, and Rage Against The Machine’s Battle Of LA. Some stuff I still listen to today in there.

Back to Rich and Sanja’s revelation that she doesn’t like screaming. Looking forward to Season 2 of BYAMPOD which investigates Prog’s influence on Black Metal. She thinks the song is fine, optimistic, not timeless. Paul says he thinks the song is supposed to sound retro – hence my Austin Powers reference. I didn’t get anything coming close to sounding like The Doors. It tries to reach a sound and vibe, but fails according to Paul. Fair enough, I felt it was supposed to be a bit of fun and a bit of a joke. Paul has issues with the production – this isn’t one of the Steven Wilson tracks – and he doesn’t like the vocal approach. I don’t know which version of the song I heard (remix or original) but I think I made a comments about the vocals sounding odd. With all that, they still think it’s fun throwaway fare and probably written to be a live banger. Maybe there was a more crystalline authenticity in those early fun pop rock songs which Paul mentions, compared to songs like Rich – they were just setting out so those songs were more of a symbol of the band telling the world ‘this is us’. When a band later in their career tries to recapture that, or sound like someone else, it can feel trite and false. Just do a covers album, get it out of yer system. Have they done a covers album?

The guys say the lyrics are just a collection of positivity quotes, like what you may see framed in your mother in law’s bathroom. Or father in law’s, I’m not sexist. Though you’re more likely to see firearms and framed pictures of MX5s in my father in laws. Sanja thinks the lyrics act as a counterpoint to A Legacy, more positive, more forgiving. The lyrics are quotes from other people – actors, writers etc – slapped together to make a lyric. I like that idea, I used to play around with ‘borrowing’ whatever I’d read and stick in a song to show off that I’d read a book or seen a movie no-one else had. Everyone pronounces it ‘anus’. Anus Ninny.

Enlightened – not a standout, but pretty. I always have the subtitles on these days, but usually because someone else is talking in the room or there’s a young’un a sleepin’. Paul doesn’t like the sound of the guitar solo but says as pretty as it is it is simply forgettable. Sanja loves the lyrics, but Paul says they’re about nothing and are as forgettable. Sanja enjoys the poetry of the lyrics and the more positive energy. I’ll give it this – the lyrics sound more interesting when Sanja reads them than when I do, or when H sings them. I bet that any time you’ve ever sat in a cafe there’s been some bloke sitting near you, thinking about shagging. Or a woman, I’m not sexist. Though you’re more likely to see women screaming at their babies to stop throwing their scones on the ground in the cafes I’ve been to. Maybe I am sexist.

Speaking of sexism, Built In Bastard Radar is up next. Sanja doesn’t have much to say about the music on the positive side, and they’re building up to ripping the lyrics to shred. Paul thinks it’s an unfinished song and shouldn’t be on the album – maybe it needed more time to turn it into something else. I don’t know if I felt that… feels more like a B-Side or one of those ‘lost’ songs which are better lost – like Cornshucker by Guns N Roses. It’s a Helmer lyric… does that mean we can excuse H? Did they go on the record as saying they don’t like it after they heard the fans saying they didn’t like it. No matter which way you take the lyrics, they’re not great. H has an inkling that Helmer wrote it about H – when I read that ‘fancy clothes’ line I first assumed it was H writing about himself.

Paul doesn’t think Tumble Down The Years is a finished song either. Again, I didn’t feel this so I’ll go back and listen again. Sometimes it happens – you have an idea or a lyric and you just can’t get it right. Less often you have the music but not the icing. I felt like Tumble was one of the more finished or complete songs because I couldn’t think of anything which needed to be trimmed or added – versus almost every other song on the album. Every other song I would have cut specific sections or changed the arrangement. Would Paul have enjoyed the song more if the rest of the album was stronger? I’d veer on the side of it being a breezy pop oriented song to stick on the album as a breather before the big boys rather than being unfinished. I do have a habit of enjoying the most basic song on otherwise complex albums though, so what do I know?

Interior Lulu went very wrong during a live show. It went very wrong during the recording too – the spoiler being the fact that it appears on the album at all. This is isn’t unfinished – it’s overdone. Yeah, cut parts out, turn it into something else. I have no issue with bands doing this. Unless of course it’s a song I love, in which case I’ll hunt you down if you were to change one such song. Credit to them having an overt, modern prog song in there but had they lost something in their prog writing due to years of that side of the band being on the back burner? It’s easy to get out of the groove if you’re not practicing and performing. Both Paul and Sanja are unsure of how they feel about the song – the general consensus being the keyboard freak-out should have been cut. Side note – these flaming hot Pringles I’m wolfing down are burning my face off. Looks like Sanja has her ideas about the lyrics, but Paul has no idea. Sanja thinks the Lulu is a metaphor for a part of your personality which, while unfettered and wild and negative, can be useful. Then a bunch of stuff about technology. I can see that, just as much as I can see any other interpretation. It reads as a song written by multiple people. I can understand what H says about it too, at least the first half. I was wondering if Primrose Hill was related to technology, like Silicon Valley… I was guessing that Primrose Hill was maybe where Bill Gates built his first robot castle or something. Whatever is trying to be said in the lyrics isn’t actually said… the lyrics feel more unfinished than the music.

Paul and Rose both call out House as their favourite track on the album – oops. I had some suspicions that fans might enjoy this one simply because of its length. Again, for 1999 or whatever, that’s a misguided quote. Prog by it’s nature should absorb influences… has even heard Dark Side Of The Moon? Mezzanine is a fantastic album – when it came out and I was a teen and laser focused on Metal and Rock it was one of those albums in my wisdom which I could stand by as ‘not your usual Dance shite’. Sounds like H was a bit of a knob around this time. The rest of the band didn’t like House much. All these influences. At least no-one called out Alice In Chains.

H says the song is about ghosts (divorce) and as such that happy ending has a coda. It’s like… Battle Royale – those inserted scenes of the class playing basketball or supporting the team and being happy, after we’ve had a couple of hours of them slaughtering each other. Or it’s not like that at all. The guys don’t talk much about what it is about House they love – Paul says the lyrics are among his favourites. Nah, I think Paul and Sanja both hate House too. Next up is a better album, one which was a relief for Paul and a lot of fans after .com. ‘Doing a Marillion’… sounds like a euphemism for H being caught with his hands down his gunks in a Cafe. Puns… John Helmer’s Mayonnaise?

I do think I like Marillion.com more than Radiation. Aside from the two closing songs, most of my journey was positive. However, it’s an album where many of the songs start with something I like, follow up with a transition to something I don’t like, and then double down on the thing I don’t like. Most of the songs are made up of different pieces – not unusual for this band – but the pieces felt more disparate, less connected here. That can be taken in many different ways – positive, as the band are showcasing their creativity, their willingness and ability to go beyond the expectations of a formulaic song, but here it felt less about creativity and more like uncertainty. Perhaps because many of the pieces don’t fit I got the sense that the band was less concerned with writing formed songs and more with throwing everything at the wall and hoping that some of it would stick.

Having said that, the songs which felt like more than a sum of their parts – Go!, Tumble Down The Years, Deserve, while not top tier music or top tier Marillion, they’re still strong enough that I’ll happily listen to them again, and I didn’t have to work to enjoy them. Immediacy may not last, but it often hits you in the face with more force than a song which grows on you later. These songs had that immediate impact for me – they didn’t change my life, but I could hum along after a single listen. Immediacy may not be high on the list of importance for Marillion fans and longevity is often (and sometimes rightly) valued as a truer sign of quality, but there’s a fine line between having to work to enjoy something and allowing it the time to sink in. There’s nothing wrong with something being enjoyable out of the box then quickly becoming less so – you still enjoyed it. I don’t know how much enjoyment I’ll get out of the songs I did like here, or if my opinion will change on the ones I didn’t, but with so much music out there to be heard I admit to gravitating towards and staying with those songs which shout the loudest.

That’s enough of .com for now. The guys will be back with a postbag episode before tackling that one about coats or something. As always, feel free to share your thoughts on the album below and make sure to check out BYAMPOD for yourselves!

Nightman Listens To – Marillion – Marillion.com (Part One)!

marillion.com | Racket Records Store

Greetings, Glancers! We’re almost into the 2000s with Marillion, but for now we’re closing out the 90s with Marillion.com. A few bands were adopting this new fangled technology and internet speak towards the end of the century – The Gathering released If_Then_Else for example. I always get a little wary when I see an album or a movie with something like ‘.com’ in the title. I suppose so many of those titles seem dated now, and seemed dated then, possibly written by people who were afraid of or completely misunderstood the technology. This has nothing to do with anything, but because the only thing I know about the album so far is that Mr Biffo thinks it’s Marillion’s worst album, I had to write something to introduce the post.

Wikipedia tells me the album is over an hour long and only features 9 songs. On one hand that makes me think ‘Prog’, but on the other hand if it’s as shit as Paul says then this could be a struggle. Of course it’ll turn out to be one of my favourite Marillion albums. Incidentally, I did get a shout out in their recent Postbag episode – welcome to any new readers and feel free to add any comments or thoughts here. I should point out that I wouldn’t classify myself as a musician, as much as I’d love to say that I am; I’ve certainly played music and I’m usually fairly good at picking up a new instrument and being able to fiddle something approaching music from it, but to call myself a musician would feel like I was mocking the millions of  genuine musicians out there. If I’d stuck at it as a teenager and made any sort of money from it, then sure. It’s like this blog – I love writing, but the fact that I do it in a stream of consciousness way and don’t make a single penny from any of it means I wouldn’t call myself a writer. Maybe it’s mere semantics and labels – I like writing and I like playing music – that’s not enough to tell people I’m a writer or a musician.  When I write about music I tend to not go into a lot of detail on the technicalities because (A) I’d get it wrong and (B) it would be boring for me and my assumed audience. I approach writing about music from an emotional perspective, but it can be handy to have had a taste of musical theory, perspective, and knowledge when I want to describe a particular feeling and how the music works to elicit said feeling. I’d love to give music another shot but, you know, not enough time, not enough will. Ultimately, not enough need.

Marillion.com then. What about the artwork? There’s a giant barcode – is that supposed to be there? I assume so. It screams PRODUCT FOR PURCHASE and feels a little Radiohead. There’s a girl dressed in black holding… is that a monitor? A laptop? Lets just call it a blazing screen – it’s shining, blindingly so, but it’s transmitting nothing. Is that going to be a theme on the album? She’s standing on a busy junction, I assume it’s some famous or semi-famous road, and lights and cars are buzzing by in neon blurs – Radiohead again. It’s an eye-catching, slightly creepy image, but I’m not sure it’s the sort of thing I would glance at twice in a Record store (if such places still exist). It emits that End Of The Century paranoia as summed up perfectly in OK Computer, but will such themes also be found within the songs? Lets find out.

In the huge gap between the previous paragraph and this one, I have listened to the album a few times. I’ll get into the reasons as we go through each track, but I have to say that I have enjoyed the album more than This Strange Engine and Radiation. I’m a tad surprised by what Paul has said about it so far, but at the time of writing the guys haven’t released their Marillion.com episode so I’ll have to hold out for Paul’s reasons. At a guess I would say that maybe it’s because it feels a little by the numbers on the surface. It doesn’t scream ‘I’m a Marillion album’ – rather it sort of shrugs and whispers ‘psst, do you like softish rock music? Here… here’s some softish rock music, please enjoy’. I think it’s an okay album, but is it an okay Marillion album? There are a few more traditionally structured emotive rock songs (which Paul has said he doesn’t find as interesting as when they don’t follow that approach), I found it to have more accessibility than the last few album, and there are even a few re-used melodies. I can see these as reasons why a longstanding Marillion fan may not enjoy the album, but I found that even the more commercial and simple songs had enough twists for me to punt them into a higher tier than maybe where Paul would place them. Remember, I liked Radiation and This Strange Engine – they weren’t amazing but each featured a couple of songs I can slap onto a playlist. Marillion.com does too. Lets go track by track , shall we?

A Legacy is such an effective, creepy opener for the album. It goes back to that old school soft opening which Marillion and other bands have opened with in the past. It’s a cliché to call out Philip Glass any time you hear a fragile piano in music these days, but that brief introduction is quite reminiscent of the composer’s minimalist ways. I just wish they’d kept that tone instead of going rock, because as soon as the guitars and organs join in, the whole thing falls apart significantly. The rock verses aren’t interesting in any way, but the song does at least retain a disjointed structure throughout – it’s the leaping about from one thing to another which kept this just above average for me because the rock stuff doesn’t do much for me and it’s not the best vocal performance – I can only assume H was deliberately aiming for an atonal quality in some of the vocal lines. The acoustic, quiet ending improves matters a little – the opening and closing minutes are strong, but the ham and cheese sandwiched in between in fairly standard fare, although I did enjoy the subtle twanging guitar part around the two minute mark which reminded me of Rockstar’s Bully soundtrack.

If I didn’t know a single thing about the band and the relationship issues H had been going through, I might have read this lyrics as being the voice of some ghost or demon which had been attached to a person and had either been exorcised or decided to move on to its next victim. Coupled with the creepy vibe which the music produces and ambiguous lyrics like ‘I will leave you things that might not help you/things that might’ it’s easy to take this in as sinister a fashion as you would like to. Having heard enough episodes of the podcast by now I understand that this is a more realistic break up song, coated in bitterness. Blame is cast about in all directions and anger is the overriding emotion. It’s not ‘when I leave you I’ll be sad to leave you’, but ‘when I leave you I will hate to leave you’. Beyond the accumulated blame and guilt and hate, none of the individual lyrics struck me as overtly powerful but their repetition gives the impression of someone trapped within and dwelling on these feelings.

Deserve is a stronger straightforward Rock song than The Legacy. Maybe it’s because the song has an immediacy and urgency to it. I wish it was a tad faster – that heightened tempo would only increase the urgency and emotion. To test this out, I listened to it at 1.25 speed, and it almost works. Maybe 1.15x speed would do it? It almost feels like this song should have had a different vocalist – I don’t know if the other guys in the band sing, but I kept feeling like the vocals needed to be less clean, less reserved, and should have had some gravel or anguish.

The song is bookended by a bit of saxophone – you may have worked it out by now, but saxophone in music instantly makes me think of porn. When it’s not making me think of porn, it reminds me of Police Academy. This saxophone in particular is pure Police Academy. I also got a touch of REM in the melodies – I’m not a huge REM fan, but the verse melody in Deserve which reminded me of REM follows a melodic style I’m partial to. Plus the lyrics have that not too veiled cynicism which REM are sometimes known for. For the verse melody though – I know I mentioned not being a musician but I’ll go on a related tangent – most songs which play off this rough Am G Em structure (when played at a fast tempo) seem to allow for an emotive attack and energy in the vocal melodies which always gives me the feels, as they say. Some of the first songs I ever wrote  followed these three chords because I knew I that by using those I could craft a vocal melody which I would enjoy listening to myself.

Lyrically I couldn’t help but compare it with Radiohead’s Just. ‘You get what you deserve’ is similar enough to ‘you do it to yourself’ although the songs are thematically different. I guess the sentiment is universal enough that this comparison is shaky at best, but we know the band and H liked Radiohead so I’m sure there’s some crossover. This sadly feels like a very timely lyric – our jealousy about the rich young pretty things we see plastered everywhere, but in many cases they only exist because we allow them to as a society. I’ve no idea when Big Brother, X Factor and all of that stuff started, but since then we’ve had a tonne of clones and all of those Housewives and Essex type shows. It’s this type of show or celeb that I felt was being attacked in this song – but I don’t know if it’s suggesting that we get this tripe because we have regressed as a whole society rather than saying that a certain percentage of the population enjoys them. It’s of course not a new feeling – tabloids have existed for as long as media has, and envy and greed much longer than that. Like the previous song, it maybe matters less what is being said that they feelings being pushed, and like the previous song those are mostly negative.

Go may be the best song on the album. I haven’t decided yet if it’s my favourite, but it seems like the best. However, it also seems like a song that is reaching to be more special than it actually is. I felt a sense of over-achieving and grasping to be better but not quite having the skill to get there. Not every song needs to be the best song ever written and not every song needs to be the centrepiece, but it’s good to try and this was a valiant effort. It’s almost as if the song was designed to be too self-confident and airy that this effort became too transparent and rather than sounding epic and effortless it instead sounds like they’re trying to be epic and effortless. Does any of that make sense? No? Good.

That nonsense aside, there’s a lot to love – the extended coda isn’t quite Hey Jude, but it’s probably another ending set up for jubilant audience interaction, I enjoyed the spacey Oh Superman wah wah wah opening, and the guitars are especially flickering, shimmering, and memorable. The keyboards and synth work may be the standout in this song, and is among the highlights of the album as they’re so atmospherically crafted. H’s vocals are perfectly suited to the breezy yet melancholic approach, and the bending, mirage like solo is one of the more interesting solos I can remember from Rothery. I do think that there should have been more energy in the final couple of minutes after that solo finishes – the solo is accompanied by an increased potency in the drums and I expected that energy to continue and expand through the vocals and until the end of the song. Instead H comes in after the solo in the same displaced airy tone as the start of the song. We do pick up for the ending, but the momentum has been lost. Ignoring the feelings and assumptions I had about what the band had in mind for the song, it’s supremely well put together and produced, and comes across as one of their most dense and musically mature songs.

I’m not too clear on the lyrics for Go! I guess that the exclamation mark is for emphasis, but to the writer not the reader. If it’s a personal song then that piece of punctuation is almost like an in-joke telling them to go, get out, run – if you’re going to make a song with all of these feelings but then not act upon those feelings, why bother, so look at the exclamation mark and remember, you dick! But what is the song telling us? Is it simply telling us, or the writer, or whoever, to escape? It only takes a second, no effort, just go? All the crap… just go. I suppose that’s what it’s saying, but I’ve always read the phrase ‘turn your life upside down’ as a negative statement. I suppose if you feel your life is already upside down, then flipping it again would correct it.

Handclaps in music are a big no no for me. Rich has handclapping. It also suffers a little from feeling like a twin to Deserve. It’s a strange song because on one hand it’s similar enough in pace and tone in places, but elsewhere it’s like some madcap piss-take of The Beatles and Austin Powers. I like the chorus – it’s unashamedly poppy and infectious, while the verses have synth sounds straight out of Look Around You and some strange vocals wavering which makes it sound like either H was laughing when he was recording, or was extremely nervous, or had swallowed a bee. For what is basically a bit of fun, it’s an almost 6 minute long song, its length extended by a couple of guitar solo and instrumental breakdowns. I’m not convinced that the final two minutes add much to the song and detract a little from what could have been a sneaky cult-type sleeper hit single. It’s quirky and it’s disjointed in a similar vein to A Legacy, and while I appreciate it as a throwaway pop rock song I think I would have enjoyed it more if some of the quirks had been taken out – straighter vocals, no handclaps, more prominent guitars in the verses.

Rich comes close to my own preferred style of lyric – individual statements which convey wider themes when tied together. You can take any single line from the first verse and it’s self-contained. You can take a variety of meanings from one of those lines, but taken together something more holistic comes across. In theory anyway, as Rich isn’t concerned with letting me in on its secrets. There are parts alluding to failure and to wealth and achievement. The song is, of course, titled Rich. Is it a positive song about self-confidence and not needing wealth to be rich? Is it imbued with a sense of self-improvement and a spirit of never say die? Given how bitter the previous songs have been I’d be more inclined to say there’s something more to the lyric, something more along the lines of ‘you’ll never be rich because the system’s set up to screw you, and why bother anyway because every success is really a failure’. But I don’t see enough in the lyrics to point me down that road and the chorus reads as defiant – ‘no’ to all the bad things.

In what is a recurring theme of the album (at least in my mind) the idea of twins makes a return, with Enlightened acting as a partner to Go. It might be more accurate though to say that it’s the twin of Estonia. That central vocal melody, we’ve definitely heard that before, right? It’s the part from Estonia which I said was very similar to Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls. While I’m at it, the intro is pure Rooster by Alice In Chains. Go on, click the link and tell me I’m wrong.

The verses are too restrained and uneventful to make an impact, which is a shame because I did enjoy the intro and chorus. It’s another example of the frustration I felt with this album – the songs have excellent moments, but the final product is dragged down by more dubious musical and production choices. What could have been a highlight instead feels like your typical mid-album track. If these had a better verse, and if the final 30 seconds or so could be shaved off  I would name this as one of the better songs on the album. As it stands, the most interesting thing I could say about the music was how much it reminded me of other songs.

I found the song to be quite poor lyrically. Like the vague, airy, and unadventurous music, the words neither tell me much, paint any pictures, or make me care. I’m tempted to say it’s some throwaway drug haze song – there’s enough evidence in both the lyrics and the music to support this from the slurred laidback music to the song’s title itself. As such I don’t have much more to add on the lyrics – lightning is repeated a few times with the odd related play on words to spruce things up and I suppose as a whole if the song is trying to evoke some sort of either relaxed or stoned atmosphere then it succeeds. I’m not convinced that’s the atmosphere it’s going for.

Between You And Me (@BYAMPOD) | Twitter

And with that downer, we finally get around to part one of the BYAMPOD Marillion.com breakdown. We begin with a chat about what was happening in 1999 – Sanja moved to the UK and I was in the midst of A-Level preparations. Fish and H shared a stage with the pair tackling Lavender and Hope For The Future. It was a different time. A different and very strange time. Paul heard the title when it was announced and had the same misgivings I had regarding sounding cool but dated. Their intentions were fine, but also geared towards promoting their online store? They did a lot of interesting merch and interactive stuff with fans which is always pretty cool – many of my favourite bands don’t bother with this, and by and large if you don’t have this connection with your fans these days you’re not going to get very far. Marillion made the right decision at the right time.

The guys talk a bit about the mixing and production process which the band has followed, here and on other albums. Both are integral to an album and a song’s quality and impact – it’s always interesting to follow the lifecycle of a song from its inception to a demo to the end quality. Paul sees this as one of the major issues with the album – the right people were not always working on the right song, hence the unfortunate results. Production for me, as vital as it is, is one of those things for me which I tend to put lower down my list of priority than many people would. I don’t need everything to be crisp and pristine, and I’ll overlook a murky mix or shoddy production values if the core of the song is good. Having both at top level is best. Paul concludes by saying, while he has many negative things to say about the album and some of his experience of it, it’s still an album by his favourite band. In other words, I was right when I said I enjoyed it and was surprised by his previous comments. Ha.

A Legacy – Paul used to despise it, now quite likes it and would like to see it live. We learn that it’s a Helmer lyric which deliberately jumps between styles and genres musically and lyrically. The Beach Boys harmony bit is the Bully bit. H was knowingly trying to sound like The Beatles and Grunge and a hundred other things. Disjointed is right. Paul calls out his displeasure at the band constantly and knowingly writing songs trying to sound like someone else – and admitting to it. While Marillion were trying to sound like others, those others had already moved on. The Manics do this all the time now – ‘our new album is The Clash meets ABBA’ – but we’re well used to such callouts and comparisons with the Manics by now. Paul says the song doesn’t suit H’s voice – oddly enough, this is something I called out too but I don’t know if it was on this song or something else. I even mentioned whether or not someone else in the band should have sung instead. Could be on the second half. Some people just aren’t suited to certain types of song. For anyone wondering – I usually write my thoughts on the music of every song first, then split my post into a Part 1 and Part 2, before going back and adding my thoughts on the lyrics. Then finally I listen to the podcast and add these comments you’re reading now. That’s some quality blogging insight for you.

The guys think it’s a fitting continuation of the relationship strife as showcased on the previous album. Paul sees it as less about infidelity and more about toxic relationships in general. We move straight into Record Breakers! Or Deserve. Record Breakers…. while I did watch it, like Blue Peter it was only something I watched because I had to and sat moaning that it wasn’t a cartoon or didn’t feature any gunge. Is that how you spell gunge? Tough, gunge it is. Paul hates the lyric and compares it to some of the more Feminist leaning songs released at the time. Saxophone always sounds dated – it’s just an instrument trapped in the 80s. I did watch Animal Hospital, but you know, Rolf. I just checked back at my comments and saw that this was the song I felt could have had a different vocalist. This is what I anticipated when I heard that Paul didn’t like the album – Paul doesn’t want Marillion to play this type of Rock music. I think it’s fine, but I appreciate it’s not what the Marillion hardcore want.

Paul says he doesn’t like the vocal either. H’s quote is… hit and miss. Do we get what we deserve? No, just a whole bunch of stuff happens and then we die. The rich and pretty are an easy target, and that’s fine, but extending that outwards and inwards requires a little more tact and skill. Sanja focuses on the inward looking side of things – H realising his own flaws and writing about them but doesn’t have the honesty to say ‘I’ instead of ‘we’. The ‘get what we deserve’ type of thinking, if we place it on a philosophical level (and we should because that is apparently what H has done) is one which has been around since the dawn of time and can be taken in a variety of ways – the Neitzche school of ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ to the more ‘well that’s what the great God of Nature has decreed, so deal with it’ Gibran style. None of these have ever sat well with me – much like any philosophy which espouses a universal truth. See, I read sometimes too! Anyway, Paul says ‘it’s horrible and shit’.

Oh, they’re ending this episode with Go! That makes a mess of my formatting above, given that I included another two songs. Of course I could simply cut and paste those songs from this post into the next and no-one would be any the wiser, but no! I am on a roll and I refuse. We’ll just have to cover the podcast comments for those songs in the next post. Does this mean the worst Marillion album is going to be a three-parter for Paul and Sanja?

Sanja says Go! is like a balm after Deserve while Paul tells us that the recording and arranging was a pain. It’s one of Sanja’s favourites and it took Paul a while to appreciate it – though that may have been down to his overall experience of the album. It sounds like the lyrics are in fact supposed to be positive and evoking the sense of freedom through change or escape. I didn’t always get that optimism, but that could be down to the aftertaste of the previous songs. It’s not the first time H has used this theme, and it sounds like he comes back to it in the future. Sanja goes a bit Australian while we wait for a flaming galah to pop out, whatever that is. As expected, this has turned into a bit of a lighters up song. I’m not sure what finger lights are, but I am receiving visions of middle aged men wearing fluorescent Witch finger nails. And unfortunately, that image is where we must leave it (not before Rolf comes burning into my brain with his witch finger up a hamster).

Let us know what you think of Marillion.com in the comments, and as always go listen to BYAMPOD and follow the guys on Twitter, Facebook, Bebo…