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Marillion - Brave CD (album) cover





3.97 | 966 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars With Brave, Hogarth-era Marillion finally hit its stride, producing its first masterpiece which is easily the peer of the very best Fish-era releases. Taking the iconic concept of exploring the pressures and trauma which lead a teenage girl to mutely contemplate suicide on the Severn Bridge, the band adopt what I would consider to be a true crossover prog sound, combining their progressive approach with a wider range of mainstream genres than the light indie pop which informed Holidays In Eden.

From the dance music rhythms which worm their way into the twisting, turning bad acid trip of Goodbye To All That, to Mark Kelly's organ line hidden within Hard as Love which lends a certain 60s vibe to the piece, to the mingling of New Age and mild folk influences on the title track, the album sees Marillion finally hit on their H-era sound: emotional in a confessional way as opposed to emotional in a theatrical way (which was the Fish-era approach), not afraid to include sounds from the retro to the utterly modern, and drawing on rock, pop, and other musical traditions to enrich and embellish the sound.

It's also structured remarkably well, with the somewhat lighter songs Hard As Love and Paper Lies helping the pacing by allowing the listener to take a breather after the emotionally raw material that precedes them. Lyrically, H and John Helmer pull no punches, masterfully evoking the confusion and hurt attendant with being a teenager and hinting at the abuses and mistreatment which makes it all too much for the story's protagonist. And it all comes together with the album's magical, moving, incredible closing movement - the rage-filled confrontation of The Last of You, the surrender of Falling From the Moon, and the blissful catharsis of Made Again.

It's down to the listener to decide exactly how the story has ended - on the vinyl version, the band included a clever double-track trick which meant that the album could end with just a bunch of water noises or play the redemptive Made Again, but I actually think there's plenty of intriguing room for interpretation in the regular CD track listing. Our heroine has been "made again" and feels able to face the world anew, but what form did this take? Did she find religion, a political cause, a new favourite band? Did she meet a new friend, a new lover, a sympathetic therapist, or a kind mentor who helped her work through her issues? Is she essentially singing to herself in praise of the inner strength she found to choose life? Has she in fact died and entered a better state of being, or been reincarnated into a new life wiser for the lessons of her previous one? Was she saved by someone's intervention on the bridge, or was it the recollection of some kindness in her past which helped her see the world in a new way?

You could, conceivably, come up with a different answer every time you listen to the album, which is the beauty of it: the narrative structure is strong enough to figure out in general terms what the deal is, but there are enough ambiguities (what stops her jumping, does she in fact jump after all, who's this bastard who's caused her so much misery and what exactly did he do, etc.) that each listen-through opens up new possibilities in the story - just as each repeated listen reveals new secrets and influences and embellishments in the music.

I think it's one of the greatest achievements in progressive rock.

Warthur | 5/5 |


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