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Marillion - Misplaced Childhood CD (album) cover

MISPLACED CHILDHOOD

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.24 | 1447 ratings

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JLocke
Prog Reviewer
5 stars After a slight stumble in ''Fugazi'', Marillion released MISPLACED CHILDHOOD, an album that has been considered by many to be the band's magnum opus. And I would have to agree with that opinion. While ''Script for a Jester's Tear'' summed up what Marillion was about, and proved that good prog had not died with the past greats, but was very much alive in these newer, fresher artists who were more than eager to introduce prog to a whole new generation.

So, what makes MISPLACED CHILDHOOD so special? Well, for one thing, it does everything right that ''Jester'' did, but it also adds so much more life and appeal to the music. Where as the band's debut album was very grim in tone throughout (but no less a masterpiece, I assure you), this album is so much more lush and colourful by comparison. It also has a much clearer 'concept', with an almost narrative way of presenting the lyrics, which were no doubt chemically-induced, but no less poweful. Fish certainly hasn't been one to deny his exerimental side when it came to substances, but this album is certainly understandable even by sober listeners, which is great, too!

MISPLACED is interestingly enough the second Marillion album I listened to, as in my ignorance I didn't realize there was an album between the two in release date terms Since ''Fuhazi'' is in my opinion a much weaker album then either of the other two, I am glad that this was my second Marillion adventure, and it is quickly becoming my favorite of theirs, which is saying something, because ''Script'' was such a fantastic album as well. Also something I think I should bring up is that this album as a whole, with the concepts and music and lyrics and artwork, is a record that could even give Pink Floyd's ''The Wall'' a run for it's money! And anyone who knows me at all is aware of how high a pedestal I hold THAT album on, so that should give you an idea of how great a record MISPLACED CHILDHOOD is.

''Pseudo Silk Kimono'' is a good intro track, with beautiful melodies in it's own right, but not nearly as powerful as the songs to follow. I like to look at this song as a sort of appetizer before the main course. ''Safe in the sanctuary . . . safe.''

What will come now is a narrative about a man's desire to revisit the innocence of childhood which he feels he has lost as he reflects on all of the negative effects his life has had on him. Great, great stuff, here when it comes to emotion, and Fish is no shy guy-- he tells it like it is.

''Kayleigh'' I'm not sure if what I heard about Fish's invention of this name is true or not, but if so, it is very interesting. Wouldn't be too difficult to believe, since this song was a hit single for a time. Either way, the opening riff for this song reminds me very much of Pink Floyd. I think mainly because the notes Steve Rothery is hitting here are very similar to the notes found in the middle breakdown of the song ''Pigs (Three Different Ones)'' by off of Pink Floyd's ''Animals''. Anyway, that similarity soon leaves, however, and the riff changes into something much sweeter and more beautiful than anything Marillion has done up to this point in their career. Yet, it doesn't feel too sweet for comfort. Actually, it is possibly my favorite track on the album, just because it brings some of the warmest feelings to my heart a song ever could. Rothery is truly a genious guitarist.

This song, not unlike every other song on MISPLACED, is very Fish-oriented, with vocals present for almost the entire time without relent. While I enjoy Fish's voice enough to not be bothered by this, I do realize that some may be put off by the lack of instrument-only bridge sections. But since this is a very Fish-driven concept, I don't think this is unjust. And since Marillion is indeed Neo-Prog, the constant vocal presence helps make the songs more appealing to more passive audiences. So while it may annoy some, most of us understand why the album is set up that way, and to me, this only adds beauty and depth to the record, since Fish's voice really is so amazing to listen to.

''Lavender'' Is another phenominal song, but much like it's predecessor has enougb comercial pizazz to get stuck in your head the rest of the day (But in this case it is good because it is PROG, man!). It also features a very moving guitar solo by Rothery. Nothing fancy, but it just works!

Oh yes, something else I should probably mention . . . this album also happens to be the best flowing album of all Marillion releases, with each track seamlessly flowing into the next, and while this segueing of tracks doesn't always work (Like anything else in art, it has to be done the right way in order to work well within the piece as a whole), it does work in this case. The first real 'concept' album by Marillion, MISPLACED CHILDHOOD does a fine job of making everything gel together flawlessly without much difficulty, or at least it seems to be the case.

''Bitter Suite'' Kicks off alot darker and moodier than the previous three tracks, with some great ambient keys by Mark Kelly, and truly striking drumwork on Ian Mosley's part. I must admit, I wasn't all that impressed by him on ''Fugazi'', but he is truly gifted on his instrument, as this song demonstrates. Some truly psychedelic sounds are featured here, eliminating any symphonic prog links the band may have if not just during this one song. The song continues in this way until Fish does some spoken-word lyrics that are metaphoric, but still have a bit of humor in them to jazz things up a bit. I always get a bit of a giggle at his line about ''some obscure scottish poet''. Pete Trewavas also does some great bass playing here, preceeding another incredible Guitar solo from Steve Rothery. It stands on its own, then suddenly reprises the solo from ''Lavender''. This idea of everything coming back around is also a good sign of a well-constructed concept album, where the tracks are all actually part of something bigger. The poetry, ''She was paralyzed in the streetlight, she refused to give her name'' are just some of the many examples that prove Fish as being truly one of the greatest lyricists of all time. The melodies found in this song are very strong as well, and as a standalone track, it works beautifully, but also fits into the bigger picture nicely as well.

Here, the band seems very emphatic on proving that they can indeed play music that is not merely a heavied-up Genesis (though I personally have never heard the connection between the two bands besides Fish's singing voice anyway)

''Heart of Lothian'' 's opening guitar section reminds me very much of ''Hey You'' from ''The Wall'', which is fine by me! Around a minute and twenty seconds into the song, Mark Kelly gets some times to shine as he plays some wonderful piano parts that really fills out the song at this point. Not to mention, whenever Fish sings ''This tiiiime'', the way his voice wavers so drastically up and down lets us know that the old theatrical singer we know na dlove hasn't gone anywhere, and in fact does some of his best voice work ever on this record. Soon Kelly takes off on his piano sounds and brings the song's melancholic mood into a much softer, more joyous palor. The guitar soon follows suit by plaing the same tune overtop of the keybaords, but finally Rotghery once again breaks into an empassioned original-sounding guitar solo that completes this song's transformation into something completely different tham what it atarted out to be, which is a great thing, as many neo-rpog bands tend to to not evolve thir individual songs as much, but Marillion were the pioneers of this genre, and were influenced by the older prog guys, so that familiar and very wlecome song structure is present in their music, and certainly it is here. Great piece of music.

''Waterhole (Expresso Bongo)'' is the first track on the album that can possibly be considered as 'heavy', and even then that's pushing it. The opening sounds are like something I would expect from a Robert Fripp album, or some other ambient noise-driven record, but then the song soon changes and becomes quite aggressive, with some distorted guitar riffs serving as a blanket for the intense keyboard work to colour the top of. There are some lyrical referrances to past songs to be found here as well, once again helping the concept as a whole connect properly. This song doesn't really speak to me much, though, and I think it is just because of how short it is, it doesn't egt the chance to evolve and change and become something interesting. So in a way, it the polar opposite of the previous song, and honestly, quite boring. But since it is so short, it doesn't take much effort to sit through it, so the album for me is still listenable as a whole without any breaks.

''Lords of the Backstage''. Ah! Now this is music! Great riff at the beginning, great tune throughout, amazing vocal performance, consice instrumentation, no filler or overly-long moments in the whole thing. While musically it is a bit stagnant, it isn't very long at all, and helps lighten the mood once again on this very multi-emotional roller coaster of an album. Good!

''Blind Curve'' is the longest songon the album, and has so many amazing parts to it, it is going to be difficult to touch upon them all, so I will give a general overview. Well, first of all, absolutely SOARING soundscapes provided by Steve Rothery's gitar wizardry gives this track the epic feel that it needs to hold ones interest for such a long stretch of time (nearly ten minutes). Remember, this is Neo-prog, so Marillion needed to be clever here in order to hold the casual listener's interest, and they obviousely did, since this record was their biggest hit during the Fish era. Post-Hackett Genesis could learn a thing or two from these guys. See, Marillion knows how to mix pop and prog well, unlike Genesis' later years. Around three minutes in, Fish delivers his best vocal work on the record, hands-down, with very unique jumps from highs to lows while keeping the melody something worth listening to. It's great. Just great. Close to 4:30, Rothery displayes some fabtastic spacey-guitar work accompanied by . . . nothing. The song is silent at this point other than the guitar, and I love it! See, this is what makes prog great for me. These are bands who know when to play alot, and then at the same time they know when to leave enough space for everything to sink in. If yopu constantly beat the listener over the head with aggressive rocking, they will never fully appreciate the beauty of your band's music. Marillion does not make that mistake ever, and this section of the song really shows off their uncanny ability to hit the listener right in the gut with some of the loudest, most powerfull silence a band could offer. The song soon becomes much darker and more atmospheric, with big echoing drums and some truly wicked flanger-effected bass playing. Fish's proclamation: ''Childhood . . . my childhood . . . misplaced childhood . . . give it back to me.'' is very haunting and heartfelt, I think. Really great track, and those are only some aspects of what make it great, there is alot more that I could fill up an entire webpage with in regard to any of the songs, really. But that is the general idea. Bottom line: it's a great song.

''Childhood's End?'' Featueres another great riff at it's opening, and then maintaines the same quality throughout. A great song that I feel could have been the album closer, as it givesme a certain sense of resolution at it's end.

''White Feather'' Is the other 'weak' track on the album, if you can call any of them really weak at all. But there is one moment in which the music builds up and then has one last burst of energy that is always nice to listen to, but on the whole, not all that impressive. I'm not going to detract any stars from the rating, however, because it is too great of an album to not give it's due just because of a couple of duds.

This is the pinnacle of what made Fish-era Marillion great. If you wanna know what they were all about, this is a great place to start. May even be a bit more accessible than ''Jester'', even though it has a couple of poppy tunes. To be frank, even the lighter songs on MISPLACED CHILDHOOD don't feel all that radio-friendly, so I don;t think the 'hits' they had on this record was intentionall. It isn't as if they decided to record some totally unrelated pop material in hopes of hting it big; every song on this album flows naturally, none of it feels contrived. A true masterpiece, to be sure. As far as I am concerned, essential. Five stars. If you don't like this album, then Marillion probably isn't for you, because this had everything that made them great present within it.

Now, I am very tired, and after staying up all night writing this review and listening to the album numerous times, I believe I deserve a nap. Nighty-night.

Oh . . . and happy listening, of course.

JLocke | 5/5 |

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