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ANORAKNOPHOBIA

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

3.38 | 393 ratings

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Juan.Pablo.Gonzalez
3 stars Anoraknophobia was the last of what I like to call Marillion's transition out of the regular music business and into independence, which was also the transition from their initial Hogarth-era music to what they currently do and has evolved in the last decade.

This is a sequence of three albums, evidently starting with Radiation, an album plagued by lack of monetary resources, and what seems to be a complete and not so deliberate abandonment of the formula used in the records preceding it. Marillion.com lacked punch, save for the two last tracks, which were an outstanding high for such a different album.

And along came the new millenium, and thus came Anoraknophobia. The title is an obvious nod to Marillion's relative unpopularity, and the fact that it was declining due to more people forgetting that hey, this is a great band that put out a hit in 1985, and what do you know, they're still going.

Hogarth has always said they should have changed the name of the band. I disagree, but seeing how they had been doing in the late 90s, I cannot help but feel some empathy.

Anoraknophobia is a very strange album. In it, there are more than a few lengthy songs, exceeding eight minutes, but nothing proggy by definition. Anoraknophobia marked Marillion's definitive nod to their label, progressing out of the genre they had been so gracefully put into.

Seemingly...

Anoraknophobia may lack the classic medieval tone of Fish-era Marillion, or the extended passages, or ian Mosley's punching drum lines, or strange time signature. It may lack a story that is told throughout the album, or the motifs made great by Misplaced Childhood and Brave. It may lack epic wonders like This Strange Engine, The Rakes Progress and even Interior Lulu. But this is by no means a non-progressive record.

Marillion may have changed their music a lot, but their compositional traits, the kind of intervals they use in melodies, their use of chords, their use of modulation, their dynamics, and all the underlying music-writing minutiae that is blown apart by the fact that the songs are in 4/4 is still adamantly consistent with their previous work. They have not changed the way the way music, they have just taken it to a different place. It's sort of like when Genesis started doing albums like Invisible Touch, after coming out with beauties like Selling England by the Pound.

The force of songs like Quartz, If My Heart were a Ball, The Fruit of the Wild Rose and even This is the 21st Century is undeniable. And as much as prog fans would like to see Marillion do at least a passage in 7/8, I will recurr to none other than Steven Wilson to describe the beauty of these songs

"I don't like songs that are written in some bizarre time signature like, say, 23/8, just for the sake of it. That may be technically impressive, but progressive rock is more than odd-time stignatures"

Marillion have veered into a whole new direction, evolved into their current workflow, and created an album, that even if it is the one with the least percentage of songs I like (I like 3, 4 in a good day), even if it is surpassed in that by what Marillion themselves call their weakest studio effort (Radiation), is perfectly valid, and utterly worthy of praise. Anoraknophobia is the work of Marillion's applaudable effort to reinvent themselves without alienating people (although this album and the ones before it kind of did).

Give it a listen, and it will surprise you. Mark Kelly even put a sample from Chelsea Monday into If My Heart were a Ball, and honestly, the three songs I do like, are brilliant.

I'm giving it three stars because I think that the lyrical themes weren't that appealing, and because I really don't like some of the songs (which doesn't mean I don't admire them and acknowledge the skill with which they were written). Also because I think they experimented too much and became soft at it. The songs and their lyrics lack the punch and slight controversy shown in Brave, Afraid of Sunlight, and Seasons End. Which for me, is a Hogarth must.

Anoraknophobia is completely decent, but ultimately flawed, and my least favourite Marillion record. But the masterpieces that followed it give it more sense and chronological logic. And thus, I am happy it exists.

Juan.Pablo.Gonzalez | 3/5 |

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