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Marillion - Clutching At Straws CD (album) cover





4.14 | 1225 ratings

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4 stars Clutching At Straws marks the end of an era as this was the final farewell from Fish to the fans, although he would return with a solo carrier. The biggest difference I find from this album to their previous 3 is that its much more streamlined, there's no 8 minute theatrical blasts like you got before. So, is this a good or bad thing, well yes and no. This is quite clearly the most polished production from Marillion in the Fish era but it lacks that edge that made the previous 3 albums true greats.

The big thing that you notice is that Fish's lyrics now seem to be entirely about his alcohol abuse, something that he has covered before in the earlier works of the band. The only break in this is the two songs White Russian and Incommunicado. Incommunicado is clearly about the excesses of stardom but to be honest I'm still trying to work out whether White Russian is an anti cold war song or a metaphor for something else (neither would surprise me).

Fish's preoccupation with alcoholism seems to take its toll on the quality of this album as the whole thing starts to just drown in the theme. This also seems to be the reason that the format of the album has changed from the Script..../ Fugazi style to this series of shorter songs. In my opinion this slightly reduces the effect of Fish's natural theatrical style that comes across in his vocal/lyrics so well, but not by a huge amount.

Let me make myself clear though, this is not a terrible album. In fact, the strength of the music put out by Ian Mosely, Mark Kelly, Steve Rothery and Pete Trawaves is stunning and probably some of the best that these guys have ever done. That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw), White Russian, Incommunicado, Sugar Mice and The Last Straw stick in the mind particularly well, and Fish's lyrics on these songs are some of his best, showing that his work here is not all bad.

There is only two tracks on this entire album that I can honestly say that I don't like. Torch Song and Slainte Mhath get completely lost in Fish preoccupation with alcoholism. The remaining songs all seem to lack lyrical strength mainly but good music goes pretty much throughout the album.

I'll give this album 4 stars but it clearly is the weakest of the 4 Fish era albums due to the previously cited problems and the fact that it also lacks the immediacy of previous albums.

sleeper | 4/5 |


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