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Marillion - Clutching At Straws CD (album) cover

CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.13 | 887 ratings

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ZowieZiggy
Prog Reviewer
4 stars The last studio album with Fish. Although it appeared as a shock for lots of Marillion fans, the mood was apparently very difficult during the recordings of "Clutching".

It will follow the same tendancy as "Misplaced" and propose several more pop-oriented songs like "Warm Wet Circles" (a bit Genesis-Collins oriented but not too bad) and "Sugar Mice" which has a very pleasant melody and the so typical guitar sound from Steve in the background. Some bombastic moments as well (especially the guitar, again). A commercial number but very catchy (which is the essence of a commercial track of course).

This album opens brilliantly with "Hotel Hobbies". A subtle piece of music, more in the style of their earlier days. But several tracks will be of that vein on this work and this is probably why I love it so much. After a few sentencesin "That Time of the Night" we' ll get a great spacey section. I think it is the most Floydian Marillion song in this intro. After this, the track will evolve into another great and pure Marillion song : fully emotional thanks to Fish's interpretation. Very light for most of the times, this song will also have its harder moments (but nothing as on "Fugazzi" of course). The first highlight.

"Going Under" is a short and spacey track again. A bit monotonous. We are fully brought into Genesis repertoire with "Just For the Record". Not as bad as when they were three, although it is definitely linked with this period of their career. I do not remember for which song I made this comment but you have to imagine Gabriel singing a song from the Collins era. Although it might sound pretty weird, I must say that a great keys break is helping this song a lot to remain on the good track. Again, a short number; the third one so far.

With the next song, Marillion will produce one of their most lyrical one. Extremely violent attack of all sorts of dictatorial regimes as well as terrorist acts (but who can blame them)? Although Fish mentioned in his intro for "Forgotten Sons" in the live DVD "Recital For The Script" that it was not meant to be a political song, this one confirms though that Marillion is also involved to denounce all the attacks to the human liberties, which can only be praised of course.

Some lyrics here :

"Terror in Rue de St. Denis, murder on the periphery", referring to the bomb attacks in Paris at that time. "My ideals, my sanity, they seem to be deserting me, But to stand up and fight I know we have six million reasons" referring of course to the Holocaust. We'll get it confirmed a little later : "The heralds of the holocaust uzis on a street corner, The silence never louder than now, how quickly we forgot our vows, This resurrection we can't allow, uzis on a street corner". Meaning that we should never forget what happended and fight against all the attempts of limiting the human rights.

And finally "You can shut your eyes, you can hide it away it's gonna come back another day". Let's meditate about this. But never forget !

"Incomunicado" is the hardest number of this album, and will often be the closing number of their concerts at that time. Not my fave but still a very strong number. This album is bloody good. Not a weak track so far.

"Torch Song" and "Slainte Mhath" will keep on the very good level. The later being a very powerful song with a great Fish again on the vocals. He has definitely a style of his own even if of course the Gabriel shadow is never far away. Saying the contrary is IMO denying the truth.

The closing number "The Last Straw" is as good as "The Short Straw (the other name for "That Time Of The Night"). The loop is looped.

What is again extraordinary with the remastered edition is that as usual we'll get a superb bookelt with lots of interesting information : from the sleeve artwork to the atmosphere of the recordings and finally the Fish saga that will lead to his sacking from the band. He will explain, without anger (but these liner notes dated from 1999) how the band reached this situation.

They had toured extensively for the "Misplaced" album with all the subsequent abuses of a long tour far away from home.

Dixit Fish : "We played some shows with Queen which not only retarded my rehabilitation but the close contact with Freddie and the boys even taught me some new methods of debauchery" ! Later on : "I remember one night after having wasted in the night club next door, eating a full meal provided by a very stoned Moroccan chef at midnight jumping in the river fully clothed and cutting my feet ragged on broken glass on the river bed, ingesting enough illicit substances to floor a large mammal and indulging in a full water battle in the bedrooms" !

It sounds pretty similar to what happended during the recording sessions of "Mislplaced" : sex, drugs, drinks and rock'n'roll...

We will also learn the genesis of several tracks of the album "Sugar Mice", "Incommunicado", "White Russian" and "That Time of the Night". Fish was also pretty much PO against their manager. He was asked to postpone his wedding to allow some promotional activities in the US. While ha was there with his girlfriend, he was told that the campaign had been cancelled...

Fish really wanted to change from manager and when he sent an ultimatum to the band to accept his conditions (including the changing of management) the other four preferred Fish to leave. It was the end of a wonderful story. Fish believed that : "A stronger management would not have allowed this self-destruction". What a mess, indeed !!!

this is over History, but most important : the bonus CD is really excellent. On par with the one of their debut album.

There will be some alternate versions of existing tracks : "Incommunicado" rawer and harder than the original, really good. An "extended" version for "Going Under". It is indeed extended by ...one second in comparison with the original number. I guess this highlights Marillion's sense of humour...

Same applies to "White Russians" (instead of Russian...) which is stripped in comparison with the original and "Sugar Mice" which will will be "In The Rain" for this remix.

But there will be several unrealeased numbers as well. And not fillers, believe me. This sufficiently proves the creativity of the band in those days. Great work indeed. "Tux On" which will be featured as a B-side but which is really good. A passionate track with a great beat and a fantastic guitar break. Good work Mr. steve.

The best of these unreleased track is definitely "Beaujolais Day". A very emotional one (once more). It starts like this : "I went to Morisson's grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery, The stony flowers and the matching graffiti were guiding me, To the steps inside of me". It also highlight Fish's tendancy towards some wonderful beverages (in this case the Beaujolias wine).

"Story From a Thin Wall" is of the same caliber. These are two from the best numbers of both CD's. Of course they are less commercial, and maybe more reviewers would have thought differently if those two numbers would have been released on the original album. I really wonder why they didn't actually. Exceptionally interesting, and again I 'm very thankful to Marillion for their excelllent work on these remasterings.

But the second CD only goes on and on with good numbers. "Sunset Hill" is a wonderful and melodious song. Full of sweetness and lightness. "Tic Tac Toe" is probably not on par with the previous nones, but again it could have sit on the original album without lowering its quality.

The wonderful guitar intro of "Voice In The Crowd" is another great moment, although the sound here clearly indicates that it is only a demo. What a pity !

"Exile on Princes Street" is another of these great songs. At this time of reviewing, I reasonably believe that Marillion had almost enough material to have released a double album. I was able to purchase this repackaged release for the price of one CD (around 13 ? at that time). At this price, it is really a bargain and I can not say anything else than to buy it in this double CD format to get as much Marillion songs as you can from the Fish era, which is by far my preferred one. No doubt about this.

Fours stars for this very album. Thank yo very, very much Mr. Derek William Dick.

ZowieZiggy | 4/5 |

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