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Marillion - Clutching At Straws CD (album) cover

CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.13 | 901 ratings

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Queen By-Tor
Special Collaborator
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Misplaced Childhood II

If the 80s scene of progressive rock were to be depicted in Hollywood movie form the opening scene would probably show a barren wasteland not dissimilar to something out of The Matrix. Some of our favorite prog heroes were still around and making albums from the shadows fused with various influences like New Wave while other bands had been horribly disfigured and mutated by the toxic atmosphere and some of our most gallant heroes were staring at us helplessly and asking with panicked looks on their faces, ''who dunnit!?''. Marillion shook the progressive world back to its senses in those crazy days when they released Script For A Jester's tear and their third album, and best known masterpiece, Misplaced Childhood, an album that managed to score hit songs while maintaining the classic progressive feel with lush synthesizers and lengthy suites. These rebel forces, along with the rest of the Neo Progressive movement helped prog carry through those rough years, even as they fought through the trenches and the onslaught music coming out at the time. Clutching At Straws is a different, yet much similar album from the band, in that it maintains the classic Genesis-like feel combined with the 80s sensibility in rhythm and melody, but this one shows the band deciding to stick to the shorter side of things. While the album is linked throughout with strong thematic motifs it doesn't feel quite as ''together'' as their previous album. This one also tends to be a lot darker and more emotional than its older sibling, as Fish (who would leave after this album) wrote most of the lyrics around himself and his struggle with various addictions. All in all, it's not a very happy record.

Most of the songs run together and make for dynamic sides. Hotel Hobbies opens the album with a bang while Warm Wet Circles slows things down a notch until it's reprised at the end of the rather upbeat Just For The Record, which shows Fish's voice at it's most sympathetic sounding. White Russian is a rather aggressive tune with blasting keyboards and a grumbly voice from Fish as he describes the ''heralds of the holocaust'' and ''uzis on a street corner''. The emotional buildup felt in this song with the combination of lyrics like, ''were do we go from here?'' make this song a particular standout on the album. Side 2 opens up on a rather strange note, especially after ending the last side with such a dark tune. Incommunicado is an upbeat rocker of a tune led by fun synthesizers and a good chorus led by Fish. The rest of the side is very much overshadowed by this song, unfortunately, but it made for a good single, and a very good tune to act as a standout for the album. Other songs of note on the second side include the nicely paced Sugar Mice and the amazing closer which still stands as one of Marillion's most emotional tunes to this day, The Last Straw. Cataclysmic sections from each member highlight Fish's voice as it reaches it's emotional peak. A nice little trick is played at the end of the album as well, since there's the listing for a song called Happy Ending which, in fact, doesn't exist. There is no happy ending to this tale.

After this record both artists (Fish and Marillion) would face their trials and tribulations and, as some would argue, would never be quite as good again without one another. Hogarth era fans of Marillion will argue differently, for sure, but the distinct sound that made this record and the previous 3 that were behind it would be gone. This album is not as fantastic as some of those which lead up to it, but it certainly has some brilliant moments that any fan cannot live without. This one is recommended to those who liked the Fish era of Marillion, or those who really, really don't want to believe that Abacab or Invisible Touch ever existed. 3.5 stars for a good album.

Queen By-Tor | 3/5 |

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