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Marillion - Marbles CD (album) cover

MARBLES

Marillion

 

Neo-Prog

4.09 | 1050 ratings

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rupert
4 stars The Arrival...

in many ways, "Marbles" was to be an arrival for Marillion after 15 years of huge progression, experiments and exploration of all kinds of supplements that found their way into their sonic cosmos, 15 years that saw Steve Hogarth arrive and, one by one, change the face of this band. And it proved to be a reconciliation with many prog-lovers as well, who, during that time, had seen the band move further and further away from the "neo-prog-tag" in which it was rooted from the beginning with Fish, although they did not arrive exactly where they had started out once... logically, if you're asking me. But they kinda arrived in a safe field of beautifully crafted, song-based art-rock that suddenly did not seek to deny or escape its relationship to Pink Floyd or even Genesis anymore, so "Marbles" was supposed to become a favorite piece of sugar for lots of listeners who desperately hoped for them to return into the mold of prog-sounds and, at last, doing something more in the vein of "Seasons end", "Brave" and "Afraid of Sunlight". In my opinion, they had to take quite a few steps back in order to do this, but the very good thing about "Marbles" is that it's only a few steps back while maintaining a lot of the achieved and therefore developing even further.

But the pace of another "Concept"-Album incorporating distinctively prog-loaden epics ( with "The Invisible Man" as the starter to reassure that this band hadn't left behind any of their roots ) may easily be mistaken for a complete change of ways in order to serve those ever-reoccurring requests, so beware, dear prog-fans, cause if you listen hard enough you'll find that this isn't true, it's only a re-assemblance of many, many things that make this band what it is... including the more light-weight pop that didn't please too many of you when "Holidays in Eden" hit the market. "Don't hurt yourself", for example, sees Marillion travelling closer to the likes of Chris de Burgh than they ever did before, "You're gone", once more, shows that the guys share a huge affection for U2, and the mellow fields of sound and mood that "Angelina" ( with bluesy guitar-licks ) and "Fantastic Place" ( with, the more it's building on, perhaps a bit too much wall of sound, but graced by a wonderful trademark-Solo by courtesy of Mr. Rothery ) take more than just a dip into - well, be sure, that's a whole lot of singer/songwriter- driven pop rather than it's progrock, though it may please you more than it did before because of the frame in which you find them. And "Genie" as well as "The Damage" are close to being "average Hogarth" in terms of what he and only he can contribute to the band - love it or hate it... I like them but not essentially prefer them over previous ( or following, take "Most Toys" for a most-mentioned example as a "downer" amongst many of us ) outings of that kind ( it's not that hard to imagine those tracks on "Ice Cream Genius", or is it ? ).

In the very first place, "Marbles" is a revelation in sound, it's perhaps the best sounding/produced Marillion-Album of them all, thanks to Dave Meegan once again. And what it's short of ( I would have liked one or two straight-ahead-rock-songs like "Under the Sun" or "Between you and me", f.e., where even "You're gone" has got a rather laid-back groove and feel ) it's making up for with first-rate classics such as "Neverland" and - yeah, I finally got the 2-Disc-Edition thanks to last year's wonderfully packaged retail-release from Snapper-music - "Ocean Cloud" and none of us would honestly change them for "Cover my eyes", I'm sure. They belong to Marillion's very very best, of course they do, it's a sheer pleasure to hear them and dream away. My personal fave has to be the energetic ( but still seductively lush, even chilling ) "Drilling holes" that, musically, is quoting the Beatles as much as the Floyd, and keeps on making me bang my head and chant along to some of the best lyrics I have ever heard: "We ate on the lawn with the insects, we burned incense, most of the band turned up"... HUGE ! Since I am a glad owner of the double-disc-version, "Ocean Cloud" is about to equal it as a fave, though... perhaps because it's still new to me, but it ranks amongst the finest and most coherent epic tracks the band has ever recorded. Absolutely great stuff !

"The only unforgivable thing", on the other hand, doesn't really do much for me except die in its beauty, though I know that it indeed does please a lot of you who simply want some more of those dreamy soundscapes and drown in their loveliness and beauty forever... sorry, as much as "The Invisible Man" is full of little details and adventurous creativity, this one's a rather bland, repetitive one, and where "Ocean Cloud" is able to keep my attention awake because it's not at all tedious with the surprises coming in at exactly the right time so my emotions can follow, that "unforgivable thing" does not contain any of them. It's nice, no more - while even the shortest bit of those four "Marbles"-storylines does contain more ideas, needless to say that I love 'em, they're great.

All in all, "Marbles" is a very good album but not really that much of an improvement to its predecessors that others claim it to be. It's only - so full of irresistible good music that, in the end, you tend to tend to overlook its ( few but apparent ) flaws, because they are so easily forgiven when you finally get what you wanted, and... don't you ? To me, it's a little too "Floydy" in order to become my favorite, but far too good to not like it, cause where the Floyd leave me kinda stranded on the dark side of the moon, the Marillos are able to touch me with a whole lot of good songs. So it was not undeserved at all that "Marbles" saw them charting 2 hit-singles in different countries and helped re-establish themselves on the market, though, it has to be said, Germany tended to miss the event once more and Rupert, the weirdo who still listened to this band, saw himself alone again on wide fields - in spite of several music magazines and their readers sharing his excitement.

I was a bit worried that, with the success of "Marbles" and - compared to its predecessors - its slight lack of energy, Marillion may completely die in beauty thereafter, but my worries proved to be of no use, so I'm very happy with "Marbles"... one more bag of surprises, this time one that is able to please the average prog-listener far more than "Radiation" did. But it ain't an album that is really so much better, it's a four-star, no more, no less ( and, as you can re-read in my review to "Anoraknophobia", in some ways I think that its predecessor is even preferable, but surely not for the most of you ).

When a musician arrives, maturity can be a trap, he may stand still and start repeating himself until there's no progression anymore. "Marbles", as the 9th studio-album of this line up, was in danger of being a straight move on a walk into that trap. The band has managed to avoid it at last - and that's what's making it an even more pleasant affair... I think we can meet here. It's music that should have seen them fill out stadiums and it didn't, though. Perhaps we're lucky about this. The danger I'm talking about probably would else have been a trap too hard to avoid !

rupert | 4/5 |

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