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Marillion - Clutching At Straws CD (album) cover

CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.13 | 906 ratings

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Gatot
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I find it TOUGH to review this album as I had had some emotional bound with the band on their early albums. It's tough man .. I tell you . tough! Why? Because this album was the first time I sensed that the band would defunct especially when I heard Fish sings "Many of times I've been thinking about changing my way .." in "Just for the Record" track. You bet! Actually, Fish sung this to represent the character of Torch featured in this album as a writer who loves and addicted to alcohol. But for me, it was too personal because the first time I received this LP from Roy, my friend in Dodrecht, Holland I got nothing about the story of this album. I knew nothing about Torch because I was not aware of internet at that time. Since I knew the band from "Script" album, I kept hoping to have next albums of the band and worrying on how long the band would survive. Every time they release an album, I felt "relieved" knowing that they're alive.

FINALLY, HE LEFT THE BAND . "Clutching At Straws" was the last Marillion studio album to feature Fish on vocals. Fish declared that 'Clutching At Straws was my self-penned obituary' in a post split interview (Gone Fishing - Kerrang! 1989). In 1987, an interviewer asked 'Have you ever had your fortune told?' Fish replies, 'Yes, quite a few times. One bloke a few years back got it all spot on. He said I would have three careers and I've had two of them already with the forestry and then with Marillion and he said I would marry at twenty nine which is right as well. The third career is supposed to start in 18 months time but I've no idea what it will be. Maybe serious acting or writing a novel.' Almost exactly 18 months later, Fish left the band. Planned? Well, in all likelihood, it was purely coincidental, but it is true to say that so much information was flying about in the press, much of it contradictory, that the Marillion fans are unlikely to ever know the true story of the split.

THE COVER The cover for Clutching At Straws was another Mark Wilkinson work. Unlike the other studio albums, Clutching is not a gatefold. The logo has been changed though it still retains the essential curves of the old logo. The pictures are both photos of the interior of the Baker's Arms pub, with famous characters painted into the scene by Wilkinson. All of them had serious problems with substance abuse, many of them citing it as either an aid to their creativity or a crutch to protect themselves from the surreal nature of fame. The people are: front cover, left to right along bar: Robert 'Rabbie' Burns, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote and Lenny Bruce. Some brief details: Robert Burns (Scottish national poet) died aged 37 of alcohol poisoning, Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet, died at 39) also died of alcohol poisoning. Truman Capote, author of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and 'In Cold Blood' died aged 59, of a combination of alcohol, drugs and pills (probably suicide) and social satirist and comedian Lenny Bruce died of a heroin overdose aged 40. On the back from left to right: John Lennon, James Dean and Jack Kerouac

THE TRACKS

The opening track "Hotel Hobbies" is very uplifting, dynamic and full of energy. I keep playing this track loudly when I listen to it. It's so rocking! I like the bass line by Trewavas as well as lead guitar by Rothery. Fantastic! Fish commented: "This song is about being on tour and it's really late at night and you're bored, and you hear all these girls wandering down the corridors and you peer through the spyhole in the door to see what's going on!" It flows seamlessly with smooth transition to "Warm Wet Circle" which talks about small, hometown stuff; the dangers of getting trapped in the 9.00 to 5.00 syndrome and then going down to the pub and talking about things you'll never really do. It's a very nice track opened with soft guitar fills. It has a great tagline melody throughout the song with high and low points. The piece that I really love is when Fish screams "She nervously undressed on the dancing beam of a Fydra Lighthouse ...giving it all the way .. showing no shame" Uuuuuggghhh . what a wonderful pitch!

The 2nd track flows seamlessly to 3rd track "That Time of the Night" with a punchy clavinet sound that makes this track bit poppy but still nice. The beginning of this track is mellow and it has high point with Fish voice. Later I realized that this song was written when Fish was in his hotel room and thinking about resigning from the band. What a sad song.

"Just for the Record" is a keyboard-based song with an upbeat tempo and high energy. Opened with a piano / keyboard solo, followed by energetic drumming and vocal who enter at the same time. The music and vocal line flow nicely with great keyboard interlude. This is quite different to the stuff before, it's a real contrast. This is about being in a happy mood and knocking drinks back in the bar and going "I can stop any day, it's noooo problem! I havnee got a drink problem!" and in actual fact you've got a severe drink problem!

The next track "White Russian" really blew me. It has a thematic intro with great musical tunes and vocal line "Where do we go from here?". Oh man .. the first time I heard this song I had a mixture of feelings. First, it's a sad feeling that seemed the band (Fish) was questioning about the future direction of the band. Second, a feeling of admiration as the musical composition is really beautiful and makes me cry admiring its beauty. The music has countless segments with nice melody. For example, the part where Fish sings "Racing the clouds home .." WOW! What a nice melody, my friend ..!!!!!! And .. it's not the end. Observe the melody when the lyric is "We place our faith in human rights ..." another nice punch! (According to Fish, this is a heavy, soul- searching song that touches on politics and deals with the Jewish problem in Austria.)

"Incommunicado" is an uplifting track with an upbeat tempo and punchy keyboard solo. It rocks! It's a sort of macho-gung-ho approach! Torch really wants to be famous but he doesn't want the responsibilities that go with fame. "Torch song" and "SlÓinte Mhath" are continuous song that should be listened to as a one unity. Torch is smoking and drinking and coughing and you can hear this 'Dr. Finlay' character going 'If you maintain this lifestyle' you won't reach 30.' Actually, the coughing noises are for real. At first spin, I didn't like these two but the more I spin, it grew. Especially when I watch "Live from Lorelei" video where "SlÓinte Mhath" was the opening track.

If you like "Chelsea Monday" of the Script album, you will definitely love "Sugar mice". It's a nice mellow track. The concluding track, "The last straw" is really fantastic! Torch has gone so far down that the only way he can go now is up! He starts writing again, and drinking again, and there's a line that goes 'Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water' - which is a good cue for a drink! The music has a very strong melody and tight structure with various tempo. It represents the true character of Torch who is willing to come back as a writer.

Highly recommended album. I suggest you buy the 2-CD version as it has many previously unreleased tracks. I like "Beaujolais day" even though the sonic quality is not good. In my view, Marillion has NEVER produced album as brilliant as Fish era. Yes, they're alive but they lost "the soul" of Marillion music. The first four studio albums are all WORTH to own. I rate all of them 5/5. - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

Gatot | 5/5 |

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