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Marillion - Clutching At Straws CD (album) cover

CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.13 | 888 ratings

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Xanadu3737
5 stars Reviewed By: Nicholas R. Andreas for www.wpapu.com Artist: Marillion Album: Clutching at Straws Genre: Neo-Prog Year of Release: 1987

Several months before co-hosting a radio show I tried to write my first musical review, but that project ended in complete defeat as I attempted to review an album with which I had such a musical and emotional connection, and I could not find a way to put my thoughts to words properly. However, a few months later I broke the review ice with Dominici's third album, and now fifteen reviews later I am returning to try and do justice to one of the absolute masterpieces of progressive-rock, Clutching at Straws.

Much like its predecessor, Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at Straws should not be viewed as a series of tracks. It should in my opinion, be viewed as an emotional rollercoaster which rivals any other album ever made. Furthermore, I believe the album is best broken down into three distinct sections.

The first section goes from the mystic opening of "Hotel Hobbies", to the sobering ending of "Just for the Record". Lyrically the first five tracks on the album begin to tell a somewhat cohesive story of the butt ends of fame, heartache, and drugs. Musically the album shows Marillion at their strongest. Their neo-progressive style having been refined over their previous three albums matured into a flowing, naturally progressing style that provides the perfect soundscapes to go behind the story. Add to that some of Steve Rothery's best leads and solos and a vocal delivery from Fish that is as unique, powerful, and emotional as possible, and you have an incredible start to this record.

The second section of the record contains the next two tracks, "White Russian" and "Incommunicado", and provides a strange emotional release before the albums conclusion. "White Russian" is perhaps the strongest standalone track on the album and is as emotionally charged as the rest of the record, but takes a turn off the topics of the rest of the album. Next, "Incommunicado" provides a musical and lyrical uplift that prevents Clutching at Straws from being a completely depressing and dark album. I've always wondered about the inclusion of these two tracks on the album. Certainly two of the stronger standalone tracks, but many claim, and are reasonable in saying that it breaks from the rest of the album. However, I believe with their decision to include them they included them in the right place, in the right order, with "White Russian" lyrically distracting the listener from the tones of the album and then "Incommunicado" providing a brief reprieve from all aspects of the album. Because the second section is wedged right in the middle, the third section of the album is strong enough to bring everything from the first section back into play without ever getting the feeling that you got sidetracked for a moment.

"Torch Song" kicks off the third and final section of the album, bringing back into focus the importance that alcohol played lyrically throughout the first section of the album. Once again the listener is treated to one of the most emotional performances a singer could put forth as Fish pours his heart and soul into the album. This trend continues through the somewhat anthemic "Slainte Mhath" and the touching ballad "Sugar Mice". Finally, the album concludes with the single greatest closer I have ever encountered. I say closer because it implies more than simply being the last track on an album. "The Last Straw" is an emotional and musical whirlwind, perfectly summing up the emotion and the feel of the album in a few minutes. To me, that song represents the finest moment in Marillion's career. Strong by itself, the song becomes magical at the end of Clutching at Straws, and leaves me in awe every time I listen to it.

Drummer Ian Mosley recalls that, "The tracks offer subtle as well as obvious references to excessive antics. Antics and abuses that ultimately (if not intentionally), forced the band to regroup, retreat and recognize the need for reformation." Although musical differences are certainly part of the reason Fish left Marillion during the writing of Marillion's 5th album, one can also simply look at the words Fish left to us in Clutching at Straws to gain a deeper understanding of what would happen. A man, and a band burnt out on fame and alcohol would record their masterpiece around those themes before they would have a "reformation" that would show both Marillion and Fish never again reaching the levels of success that they had achieved together.

Nick's Rating: 100%

"And if you ever come across us don't give us your sympathy You can buy us a drink and just shake our hands And you'll recognize by the reflection in our eyes that deep down inside we're all one and the same."

-Fish in 'The Last Straw'-

Xanadu3737 | 5/5 |

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