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CLUTCHING AT STRAWS

Marillion

Neo-Prog


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5 stars Definately my favourite fish era album. Slainte Mhath and White Russian are still played live today, Rothery's guitar has a rockier more spontanious approach, the lyrics and compositions are as emotional and dramatic as ever as fish comes to terms with his disillusionment of fame. With Clutching Marillion had found their musical identity and relied less on their influences, although the main riff to Incommunicado is very like a speeded up 'Bell Boy' by the Who. A good place to start for any Marillion era, get the two disc version if you can find it.

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Send comments to Jools (BETA) | Report this review (#12158)
Posted Tuesday, December 16, 2003 | Review Permalink
maani
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Founding Moderator
4 stars Only a hair less brilliant a concept than Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at Straws is still one of the strongest Marillion albums, and maybe Fish's best compositionally. Every song has an internal logic and beauty that defines one or another element of prog-rock. And although the album as a whole is less "cohesive" than Childhood, it remains a must-have for prog-rock fans.

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Send comments to maani (BETA) | Report this review (#12159)
Posted Tuesday, January 06, 2004 | Review Permalink
Sean Trane
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Folk
3 stars As I had almost discarded this one away for the major concept was not easily graspable and the much shorter and more conventional tracks and other dumb reasons a yougster can think of. I was asked repeatedly to give a second chance and after many tries I finally had to agree that this one is a good Marillion album, but no more. But I do like the album better than Misplaced Childhood and Fugazi (simply too metallic).

In some strange sort of way, the artwork sleeve depicts well the musical change of this album and give a good idea of the content, the Jester is on its way out and the Drummer Boy (it was sensed to be taking over from the Jester as the main artwork figure) is also absent. Marillion was leaving chilhood and moving towards adult age.

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Send comments to Sean Trane (BETA) | Report this review (#12151)
Posted Thursday, February 26, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars The biggest album to anybody who listen ths record. Marillion made this work when almost all who loves progressive rock thought the band turn to the pop music. Fish and the guys achieve a powerful and sensitive brief of music. So in the eighties a few bands developed this kind of albums. EXCEPTIONAL, I feel interpretated by the songs and the cover of the record.... A bar to drink and pool to play as a tough man!!

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Send comments to Queno (BETA) | Report this review (#12155)
Posted Monday, March 08, 2004 | Review Permalink
Menswear
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Marillion is a guilty pleasure among purist of prog. Fine, I can live with that. But this one stole my heart over any other Marillion record. Among ProgArchives suggestions, THIS one should've been underlined and promoted as a suggestion. I think Clutching at Straws is a mini-tad over Misplaced Childhood. Althought it's not AS progressive as the others, this record scores on the lyrics and the intensity of Fish. Drugs, more drugs and so on. This is really an ultimate cry for help, which makes this record the breaking point for Fish' health. After this record he had to go in rehab in a place where nobody could join him. Not even his wife, somebody told me.

Sadness, resignation and fascination facing more popularity, the lyrics are mature and wonderfully coherent. Like Robert Smith (The Cure) or Tim Booth (James), Fish is explicit towards illegal substances but also so fragile and open hearted. We know exactly what he means in such few words. I guess every good thing has an end. Few bands kept such high quality throughout their musical route....

Now that everything's over, where do we go from here?

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Send comments to Menswear (BETA) | Report this review (#12156)
Posted Wednesday, March 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
greenback
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars This terrific album, like many others (Rush-Signals, Genesis-Foxtrot, Triumvirat- Spartacus...) has NO ordinary piece: ALL the songs are excellent! You cannot say: "I just listen it for "Sugar mice" or whatever..." Once you've started it, you cannot stop! I really like the subtle emotional & atmospheric sound, often being ethereal. The modern keyboards are often smooth, in the background, while the delightful and refined guitars often consist in clean & short notes, like on the "Blind curve" track on the "Misplaced childhood" album. There are many excellent, melodic and very catchy guitar solos. On this record, you have the impression that no instrument wants to steal the show; it gives a very well balanced album. It is the most relaxing album of the Marillion-Fish era. It is also the best one. The short songs formula really works on this record. The guys expressed well what they felt in the bars during the tour; the lyrics are sad, but the music is very well made and addictive.

EXTREMELY RECOMMENDED!

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Send comments to greenback (BETA) | Report this review (#12182)
Posted Sunday, April 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
chessman
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Ironically, when this album first came out, I bought it, played it a few times, then put it to one side. I was not very impressed at all. I thought it was too aggressive, tuneless, and disappointing in general. Even weaker than 'Fugazi' I thought, certainly not up to 'Script's' standard, or even 'Misplaced'. Eventually, I swapped it for something else. This year, I was at a friend's house, and we were swapping music. I asked him could I tape 'Clutching' again and I would give it another listen. Now I say 'wow!' I think it is amazing! (Funny how tastes change, isn't it?) I would rate it, along with 'Script', as one of their top two albums, with 'Misplaced' in third place. Fish's voice is in fine form. Every track is top notch. The first three in particular making one's jaw drop. My least fave track would have to be 'White Russian', but that is only in comparison with the others - there are no weak tracks here! Despite what some reviewers think, there is still a strong Genesis influence. Although the songs are not typical of Genesis, again the keyboards and Fish's voice are very reminiscent of them. Put it this way, I could imagine Peter Gabriel and Tony Banks slipping into the band quietly, replacing Fish and Mark Kelly, and not many people would notice. Of course, that is where, as always, the only similarities lie. A pity the band never reached these heights again. Hogarth is excellent in his own way. I saw him with the band a few years ago, and he has a powerful live voice. But the music these days is too radio friendly, Although 'Afraid Of Sunlight' and 'Anoraknophobia' are the best of the Hogarth era. Although they have only done, in my opinion, one really weak album - the tuneless and aimless let down that was 'Brave'!

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Send comments to chessman (BETA) | Report this review (#12157)
Posted Sunday, May 02, 2004 | Review Permalink
The Prognaut
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Undoubtedly, this is one the albums I enjoy listening to the most for very evidential reasons: the emotiveness of the lyrics is simply perceivable everywhere, this particular album has got that particular air of experimentation that works perfectly for me and the last but not least important reason, the songwriting by FISH. It is superb, entirely amazing.

From the very front cover of the record to the last song performed in here, you can perceive a sensation of sorrow, of darkness and that irremediable impact of confusion the album's got for you. I appreciate this album a lot because it showed me that dark, secret side FISH had been hiding away from himself and that happened to reveal in such unexpected way in "Clutching at Straws".

Most of the songs written and composed for "Clutching at Straws" are intended to be breathed and lived intensively by the listener, and the album achieves that important commitment: it drives you through your inner fears, your captivated feelings and brings out the sensitivity locked away in you. I can tell it is an extremely emotional album, and that you can figure out at the time you listen to beautiful pieces as "Sugar Mice" (my all time MARILLION favorite ballad), "Warm Wet Circles" and "That Time of the Night". The rest of the songs are amazing too, they certainly have got a threatening "GENESIS - like" essence perfectly resembled and evoked in songs like "Hotel Hobbies" and "Slainte Mhath".

To be concise at this point, I need, I urge to express that "Clutching at Straws" contains a very especial formula reinvented by Derek DICK that despite of the public response and the critics, worked out pretty well. That formula was pursued by the songwriter from Edinburgh three years later in "Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors", his first solo career album. This is the living proof of a reborn MARILLION that explored new trends and that at that time had a peculiar way to experiment inside the music business without relying on the most recurred music style to sell out their records persuasively (Pop) at the moment "Clutching at Straws" was released. Great album, it could've used some "Punch and Judy" to achieve my whole Five Stars rating, but certainly a great piece of work. Recommended for helplessly faithful MARILLION fans.

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Send comments to The Prognaut (BETA) | Report this review (#12169)
Posted Monday, June 14, 2004 | Review Permalink
Easy Livin
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
3 stars A single Fish?

Fish's final album with the band was for me a bit of a disappointment. With expectations high after the excellent "Misplaced Childhood" (MC) the hope was that "Clutching at straws" would find the band continuing to develop their own sound, while exploring new and more complex avenues. Instead, what we get is essentially an album of disconnected songs (even if there is a "concept") with basic structures, and more than a nod towards the singles charts.

With the unexpected success of "Lavender" and Kayleigh" from MC, is was perhaps understandable that the band should try to emulate this, but with "Clutching at straws" it seems to be done at the expense of anything remotely progressive. The overriding influence on the material is Fish's personal problems, with lines such as "So if you want my address, it's number 1 at the end of the bar" finding his heart openly on his sleeve. The problem with such themes is that the public (and indeed private) message becomes more important than the music (see Phil Collins!). That appears to be what has happened here.

There are of course good pieces of music, "White Russian" while somewhat wordy is excellent. "Incommunicado" is a good pop single, which did reasonably well chart wise, and "Sugar mice" manages to combine the painfully personal message with a half decent tune. It is ironic that the final track, "The last straw" pleads that "Everything is still the same", while Fish unknowingly(or not?) at the time, bids farewell to the band.

A passable but disappointing album, which made it all too clear that something did indeed have to change, and of course significant change was just around the corner.

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Send comments to Easy Livin (BETA) | Report this review (#12170)
Posted Tuesday, July 20, 2004 | Review Permalink
Gatot
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars I find it TOUGH to review this album as I had had some emotional bound with the band on their early albums. It's tough man .. I tell you . tough! Why? Because this album was the first time I sensed that the band would defunct especially when I heard Fish sings "Many of times I've been thinking about changing my way .." in "Just for the Record" track. You bet! Actually, Fish sung this to represent the character of Torch featured in this album as a writer who loves and addicted to alcohol. But for me, it was too personal because the first time I received this LP from Roy, my friend in Dodrecht, Holland I got nothing about the story of this album. I knew nothing about Torch because I was not aware of internet at that time. Since I knew the band from "Script" album, I kept hoping to have next albums of the band and worrying on how long the band would survive. Every time they release an album, I felt "relieved" knowing that they're alive.

FINALLY, HE LEFT THE BAND . "Clutching At Straws" was the last Marillion studio album to feature Fish on vocals. Fish declared that 'Clutching At Straws was my self-penned obituary' in a post split interview (Gone Fishing - Kerrang! 1989). In 1987, an interviewer asked 'Have you ever had your fortune told?' Fish replies, 'Yes, quite a few times. One bloke a few years back got it all spot on. He said I would have three careers and I've had two of them already with the forestry and then with Marillion and he said I would marry at twenty nine which is right as well. The third career is supposed to start in 18 months time but I've no idea what it will be. Maybe serious acting or writing a novel.' Almost exactly 18 months later, Fish left the band. Planned? Well, in all likelihood, it was purely coincidental, but it is true to say that so much information was flying about in the press, much of it contradictory, that the Marillion fans are unlikely to ever know the true story of the split.

THE COVER The cover for Clutching At Straws was another Mark Wilkinson work. Unlike the other studio albums, Clutching is not a gatefold. The logo has been changed though it still retains the essential curves of the old logo. The pictures are both photos of the interior of the Baker's Arms pub, with famous characters painted into the scene by Wilkinson. All of them had serious problems with substance abuse, many of them citing it as either an aid to their creativity or a crutch to protect themselves from the surreal nature of fame. The people are: front cover, left to right along bar: Robert 'Rabbie' Burns, Dylan Thomas, Truman Capote and Lenny Bruce. Some brief details: Robert Burns (Scottish national poet) died aged 37 of alcohol poisoning, Dylan Thomas (Welsh poet, died at 39) also died of alcohol poisoning. Truman Capote, author of 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' and 'In Cold Blood' died aged 59, of a combination of alcohol, drugs and pills (probably suicide) and social satirist and comedian Lenny Bruce died of a heroin overdose aged 40. On the back from left to right: John Lennon, James Dean and Jack Kerouac

THE TRACKS

The opening track "Hotel Hobbies" is very uplifting, dynamic and full of energy. I keep playing this track loudly when I listen to it. It's so rocking! I like the bass line by Trewavas as well as lead guitar by Rothery. Fantastic! Fish commented: "This song is about being on tour and it's really late at night and you're bored, and you hear all these girls wandering down the corridors and you peer through the spyhole in the door to see what's going on!" It flows seamlessly with smooth transition to "Warm Wet Circle" which talks about small, hometown stuff; the dangers of getting trapped in the 9.00 to 5.00 syndrome and then going down to the pub and talking about things you'll never really do. It's a very nice track opened with soft guitar fills. It has a great tagline melody throughout the song with high and low points. The piece that I really love is when Fish screams "She nervously undressed on the dancing beam of a Fydra Lighthouse ...giving it all the way .. showing no shame" Uuuuuggghhh . what a wonderful pitch!

The 2nd track flows seamlessly to 3rd track "That Time of the Night" with a punchy clavinet sound that makes this track bit poppy but still nice. The beginning of this track is mellow and it has high point with Fish voice. Later I realized that this song was written when Fish was in his hotel room and thinking about resigning from the band. What a sad song.

"Just for the Record" is a keyboard-based song with an upbeat tempo and high energy. Opened with a piano / keyboard solo, followed by energetic drumming and vocal who enter at the same time. The music and vocal line flow nicely with great keyboard interlude. This is quite different to the stuff before, it's a real contrast. This is about being in a happy mood and knocking drinks back in the bar and going "I can stop any day, it's noooo problem! I havnee got a drink problem!" and in actual fact you've got a severe drink problem!

The next track "White Russian" really blew me. It has a thematic intro with great musical tunes and vocal line "Where do we go from here?". Oh man .. the first time I heard this song I had a mixture of feelings. First, it's a sad feeling that seemed the band (Fish) was questioning about the future direction of the band. Second, a feeling of admiration as the musical composition is really beautiful and makes me cry admiring its beauty. The music has countless segments with nice melody. For example, the part where Fish sings "Racing the clouds home .." WOW! What a nice melody, my friend ..!!!!!! And .. it's not the end. Observe the melody when the lyric is "We place our faith in human rights ..." another nice punch! (According to Fish, this is a heavy, soul- searching song that touches on politics and deals with the Jewish problem in Austria.)

"Incommunicado" is an uplifting track with an upbeat tempo and punchy keyboard solo. It rocks! It's a sort of macho-gung-ho approach! Torch really wants to be famous but he doesn't want the responsibilities that go with fame. "Torch song" and "Slàinte Mhath" are continuous song that should be listened to as a one unity. Torch is smoking and drinking and coughing and you can hear this 'Dr. Finlay' character going 'If you maintain this lifestyle' you won't reach 30.' Actually, the coughing noises are for real. At first spin, I didn't like these two but the more I spin, it grew. Especially when I watch "Live from Lorelei" video where "Slàinte Mhath" was the opening track.

If you like "Chelsea Monday" of the Script album, you will definitely love "Sugar mice". It's a nice mellow track. The concluding track, "The last straw" is really fantastic! Torch has gone so far down that the only way he can go now is up! He starts writing again, and drinking again, and there's a line that goes 'Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water' - which is a good cue for a drink! The music has a very strong melody and tight structure with various tempo. It represents the true character of Torch who is willing to come back as a writer.

Highly recommended album. I suggest you buy the 2-CD version as it has many previously unreleased tracks. I like "Beaujolais day" even though the sonic quality is not good. In my view, Marillion has NEVER produced album as brilliant as Fish era. Yes, they're alive but they lost "the soul" of Marillion music. The first four studio albums are all WORTH to own. I rate all of them 5/5. - Gatot Widayanto, Indonesia.

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Send comments to Gatot (BETA) | Report this review (#12171)
Posted Wednesday, August 18, 2004 | Review Permalink
4 stars Music becomes excellent when you FEEL it, when the lyrics make you think, when the instruments pour out emotion.

CAS came out at a very rough time in my personal life. I had been a Marillion fan since SFAJT, and eagerly anticipated this release. A friend purchased it first, and called me to tell me to listen to it closely. The lyrics were the first thing to grab me. "It was a wedding ring destined to be found in a cheap motel/ lost in a kitchen sink or thrown into a wishing well", "Where do we go from here?", "Where I sit with the broken angels/ Clutching at straws and nursing our scars/ Blame it on me"

The cover exactly matched the tone of the contents. The great artists who had thrown their lives away for their art (Dylan Thomas, Lenny Bruce, etc.). The quote on the inner sleeve from Erasmus' "In Praise of Folly".

Then the music. I didn't like it at first, the songs were short, many slow and quiet. After repeated listens, though, I understood that the mood of the music matches the mood of the lyrics. The bridge between "Warm Wet Circles" and "That Time of the Night", with the bass line pounding like a heartbeat. The manic laughter that you have to listen for at the very end of the record ("Happy Ending" on the album). And the solo to "Sugar Mice". Steve Rothery's guitar turning from mourning bends to angry chords, as Fish's lyrics become self-loathing: "Ain't no one left in here to blame but me".

Anyone who can listen to this music and not feel it ... I don't understand.

I love this disk, but I withhold a five star rating because it is not the best place to start if not familiar with MARILLION or FISH. A better starting point would be MISPLACED CHILDHOOD. This disk is also not pure "prog", due to the shorter tracks, and the simpler nature of the songs. But for those who want an emotional journey, as well as very good musicianship, regardless of the genre, this is a must have disk.

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Send comments to lobster41 (BETA) | Report this review (#12172)
Posted Thursday, October 07, 2004 | Review Permalink
eanmund44@mai
5 stars Although Marillion fans seem to go overboard with their praise for the preceding album "Misplaced Childhood" (which seems weak and poppy in places), "Clutching At Straws" is Marillion's masterpiece. The songwriting is top-notch, the balance between heavy, medium, and quieter songs is great, and the musicianship and moods projected by the band are at their peak. This is an album that belongs in every prog-rock collection. This also sounds great at loud volumes.

Highlights include the energetic "Incommunicado", powerful "White Russian", cool "Slainth Mhath", and the smoky and dreamy "That Time of the Night".

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#12173)
Posted Monday, October 11, 2004 | Review Permalink
Guillermo
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars After this album, there wasn`t a real reason to keep Fish as a member in Marillion. This album has the most personal lyrics that Fish wrote for them, and because he wanted more and more to be himself, his lifestyle really caused problems with the rest of the members of the band. The "concept" of this album is about a "tormented artist" who is having problems with substances and who is in a personal crisis about what he is going to do in the future. In the case of Fish, as he explained in Marillion`s official website, in the "Bios" section, he was tired of touring, he wanted to have a more "quiet" life, he had some problems with substance abuse, and he wanted to spend more time with his new wife, as he didn`t want to spoil his love relationship as he did in the past because he was so concentrated in his musical career. Also, he started to have some political ideas, and his ideas were not shared by the band. So, in my opinion, this album is Fish`s statement about changes in his life that he needed at the time and that he did when he left the band. They still toured for this album, but there were a lot of problems in the band as Fish wanted to change the manager of the band, too, against the wishes of the rest of the members of the band. So, this is a "dark" album, but with very good "atmospheres" by Rothery and Kelly, and some very good songs. My favourite songs from this album are:"Incommunicado", "Sugar Mice", "White Russian", "Torch Song" and "Going Under" (this last song wasn`t released in the L.P., but it was included as a bonus track in the CD). After this album and the tour for this album, they started to compose some new music, with Fish still in the band and writing lyrics. But it didn`t work, and Fish left the band. The music of some of these songs with Fish was used for the new songs for the "Seasons End" album. Fish also used his lyrics for these songs for his new songs for his first solo album, which was released in 1990.

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Send comments to Guillermo (BETA) | Report this review (#12174)
Posted Friday, October 15, 2004 | Review Permalink
Tristan Mulders
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Marillion - Clutching at Straws

In 1987 the grand finale of Marillion's Fish-era was released, "Clutching at Straws". Just like the previous three albums, this album seemed to be yet another chapter in the biography of Fish's life. Whereas he previously wrote lyrics about the loss of (some of his) friends and (his) childhood, this album is not any more uplifting, most of it deals with addictions to both alcohol as well as drugs. I always personally had the strong feeling that all four albums Marillion released with Fish onboard were one conceptual piece of art, ranging from his childhood to his adulthood and various problems he encountered on the way towards adulthood.

"Clutching at Straws" is maybe not the most original album from Marillion's Fish-era, but I still find myself playing it far more often than any of the other three albums that preceded it. Perhaps the fact that most of the music and lyrics are lesser mystical and abstract than on the previous albums, makes the album more accessible for repeated listens. About half of the album is not even that progressive at all, mainly straightforward rock music, instead of Prog. But don't let that fool you: the album opens with an epic suite lasting for exactly fourteen minutes spanned over three songs. This suite features one of my favourite tracks of Marillion: Warm wet Circles. An easily accessible song -also released as a single, I guess because of that very reason- which is divided into two parts. The first half of the song has quite a friendly atmosphere, whereas the part that follows is fairly heavy, both musically as well as emotionally seen.

What's also a personally highlight is the intermezzo that is Going under. This barely three minutes long acoustic piece is all about madness. And madness it is. You can't escape it, it's simply everywhere in this song. The track has a very depressing mood to it, mainly created by Fish's sombre singing of his sad lyrics and the repetitive guitar lick. The sliding synthesizer waves are not making things any happier too. This song is also available as an 'extended mix' on the two disc remaster edition of this album. I personally prefer that version, because it has an electric guitar solo added to the mix, that's the extended part; the track is not longer.

The last noticeable highlight is a Marillion classic: Sugar Mice. I guess these are the saddest lyrics Fish has written. The feelings of sorrow and plain sadness are everywhere. Looking at the lyrics from a weird perspective one could see this song as a public excuse to everyone that Fish think he'd hurt during his life at that point.

The other tracks that I didn't mention would get an average three stars per song, mainly because they're all good compositions with good musicianship, but they're lacking just that little extra to call it a great song.

A worthy ending for a worthy artist. actually. maybe the past years have only been an introduction to Fish, his solo stuff is sometimes better than what he did while he was a member of Marillion.

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Send comments to Tristan Mulders (BETA) | Report this review (#12175)
Posted Saturday, October 16, 2004 | Review Permalink
3 stars A nice album but a shadow of previous work. Hotel Hobbies and White Russian are real masterpieces wich are real Marillion songs but overall I think they tried to reach the succes of Kayleigh because the songs are less complex then before. For example Going under, Just for the record, Incommunicado, Sugar mice are very average songs with not much complexity in it. It is obvious that Marillion have tried to reach a broather audience with this record. To much of a top 40 level I think but nevertheless a nice album wich attract me once in a while skipping some songs away it is good to listen to. One of the important things of this album is that it was the last performance of Fish befor he leaves Marillion. I remember feeling sad about it in that time and this record was the last straw for the fans of Marillion with Fish! Nevertheless I give this album 3 stars because the most of the songs are to average!

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Send comments to J@pie Mol (BETA) | Report this review (#12176)
Posted Sunday, October 17, 2004 | Review Permalink
5 stars After reading all the other reviews there isn´t a lot more to say, cos CAS is the very best of what Marillion did in the Fish-era, the only missing thing (on the rerelease, too) is the full version of Sugar Mice. Nearly every songs is perfect, although Ì don`t like Incommunicado, but the whole CD has some special and a little dark atmoshere, I really like

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Send comments to Abominog (BETA) | Report this review (#12180)
Posted Wednesday, January 26, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars Last album and last masterpiece by Fish's Marillion. The work is online with the previous three works as style, as amazing compositions and as musicianship. This last work of Fish's era has the historical characteristics of Marillion's origins. The sound is always ethereal thanks to the good job of Kelly on keyboards and Rothery on guitar. The wefts of bass and drums by Trewavas and Mosley form an optimal base for the vocal parts of the genius in the flesh, Fish. So I reccommend this album to all.

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Send comments to dodaro (BETA) | Report this review (#12186)
Posted Wednesday, May 18, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars One would think, were I to describe an album to be progressive-rock influenced, drenched in keyboards and (mostly) riff-rock free, that I would be describing some post- Genesis/Pink Floyd hybrid of wimpy rock or Spinal Tap in their "Tap" free-form jazz odyssey stage. Not so in this case, though the description fits somewhat. In Marillion's earlier incarnation we have a band that definitely wants to be Genesis, down to the lead singer's unique voice and early predilection to paint himself before taking the stage, ala Peter Gabriel. Three albums later, their singular course had definitely charted.and was definitely divergent from the latter-day Genesis/neo-prog movement. Lead singer Derek Dick ("Fish") has just too damn much to say to be part of a beautiful musical tapestry-weaving machine, and that strong influence makes all the difference on "Clutching at Straws," Marillion's fourth studio album, and Fish's last, released in 1988. A barroom brawler, a two fisted scribbler of delicate beer-napkin poetic images, Derek Dick nurtured his alter ego of Fish on earlier albums into a larger- than-life figure, the iconic self-destructing rock star of massive talent, potential, and capacity for self-harm. On this album, he holds the cloudy mirror up to Fish (playing a character named "Torch" here), to point out his excesses and bad choices in sharp relief to the precise, and on the surface, light music. What at first is a confessional becomes a strangely schizophrenic and very personal monologue in two voices. The album is Derek Dick realizing that Fish is not just a construct, not just stage paint anymore.he intended to hold a mirror up to Fish and saw Fish holding the mirror up to him. Imagine the scene in Raging Bull where DeNiro is confronting himself in the looking glass.then imagine that scene in real life, but with Hemingway yelling at his reflection that it'd better sober up, before it did something stupid. The musicianship on this album is almost too good. It becomes such a perfect accompaniment to Fish's quick- witted and dour lyrics and vocals that it almost fades away behind the anger of it all. It is a testament to the writing that the music almost gets lost.they are playing to their strengths on this album best when they realize the music is the spotlight within which we are witnessing not the poetic representation of man's crisis of identity, but the very real breakdown of the very real lead singer. Torch/Fish/Derek Dick spew bile and writhe in the light of honesty and irony of the so-called happy hour, speaking in a voice familiar with but never accepting the last call that is this album. From the broad anxiety of "White Russian" to the denial and Walter Mitty-ish quality of "Incommunicado" to the quiet resign of "That Time of the Night" to the final, blistering acceptance of Hell on "The Last Straw," the album is harrowing in it's honesty and portrait of madness. Is this the best expression of the band that is Marillion? No. Like "The Wall" which is really less Pink Floyd and more Roger Waters with the best backup band in the world, this is not the place to begin to explore this early version of Marillion. I would say "Misplaced Childhood" is that stepping stone. This is an album that should not have been: The last gasp of a destroyed solo performer, who never (at that point) had a chance to go solo.

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Send comments to CellarRat (BETA) | Report this review (#37282)
Posted Wednesday, June 22, 2005 | Review Permalink
erik neuteboom
PROG REVIEWER
1 stars This is Chapter Three of MY BIGGEST PROGROCK DISILLUSIONS. I'm a Marillion freak from the very beginning, we used to play "Grendel" until we were drunk or fell asleep! Their first album was wonderful Genesis-inspired prog and their second put them on the map as a pivotal neo-progressive rock band, it's also their most mature and original record. The third album is 50-50, half is good, half is boring, it was an omen to the next LP "Clutching at straws". When I bought this record and listened to it, I realised that it was over with Marillion because Fish had disturbed the balance, he had become too dominant and was too busy with his alcohol problem. On this album I could find only a few moments that delightened me but in fact I had to admit that the wonderful period of following the early Marillion had come to an end and that was very painfull... and still hurts because early Marillion and Fish are my heroes!

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Send comments to erik neuteboom (BETA) | Report this review (#37488)
Posted Friday, June 24, 2005 | Review Permalink
3 stars Clutching at straws was definitely a bit of a disappointment for me. Having been introduced to this fabulous band by their illustrous debut Script and having experienced that these guys were able to continue at that high level on its successors, this one really falls from the cliff. The songs are quite okay, although I really dislike Incommunicado, the chemistry is gone, the melodies are more or less uninspired, the arrangements are too short. The longer songs are undoubtedly the best albeit that Torch Song and Slainte Mhath are quite nice to listen to. But for the rest it is not the Marillion I'd like to hear. The decision to part after this album was a good one, I think. Fish made his two strongest albums in the next couple of years before tumbling down ánd rising again, fortunately. And Marillion made the best choice they could have made by recruting Steve Hogarth. As for this album, it´s nice to have, it´s nice to listen to most of it once a year nut it didn´t rock the ocean at all.

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Send comments to Theo Verstrael (BETA) | Report this review (#38148)
Posted Friday, July 01, 2005 | Review Permalink
4 stars The most mature album Marillion did with Fish. There's a darkness about it all emphasised by the dark bar scene cover. I bought it new on the day it came out and played it constantly for months. Early in the album the lyrics to 'Warm Wet Circles' paint a scene as clearly as any Fish has done, but the song seems to drift along and emphasise that he and the band were moving apart.'White Russian' has no such problem, however, and is punchy and aggressive Marillion at their best.

The album sounds as fresh today as it did then and has aged really well, but the music generally still doesn't move me as much as on 'Misplaced Childhood'.

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Send comments to oldcrow (BETA) | Report this review (#38952)
Posted Saturday, July 09, 2005 | Review Permalink
Cygnus X-2
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars By far my favorite Marillion album. Featuring gritty lyrics, gritty vocals, superb guitar work, catchy songs, and aggression and spite, this is the culmination of all the bad things that had been happening to Marillion at the time. This would be Fish's last studio effort with Marillion, but he left with a bang. From the opening of Hotel Hobbies to the closing duet of The Final Straw, the extremely personal and moody lyrics fit seamlessly with the brilliant guitar work from Rothery (in my opinion, his best), from his quiet Hackett-esque clean sections to his emotional solo sections. Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas create cohesive and well rehearsed rhytms and Mark Kelly creates moody enviornments to accentuate Rothery's guitars.

The opener, Hotel Hobbies, begins the saga of Fish's struggle with alcohol (as does this entire album). It features a great solo from Rothery in the middle, a great chorus, and some great rhythm work from Mosley and Trewavas. It flows seamlessly into Warm Wet Circles, which begins with some great modulated guitar work from Rothery, and soon becomes one of the most personal songs of the albums. It features a catchy chorus and a great bass performance from Trewavas. Other songs worth mentioning are Incommunicado, which has a very catchy chorus, and a very upbeat riff that fits well with the mood of the song. Sugar Mice is an emotional tune that features some fo Fish's best vocals on the album. And the finale, The Last Straw, features a great duet outro between Fish and a female vocalist. On the Bonus disk of the remaster release, most of the songs are demos of the Clutching at Straws album, but the songs that aren't on Clutching at Straws are superb, especially Tux On. This single features a very catchy chorus, and some great guitar from Rothery.

Overall, Marillion's final album with Fish is a masterpiece of music to me. It's all a superb experience that I recommend that everyone check out. 5/5.

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Send comments to Cygnus X-2 (BETA) | Report this review (#40431)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
arnoldlayne@m
5 stars The final Marillion studio album with Fish as vocalist sees the subject direction and success of Misplaced Childhood maintained, with the lead singer producing a semi-autobiographical account of his life and his love of, and battle with the demon drink.

With occasional forays into politics (White Russian) and the lure, perils and trappings of the fame game (Incommunicado), Fish displays a startling admittance of the problems he had created for himself, with his soul searching (particularly prevalent on Sugar Mice) providing a superbly emotional, bleak and bitter soundscape for the listener.

An alcoholic's album but a brilliant one nonetheless and a fond farewell from the Fish era Marillion.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#40438)
Posted Wednesday, July 27, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars No Marillion album has ever given me the same emotions as Clutching at Straws. Lyrics, melodies, song environments blend to create this masterpiece concept album about alcoholism. Loneliness, euphoria, despair, nostalgia... We are put in front of a gallery of widely expressed feelings, of various moods created by perfectly chosen sounds. Fish's last studio album with Marillion involves interesting progressive tunes as well as deeply emotional ballads, all characterised by the band's signature style and by the moving vocals. From the opening suite Hotel hobbies/Warm wet circles/That time of the night (which alone would be a reason to make this album an essential piece for every prog collection) the atmosphere created by Kelly's keyboards, the heartbreaking Rothery's guitar solos, the unforgivable bass lines played by Trewavas with the steady presence of Mosley's drums, all topped by Fish's most evocative lyrics, contribute to the realization of the album feeling. Catchier songs like Incommunicado, White Russian and Just for the record blend with melancholy ballads like Sugar mice, Going under and Torch song. A tune like Slainte Mhath is hardly describable in words, especially after experiencing the live performance on the From Stoke Row to Ipanema DVD. And the closer The last straw is no disappointment whatsoever, being the perfect ending to one of the best albums ever made by man.

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Send comments to kevderjor (BETA) | Report this review (#40686)
Posted Thursday, July 28, 2005 | Review Permalink
marillionlive
5 stars This was Marillions first masterpiece.

A very dark and personal album to Fish, this was the album which showed the direction the band would go musically and the direction Fish would go (quite literally!)

It is hard to believe that the band were at each others throats when you listen to this album, but it contains some of the best music they have ever put down on CD. Sugar Mice has one of the best guitar solos ever on it whilst Going Under was almost a resignation letter by Fish! We can only wonder at what would have been if they had taken a long holiday after finishing the recording instead of going out on tour and then back into the studio. At least we have this record to remember just how good they became! This record will not date. An absolute classic.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#41374)
Posted Wednesday, August 03, 2005 | Review Permalink
lm_vazewald@h
5 stars I finally feel I can give an honest review of this album after seeing some recent 5-star reviews. For me, this is Marillion's finest work, and really delivers emotionally. I get feelings from this album that I've never quite experienced before. Hard to explain, but it really just hits me the right way (and in a very different way). Just an incredible experience, and one I know I'll never tire of. The lyrics (and title) speak of the utter futility some of us experience while fighting alcoholism. A very personal, yet worldly album.

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Send comments to (BETA) | Report this review (#42481)
Posted Thursday, August 11, 2005 | Review Permalink
5 stars "Clutching at Straws" comes along as probably the most complete, cohesive and solid effort from the Fish era. In this record we can find almost everything that made this musical stage a highly enjoyable one. We have melancholy and lyric beauty, like in "Misplaced Childhood" but also we can find passages of reckoning energy, like in the two first albums, and sometimes this two tendencies are even mixed in individual songs (like "Hotel Hobbies" or "That time of the night"). And like it happened in its predecessor, Fish seems to have a vocal balance here as well.

"Hotel Hobbies" starts in a low and gentle way and after some moments, Steve Rothery comes into action to provide us with an excellent rocker. "Warm Wet Circle" is one of the melancholic and mellow pieces of the album. "That time of the night" repeats the pattern of "Hotel Hobbies", being probably one the strongest songs found here. "Going under", another melancholic, is filled with a excellent and subtle guitar riff and with a rich and romantic atmosphere. "Just for record" is a more synth-based song, with some loops trademark of Mark Kelly. "White Russian" is a highly narrative composition filled with a rhytmic pattern of piano and Rothery's mellow guitar work. "Incommunicado" is by far the most hyper and energetic song from the record, and probably from most of the Fish musical stage. Quite enjoyable. "Torch Song" is another romantic ballad which shows how Fish had developed very good manners performing this kind of songs. "Slainte Mhath" shows us another excellent guitar riff and again the atmospheric textures found previously on the album are present here and to put an appropiate end to the song, Rothery and Fish make another of their numerous and memorable tandems of guitar and vocals. "Sugar Mice" is a slightly weak song, again filled with melancholic touches. "The Last Straw" is an appropiate Summary for the record, and a good farewell for it and Fish after all. It has again strong female backing vocals, like in "The Short Straw".

Then, all of those who liked and enjoyed early Marillion's albums should have this one as well, since it is probably the most artistic and well structured of them.

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Send comments to shyman (BETA) | Report this review (#67255)
Posted Sunday, January 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars The last two studio records of the Fish era Marillion were a wreck in my opinion when I first them inmediatly after their release. Now 20 years later I still believe that of MC, but TLS is a real winner. Here we have a band evolving in their sound, graduating to a new perspective and just expecting Hogarth to show up. You can hear the guitar sound in songs like Torch Song and Slainte Mhath and you´ll know what I mean. In the other hand Just for the Record is a celebration of the times they were leaving behind, a new Market Square Heroes and they were singing and playing it with the heart, try not to get goosebumps withe Mark Kelly solo, impossible, and Incommunicado is a pop prog song which I love love every single time I play it. All in all a good record and certanly the last straw of one of the best bands in the eighties.

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Send comments to steelyhead (BETA) | Report this review (#67383)
Posted Sunday, January 29, 2006 | Review Permalink
richardh
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars A fairly dull album that is only briefly livened up by Incommunicado featuring Mark Kellys bullet like synth playing.At least Misplaced Childhood had some point as a 'pop prog' album.This is sub Pink Floyd stuff that leaves behind the Pre -Grabiel Genesis era pretensions and replaces it with deadly serious social commentary.One big yawn.

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Send comments to richardh (BETA) | Report this review (#67387)
Posted Monday, January 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
Trotsky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars I can still remember the scene. I was watching Top of the Pops back in 1987 ... and was eagerly waiting to see who had come up with the highest new entry. Suddenly there it was at number 6 ... and Marillion appeared "live". I'll never forget the sight of the swaggering Fish (in a white suit, I believe) defiantly tearing his way through Incommunicado. Trewewas' propulsive bass and Mark Kelly's whirlwind keyboards also made a big impression, but it was Fish who ultimately reigned over that song.

I was too young at the time to appreciate all the hints that Clutching At Straws was to be Fish's farewell album, nor indeed would I have been able to predict what sort of impact that would have on my own enjoyment of the group's music. In hindsight I can see that was a clear move towards shorter songs with a more commercial edge. Despite that potentially damming verdict it was not as if Marillion were "selling out" on any level ... at least not when I assess the credibility of the individual tracks, which on average surpass the material on the infinitely more "progressive" Fugazi.

Aside from the strident defiant Incommunicado ("sometimes it feels like I've been here before!"), this album is a parade of exciting melodies and cynical lyrics, some of them unforgettable. Warm Wet Circles is gently seductive, Going Under is joyously in-your-face and contains some great playing from the underused synth-meister player Mark Kelly (although I'll be damned if I don't hear a hint of Men At Work and The Police's flirtation with reggae!) The anthemic feel of Slainthe Mhath and the glorious final ballad Sugar Mice (anybody else feel a lump in their throat at the thought of "sugar mice in the rain"? are other gems that stick out.

Still, I do have complaints ... and I can well imagine that anyone coming to this album expect challenging progressive music will do as well ... for Clutching At Straws is at best a prog-tinged pop/rock album. By this time I arrived at this album I was already sick of Steve Rothery's soloing style and the commercial sheen can be a little off-putting ... check out the sessionist backing vocals on That Time Of Night (although admittedly it works best on the outro of The Last Straw ... "we're still drowning, clutching at straws" is powerful stuff.

In a way, Clutching At Straws feels to live up to Misplaced Childhood, and certainly can't compete with the best of Marillion's prog (Grendel, Script For A Jester's Tear, Forgotten Sons, Blind Curve, etc), yet is a bordeline classic if you are accepting of the neo-prog style of music. Still I can't help listening to this with a tinge of regret (and not just about my lost youth!) ... I'm one of those who feels that Marillion have never truly recovered from Fish's depature. And in a sense, the game really was over. ... 60% on the MPV scale

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Send comments to Trotsky (BETA) | Report this review (#73791)
Posted Saturday, April 01, 2006 | Review Permalink
sleeper
PROG REVIEWER
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.

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Send comments to sleeper (BETA) | Report this review (#78260)
Posted Monday, May 15, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars 3.5 stars, really.

Clutching at Straws is simultaneously more pop-oriented than Marillion's previous album, Misplaced Childhood, and less so at the same time. While certain songs on that release such as "Kayleigh" and "Lavender" lent themselves to pop radio easily, there were several holdouts on Misplaced Childhood. The longer songs, "Bitter Suite" and "Blind Curve," and several other shorter songs that don't fit a pop format at all really keep it from being the complete pop album that some people think it is. That's not really the case at all on Clutching at Straws. Most all of the songs are just about the length of a typical pop song, perhaps a bit longer, and the songs fit the pop mold structurally as well. But what's really unique about Clutching at Straws, especially taking into account that the song lengths and structures would have you believe it to be a pop record, is that it is a moody, bitter, angry, and sometimes quite dark album. It's second only to Script for a Jester's Tear in this respect, I believe. But whereas Script was a depressing journey, Clutching at Straws is...not uplifting.but definitely a bit detached.

Though not necessarily a strict concept album, Clutching at Straws has a few recurring themes floating throughout. The main impression one would get upon reading the lyrics at the first release of the album would be that the band was in it's last throes, and it was in a way. Fish would soon leave to begin a successful solo career. Marillion would continue on, of course, replacing Fish with the talented Steve Hogarth. But this album is a sort of documentary of a band coming apart at the seams, the split occurring between the band and the singer.Fish. This is obviously a personal album for Fish, and he lets his feelings be known. The lyrics detail his frustration with the band, and even the title of the album gives the listener a good idea of the sentiments the band was feeling at the time.

The music on Clutching at Straws isn't really hard to digest, but it's not blatant pop either. Some songs are more light-hearted than others such as "Incommunicado," which is curiously happy-sounding when considering the subject matter. "Just for the Record" is the same way. "White Russian" begins with atmospheric keyboards and jumps into an angry and riotous tune guided by Fish's voice, which is practically a musical instrument in itself. The best songs open and close the album, however. I consider the three opening songs, "Hotel Hobbies," "Warm Wet Circles," and "That Time of Night" to be a sort of trilogy chronicling late nights on the road and spending countless nights in foreign hotels. The music is a bit dark and slow at the beginning, but often flowers into bursts of frenzied instrumentation. These songs would have worked excellently as one, but as they are now, I enjoy them all the same.

The last three songs aren't really connected as the first three are, but they're all brilliantly crafted for an emotional impact. "Slainte Mhath" is driven by a great, epic chord progression that breaks the subdued verses. In this song, Fish is set loose to weave a story with his brilliant wording and use of metaphors. "Sugar Mice" is the saddest song on Clutching at Straws, a bittersweet reflection on the tensions in the band. A simple guitar arpeggio brings out the emotion the lyrics urge to convey. A sweeping guitar solo from Steve Rothery harkens back to his most emotive work on "Bind Curve," a highlight on Misplaced Childhood. "The Last Straw" ends Clutching at Straws on an angry note, with the lyrics outlining Fish's eventual resignation to the band being dead in the water. The music supports this sentiment with a fiery solo from Rothery and wailing vocals from a gust female singer. It's an appropriate way to end such an emotional journey as anything.

Clutching at Straws isn't the strongest Marillion album by far. While Fish still gets as much of the spotlight as ever, Mark Kelly (keyboards) and Pete Trewavas (bass) seem to be relegated to supporting roles at best. Mark, who had some truly praiseworthy parts on Misplaced Childhood, is sorely missed on Clutching at Straws save a few great piano lines on "Slainte Mhath." Bassists are usually the unsung heroes of any given band, but Trewavas is an excellent player and deserves more credit than the music gives him. Rothery does indeed give a lot of effort with his solo work, but in many cases, it all feels a little cold and uninspired. All told, the musicianship on Clutching at Straws is simply not as immediate and effective as that on Misplaced Childhood or Script for a Jester's Tear. Clutching at Straws is a necessary addition to any fan of Marillion, but it's one of the lesser Fish-era albums.

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Send comments to stonebeard (BETA) | Report this review (#81952)
Posted Sunday, June 25, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars Fish's last hurrah with Marillion comes up a little short of its predecessor, but to come short of a masterpiece is hardly an insult. Clutching At Straws very much goes along the lines of Misplaced Childhood, except if Misplaced Childhood is Abel, then Clutching At Straws is Cain. CAS is much darker and depressing than Childhood, even lacking the customary happy ending to send you off on a high note. However, as is often true in life, the most beautiful things can be found in the darkest places. As you make your way through the dark chasms of Fish's emotions, you'll begin to see this beauty unfold in the melodies and words of CAS. I feel this album has less of a focus on instrumentation that its predecessor, instead following mostly the lyrics and top-notch vocals of Fish. However, when in possession of a talent such as his, why not exploit it?

If we talk about the story of the album, it is very much jaded, and while there is a concept, it develops poorly. The songs fail to effectively segue into each other(barring some exceptions) making it at times seem like a collection of singles.

A Fish depressed is a Fish at his best. The combination of Fish's vocal's and Kelly's and Rothery's subtle mastery combine beautifully for tear inducing performances. At times this album reaches unparallel greatness ("Warm Wet Circles") but at times it does fall on its face ("Incommunicado"). Luckily, the good moments greatly outweigh the bad. The remastered edition with a second disk of bonus tracks is greatly recommended if you decide (as you should) to purchase this album.

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Send comments to Equality 7-2521 (BETA) | Report this review (#82271)
Posted Friday, June 30, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars What a great album! I really love Marillion (especially the Fish-era) and the songs on this album are SO beautiful! "That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw)" is a song that will be in my mind for the rest of my life, I'm really convinced of that. "For The Record" is wonderful sympho, with great synthesizer-work and 7/8. "White Russian" is a key-piece in Marillion-history. Great vocals and melody. "Sugar Mice" is emotional and smooth. It made a good single.

This album is more complicated and progressive than "Misplaced Childhood" but not especially better or worse. It's just again a very good album, and the end of an era. Fish clutched the last straw. Recommended to sympho- fanatics!

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Send comments to Robin (BETA) | Report this review (#84178)
Posted Wednesday, July 19, 2006 | Review Permalink
4 stars I've been a fan of Marillion(Fish Era) since my college days. The first album which I got the opportunity to hear was a collection which included all great songs of Marillion(Fish) I searched for all the albums and go it one by one namely Misplaced childhood, Fugazi and Script for a jesters tears. That collection had the track White Russian which I did not know in which album it was. Later, when I found out the album was Clutching at Straws, I tried to get the album but in vain. It was not availabe anywhere in my place. Later witha help of a friend, I got it online. When I heard the album, I realised that it was entirely worth the effort I took to get it, and that I could have missed the best Marillion album if I avoided it. Not only white Russian, all the tracks are just excellent. The track which I like the most was That time of the night. The track started slowly with a soothing lead and then finally increasing pace in the end. Another great song is the Torch song. I recommend this album to all who liked listening to Fish and have ignored this album. Its unfortunate that we Marillion lovers have lost the lyrics and voice of Fish.

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Send comments to bibin (BETA) | Report this review (#101380)
Posted Saturday, December 02, 2006 | Review Permalink
3 stars This really isn't a bad album. Really.

The problem is, as many others have speculated, that this is the same band, with Fish as the singer, that released "Script," "Fugazi," and "Misplaced Childhood." That being said, it is difficult to place "Clutching at Straws" in context.

Personally, I love the first five songs of the album. The keyboards, the drums, the guitar interludes, Fish's vocals... all contribute to an undisputedly brilliant sound that tells a terrible story of addiction and the negative effects of such. I feel goosebumps when I hear lines such as "with all good intentions, I would probably run away -- clutching the short straw."

The problem with this album is that is falls apart about halfway through. To be perfectly honest, "White Russian" isn't a good song. It simply isn't. "Chasing the clouds home," yes, is a line full of emotion -- but the whole bit about "uzis on the street corner" -- what the hell is that? It seems apparent to me that this song was very "thrown-together," not very thought out.

From there, the level of disappointment hightens. Perhaps tracks such as "Incommunicado" may have been good in a different context, but with the premise that "White Russian" sets up they simply aren't. "Torch Song" and "Slainte Mhath" attempt to repair the damage these last two tracks have done, but can't quite counter the negative atmosphere already set up. The last two songs provide such little power as to not offer any affect whatsoever on the dynamic therefore given. Try as I might to be open minded about Fish's last effort with Marillion, I simply cannot give this album much credit beyond the first five songs.

If those first five were released in an E.P. just amongst themselves, this might be a different story. But as much of a Marillion fan as I am, I cannot afford this album more than 3 stars.

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Send comments to chorvath (BETA) | Report this review (#115443)
Posted Saturday, March 17, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog Leviathan
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars A delightfully depressing finale to Fish's involvement with the band. "Clutching at Straws" is almost as good as its predecessor, with the band playing its most together yet. Rothery's solos stand out above his previous work while Fish is probably at his best as well, gaining full control of his voice's range and using it to sow dark, brooding passages as well as soaring crescendos.

However, there are certainly a few weak points in the albums song-writing. "Just of the Record", "Incommunicado" and "White Russian" do seem out of place when sandwiched between the dark sounds of "Going Under" and "Torch Song". However, the power of "Warm Wet Circles", "Sugar Mice" and "The Last Straw" redeem the minor slips in time to complete the album on a high (depressing) note.

Songwriting: 3 Instrumental Performances: 4 Lyrics/Vocals: 4 Style/Emotion/Replay: 4

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Send comments to Prog Leviathan (BETA) | Report this review (#116748)
Posted Thursday, March 29, 2007 | Review Permalink
ZowieZiggy
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars The last studio album with Fish. Although it appeared as a shock for lots of Marillion fans, the mood was apparently very difficult during the recordings of "Clutching".

It will follow the same tendancy as "Misplaced" and propose several more pop-oriented songs like "Warm Wet Circles" (a bit Genesis-Collins oriented but not too bad) and "Sugar Mice" which has a very pleasant melody and the so typical guitar sound from Steve in the background. Some bombastic moments as well (especially the guitar, again). A commercial number but very catchy (which is the essence of a commercial track of course).

This album opens brilliantly with "Hotel Hobbies". A subtle piece of music, more in the style of their earlier days. But several tracks will be of that vein on this work and this is probably why I love it so much. After a few sentencesin "That Time of the Night" we' ll get a great spacey section. I think it is the most Floydian Marillion song in this intro. After this, the track will evolve into another great and pure Marillion song : fully emotional thanks to Fish's interpretation. Very light for most of the times, this song will also have its harder moments (but nothing as on "Fugazzi" of course). The first highlight.

"Going Under" is a short and spacey track again. A bit monotonous. We are fully brought into Genesis repertoire with "Just For the Record". Not as bad as when they were three, although it is definitely linked with this period of their career. I do not remember for which song I made this comment but you have to imagine Gabriel singing a song from the Collins era. Although it might sound pretty weird, I must say that a great keys break is helping this song a lot to remain on the good track. Again, a short number; the third one so far.

With the next song, Marillion will produce one of their most lyrical one. Extremely violent attack of all sorts of dictatorial regimes as well as terrorist acts (but who can blame them)? Although Fish mentioned in his intro for "Forgotten Sons" in the live DVD "Recital For The Script" that it was not meant to be a political song, this one confirms though that Marillion is also involved to denounce all the attacks to the human liberties, which can only be praised of course.

Some lyrics here :

"Terror in Rue de St. Denis, murder on the periphery", referring to the bomb attacks in Paris at that time. "My ideals, my sanity, they seem to be deserting me, But to stand up and fight I know we have six million reasons" referring of course to the Holocaust. We'll get it confirmed a little later : "The heralds of the holocaust uzis on a street corner, The silence never louder than now, how quickly we forgot our vows, This resurrection we can't allow, uzis on a street corner". Meaning that we should never forget what happended and fight against all the attempts of limiting the human rights.

And finally "You can shut your eyes, you can hide it away it's gonna come back another day". Let's meditate about this. But never forget !

"Incomunicado" is the hardest number of this album, and will often be the closing number of their concerts at that time. Not my fave but still a very strong number. This album is bloody good. Not a weak track so far.

"Torch Song" and "Slainte Mhath" will keep on the very good level. The later being a very powerful song with a great Fish again on the vocals. He has definitely a style of his own even if of course the Gabriel shadow is never far away. Saying the contrary is IMO denying the truth.

The closing number "The Last Straw" is as good as "The Short Straw (the other name for "That Time Of The Night"). The loop is looped.

What is again extraordinary with the remastered edition is that as usual we'll get a superb bookelt with lots of interesting information : from the sleeve artwork to the atmosphere of the recordings and finally the Fish saga that will lead to his sacking from the band. He will explain, without anger (but these liner notes dated from 1999) how the band reached this situation.

They had toured extensively for the "Misplaced" album with all the subsequent abuses of a long tour far away from home.

Dixit Fish : "We played some shows with Queen which not only retarded my rehabilitation but the close contact with Freddie and the boys even taught me some new methods of debauchery" ! Later on : "I remember one night after having wasted in the night club next door, eating a full meal provided by a very stoned Moroccan chef at midnight jumping in the river fully clothed and cutting my feet ragged on broken glass on the river bed, ingesting enough illicit substances to floor a large mammal and indulging in a full water battle in the bedrooms" !

It sounds pretty similar to what happended during the recording sessions of "Mislplaced" : sex, drugs, drinks and rock'n'roll...

We will also learn the genesis of several tracks of the album "Sugar Mice", "Incommunicado", "White Russian" and "That Time of the Night". Fish was also pretty much PO against their manager. He was asked to postpone his wedding to allow some promotional activities in the US. While ha was there with his girlfriend, he was told that the campaign had been cancelled...

Fish really wanted to change from manager and when he sent an ultimatum to the band to accept his conditions (including the changing of management) the other four preferred Fish to leave. It was the end of a wonderful story. Fish believed that : "A stronger management would not have allowed this self-destruction". What a mess, indeed !!!

this is over History, but most important : the bonus CD is really excellent. On par with the one of their debut album.

There will be some alternate versions of existing tracks : "Incommunicado" rawer and harder than the original, really good. An "extended" version for "Going Under". It is indeed extended by ...one second in comparison with the original number. I guess this highlights Marillion's sense of humour...

Same applies to "White Russians" (instead of Russian...) which is stripped in comparison with the original and "Sugar Mice" which will will be "In The Rain" for this remix.

But there will be several unrealeased numbers as well. And not fillers, believe me. This sufficiently proves the creativity of the band in those days. Great work indeed. "Tux On" which will be featured as a B-side but which is really good. A passionate track with a great beat and a fantastic guitar break. Good work Mr. steve.

The best of these unreleased track is definitely "Beaujolais Day". A very emotional one (once more). It starts like this : "I went to Morisson's grave at Pere Lachaise cemetery, The stony flowers and the matching graffiti were guiding me, To the steps inside of me". It also highlight Fish's tendancy towards some wonderful beverages (in this case the Beaujolias wine).

"Story From a Thin Wall" is of the same caliber. These are two from the best numbers of both CD's. Of course they are less commercial, and maybe more reviewers would have thought differently if those two numbers would have been released on the original album. I really wonder why they didn't actually. Exceptionally interesting, and again I 'm very thankful to Marillion for their excelllent work on these remasterings.

But the second CD only goes on and on with good numbers. "Sunset Hill" is a wonderful and melodious song. Full of sweetness and lightness. "Tic Tac Toe" is probably not on par with the previous nones, but again it could have sit on the original album without lowering its quality.

The wonderful guitar intro of "Voice In The Crowd" is another great moment, although the sound here clearly indicates that it is only a demo. What a pity !

"Exile on Princes Street" is another of these great songs. At this time of reviewing, I reasonably believe that Marillion had almost enough material to have released a double album. I was able to purchase this repackaged release for the price of one CD (around 13 ? at that time). At this price, it is really a bargain and I can not say anything else than to buy it in this double CD format to get as much Marillion songs as you can from the Fish era, which is by far my preferred one. No doubt about this.

Fours stars for this very album. Thank yo very, very much Mr. Derek William Dick.

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Send comments to ZowieZiggy (BETA) | Report this review (#122793)
Posted Saturday, May 19, 2007 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Of the first four MARILLION studio albums I would rank this behind only "Misplaced Childhood".This is like an autobiography about Fish's life really. Although it's supposed to be a concept record about a man called Torch and his addictions, and how he deals with fame.This is naturally then a dark album including the album cover that I have never liked. The front and back covers include Fish as well as some famous dead people, some who had addictions and died as a result of them. You could say that at this point in time Fish was looking for a way to leave MARILLION. He seemed to be escaping from reality through substance abuse and MARILLION was another part of his life he would leave behind soon after this release. All the songs blend together just like "Misplaced Childhood". I find this record to be not only dark but sad as well.

"Hotel Hobbies" starts off so quietly with reserved vocals until it explodes with some outstanding guitar solos. "Warm Wet Circles" is a great ballad-like tune with some good piano. Some soaring guitar after 3 minutes. "That Time Of The Night" (the short straw)" sounds fantastic when the keys come in. I like the tone of Fish's vocals as well as the guitar melodies. "Going Under" features synths and reserved vocals. I like it a lot.

"Just for the Record" is an ok synth laden, uptempo tune. It's the lyrics that are outstanding. "White Russian" has some great guitar and lyrics. "Incommunicado" was originally a jam song that the band would play for fun after a night out on the town. It became the big single off of the album. "Torch Song" has some monologue and I like the lyrics..."Burn a little brighter now". "Slainte Mhath" really reminds me of the eighties, and apparently the song title is like saying "cheers" in Scotland. "Sugar Mice" sort of plays out like "Hotel Hobbies" starting out quietly before becoming intense. Meaningful lyrics as well. "The Last Straw" / "Happy Ending" has the line "clutching at straws" in it and I love the aggressive guitar late in the song. Rothery is all over this record.

So there you have it ! A sad album in more ways than one. Fish's last words with MARILLION. Infamous last words.

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Send comments to Mellotron Storm (BETA) | Report this review (#124035)
Posted Thursday, May 31, 2007 | Review Permalink
Prog-jester
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars CaS was a spring album for me (I bought Script in August, Fugazi in October, Childhood in January and Clutching – in March), but in the time of buying (and some further months) I was set to the deepest “winter” depression. My favourite band has betrayed me. God-like Fish and the company of his guys gave up writing epics and singing about jesters and broken hearts; instead of it we have almost Pop-album with only one worthy track (“White Russian”). I was shocked to know that CaS can be someone’s favourite MARILLION record. I almost cursed the day when I bought it. I utterly despised everything connected with it – lamey concept (I don’t use any alcohol, so I just can’t get the point wholly), cheesy sound, predictable melodies, tired performance…OK, three good songs after all (“White Russian”, “The Last Straw”, “Sugar Mice”). And gosh, they could have done these three opening songs as a 14-min long track…And boy, how many good songs were left aside! “Story from the Thin Wall” (later to become “Berlin”, my fave H-era song), “Beaujolais Day”, “Tux On”, “Voice from the Crowd”…Thank God, there are 6 nice songs here to enjoy (“White Russian”, “The Last Straw”, “Sugar Mice”, “The Short Straw” (14-min opener – 3 in 1), “Incommunicado” (excellent video!), “Slainte Mhath”), otherwise I’d already thrown it away…

And then I chanced to see FISH’s set on Loreley festival. He played CaS almost entirely (truly weak tracks were left aside – like “Just for the Record”, “Torch Song” and ”Going Under”), and he was telling the story of every song, he ushered us through them …and suddenly I just FELT it. I didn’t understand/like/get it, I FELT it. I felt how it is to be left alone, to be forgotten, to be misplaced…This 2 hours of live performance did what 3.5 years of home listening couldn’t managed: I liked CaS wholeheartedly. I still see the lacks and flaws of the album, but it’s no more “most hated” from Fish-era, it is already “least adored” :) And this is something. I believe I’m to explore this album further, and for now it costs 3.5 stars for me (it’s doubtful, that it will ever overtake first three, so let’s leave this rating) – not bad at all! Highly recommended!!!

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Send comments to Prog-jester (BETA) | Report this review (#132133)
Posted Tuesday, August 07, 2007 | Review Permalink
obiter
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Mmmm

it's always great in life when somehting you don't expect much of delivers. I had given up of the Big M after the dross that was Misplaced Talent. Then along comes a dark sombre and gritty album. Gorgeous.

If you listen to this album (and follow the lifestyle) you won't reach 40. Well it's part of the heritage. And it is!!! This prog album brings the genre delicately into the world of the self-critical and self conscious under-achiever. Maybe there's a a little bit of that in everyone.

Once again we realise that DD Fish is a real wordsmith.

This LP (and that's all I know: no discs or extra discs) is an absolute must in the prog collection because it touches and confronts the dark side. Not a common thread in prog (but then I'm no expert).

PS Tux On is just fabulous (based on the 12")

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Send comments to obiter (BETA) | Report this review (#134873)
Posted Saturday, August 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
russellk
PROG REVIEWER
2 stars Welcome to 'Misplaced Childhood II'.

With the same song structures, the same album structure, the same balance of instruments, but without the same power or integrity, 'Clutching At Straws' is surely an ironic title. As did 'Lavender' in 'Misplaced Childhood', so 'Warm Wet Circles' lends its theme to the album. 'Clutching At Straws', like its predecessor, is supposed to be listened to as a whole.

As long as it's done well, I don't mind an encore album. This, however, is not that well done. It is very difficult to follow success, much more difficult than to follow failure, but a key ingredient is good songwriting. Sadly, there are few tracks here that can hold a candle to 'Misplaced Childhood', apart from the excellent 'Incommunicado'. The band proved later in their career that they are capable of a wide variety of musical statements: it's a pity they chose 'son of Misplaced Childhood' for FISH'S last album with the band.

Supposedly nakedly self-revelatory, the lyrics come across more as self-indulgent. Rather than beomaning his drugged state, FISH seems slyly proud of it. And why is the slick, overdubbed voice (so reminiscent of '80s PHIL COLLINS, ironically) used to express such personal songwriting? Sorry, it doesn't convince me. Perhaps had FISH sung as he did in 'Script' it would have made more sense. Oddly, his growing singing ability makes this album less credible. There's no real emotion here, apart from smugness.

The rest of the cast can sure play. They are very good. The simple fact is the material here is really not worthy of them.

Between two and three stars.

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Send comments to russellk (BETA) | Report this review (#136293)
Posted Tuesday, September 04, 2007 | Review Permalink
progaardvark
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Clutching at Straws was the last Marillion album to be fronted by Fish as he would leave the band in 1988 due to "musical differences." There are quite a few critics that consider Clutching at Straws to be the best of the Fish era. I guess I am in the minority here, as I think of it as the worst of all the Fish-era albums released by Marillion. That's not to say that it's bad, it's a rather good album. It's just not on the same level of musical ability as the first two Marillion albums, Script for a Jester's Tear and Fugazi. Clutching at Straws is less progressive than their earlier efforts and consists chiefly of more song-oriented, radio-friendly material. It's mostly because of this that I cannot assign this album more than three stars. If it were "Rock Archives," four stars would have been more suitable.

In many regards, Clutching at Straws has the feel of a Fish solo album. If you've ever listened to Fish's solo material, you'll understand what I mean by that. Definitely a precursor and foundation for the rest of Fish's career. Recommended for Marillion fans as this album fares better than most Hogarth-era releases. Also recommended for prog fans on the lighter side of AOR-tinged, accessible, song-oriented prog. All others, Marillion's first two albums are the place to start. Three stars. Good, but hardly essential.

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Send comments to progaardvark (BETA) | Report this review (#140857)
Posted Friday, September 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
4 stars This 1987 release from Marillion saw their triumphant return to the dark progressive stylings of their early albums after the mediocre Collins-pop "Kayleigh" era. The album revolves strongly around the themes of alcohol and addiction, and was to be lead singer Fish's swan song with the band. The first side of the album is patchy, with several great tracks such as the opener "Hotel Hobbies", the powerful fan favourite "Warm Wet Circles", and my personal favourite on this side of the album, "White Russian", a song which proves that Fish was far more than a geeky Peter Gabriel tribute act. However, this side does have it's weak parts, such as the poppy and bare sounding "Just For The Record", which is definitely the weakest track on the album. The second side of the album is the stronger of the two, opening with the albums most famous single "Incommunicado", which gives us a glimpse of Marillion's heavier side, striking a resemblance to their earlier single "He Knows, You Know" from their debut album. The next track "Torch Song" tells the sad tale of an alcoholic who seems very much resigned to his early grave, with grief stricken vocals from Fish and a light and melancholy riff from guitarist Steve Rothery. The third track on this side "Slainte Mhath" is another lyrically powerful piece, telling tales of those who used alcohol to drown their sorrows, such as the soldiers who were mentally scarred at the battle of the Somme, and of the unemployed Clydeside shipyard workers who'd industry has collapsed beneath them. The penultimate track, and the strongest on the album, is the excellent all rounder "Sugar Mice", with excellent instrumental work by Rothery and keyboardist Mark Kelly supported by a powerful drum beat from the renowned prog drummer Ian Mosely, this is most definitely the finest example of Marillion's musical talent on the album. The album's final track "The Last Straw" is a round up of the themes shown throughout the album, with some excellent tempo and timbre changes. This album is personally not my favourite by Marillion, but it is worth listening to and a great album for any Fish fanatics.

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Send comments to cynthiasmallet (BETA) | Report this review (#146902)
Posted Thursday, October 25, 2007 | Review Permalink
apps79
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Neo Prog Team
4 stars ''Misplaced childhood'' was the most succesful Marillion album in the 80's,followed by a huge number of shows by the band.In the meantime the everworking quintet of Fish & co.had to write down material for a new album.Influenced by the raw circumstances of fame the band was dealing with,Fish invented lyrics around Torch, a young man deeped into alcohol and hanging out in bars because of his meaningless screwed up life.The new album entitled ''Clutching at straws'' was released by EMI in 1987,again produced by Chris Kimsey.

Musically the album moves a bit away from the previous works' propulsive haunting moments and extreme atmospheres but still following a very dark and often pesimistic mood,for which Marillion were known for.On ''Clutching at straws'' the old Marillion meet with a new style the band was adapting by the time,that is lyrical, soft and atmospheric songs with a hidden intensity and far from the GENESIS' influences they delivered on the first three works, trying to pop out the most out of the band's originality.Tracks like ''Hotel Hobbies'', ''Warm Wet Circles'','' Just for the Record'' and ''White Russian'' are on par with their old style,an alternating smooth dramatic vocal performance often interrupted by flashy synthesizers,mindblowing guitar soloing and a dreamy mood.However most of the new compositions are much based on Fish'es unique performance and alternating chords between theatrical and crying vocal chords,supported by the spacey light keyboards of Mark Kelly,the now more GILMOUR-influenced Rothery guitar parts and the overall deep atmospheric approach of the band.Surprisingly this is still great MARILLION,the newly incorporated elements seem to fit exactly with the band's style and talent,ending up being a great concept album of trully professional rock music with progressive leanings.

Reasonably enough and before becoming himself an alcohol dead victim,Fish left Marillion the next year,tired of being manipulated by the band's management and dissapointed by the rest of the band,which decided to part ways with him than replacing the manager.

If you come across the 1999 24-bit remastered EMI version of the album,you will be lucky enough to listen to the demo recordings of a never recorded fifth Marillion album with Fish,which would mark a return to their early raw roots.Haunting, atmospheric and lyrical Progressive Rock of first class,this would be certainly to be a masterpiece to remember.Fortunately some of them ended up on the next fantastic release of the band.

''Clutching at straws'' is a great album.Not the total masterpiece like ''Script...'' or ''Misplaced childhood'' were,but a fine turn of the band on a more refined, emotional and less symphonic sound,prooving they could definitely establish a style of their own and a brand new window in the Neo Prog stylings.Highly recommended.

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Send comments to apps79 (BETA) | Report this review (#147757)
Posted Sunday, October 28, 2007 | Review Permalink
UMUR
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars The last studio album from Marillion with Fish was Clutching at Straws. This is a really good album even though the tensions between Fish and the rest of the band were building at this point. Fish commitment to Marillion was not as dedicated anymore according to the other members. I read an interview with Mark Kelly where he said that the other members including himself were pissed of at Fish during the recording of Clutching at Straws, as they didn´t feel Fish gave enough. The lyrics to Incommunicado were allegebly finished in a cap on his way to the studio to record the vocals for that song, which seems almost too incredible to be true considering the high level of expression. Well, after the tour for Clutching at Straws Fish left ( got the kick ?) Marillion to pursue a solo career and Marillion would never be the same again. Despite all the internal trouble in the band Marillion managed to make another masterpiece of prog rock with Clutching at Straws IMO.

The compositions have become more intricate and full than on previous albums and there are some really wonderfull songs on the album. The three first songs seque into each other and has a common theme about abuse. This is a fantastic trio of songs which I enjoy every time I listen to Clutching at Straws, what a great opening.

Going Under is not on the original LP, but I am happy that it made it unto the CD version because it is a very good and emotional song, even though it is not the best here.

Just for the Record is another classic song about abuse. It´s about the million different excuses alcoholics use not to put the bottle down. Note the great keyboard play in this song. This is a favorite of mine.

White Russian is a great song too. Great guitar work and some nice cryptic lyrics from Fish.

Incommunicado was the hit from this album, but don´t worry it´s a really great song, and with the aforementioned story about the creation of the lyrics it also has a funny story. Note the great keyboard playing.

Torch Song And Slàinte Mhath are also great songs. Slàinte Mhath were often used on the following tour to start the shows. Great prog rock songs.

Sugar mice is another favorite of mine. Great guitar play and some clever melancholic lyrics from Fish about a lost soul. Social realism as seen by Fish. One of the best Marillion songs ever. Note the beautiful guitar work and the great solo.

The last straw is not a favorite of mine, and it´s too bad Fish era Marillion should end with one of the weakest songs written in that period. Of course as we´re speaking about Fish era Marillion a weak song is not the same as a bad song when we´re talking prog rock in general. The Last Straw is still much better than most other prog rock songs by other bands on the scene. In the context of Marillion this is a weak song though.

Clutching at Straws is a prog rock masterpiece and deserves 5 stars for that even though the last song isn´t as good as the others. It´s a minor flaw though. This is the kind of album I never get tired of and a great studio testimony to Fish era Marillion. I have rated every one of the first four studio albums from Marillion 5 stars, as I think these four albums are some of the greatest albums ever made. Fish era Marillion have moved me in a way very few bands have been able to. Thank you for the wonderful experiences.

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Send comments to UMUR (BETA) | Report this review (#161767)
Posted Thursday, February 14, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars A fine album by Marillion, very pleasant to listen to. Like Misplaced Childhood this record indulges in rather short songs, but this time beautifully crafted with the skill of the first two albums. There are only two fillers (Going down, Just for the Record) among the valuable songs assembled here (WARM WET CIRCLES; WHITE RUSSIAN; INCOMMUNICADO; SLAINTHE MHATH; SUGAR MICE; THE LAST STRAW). Since i do not own the 2 disc edition I can't say anything about the bonustrax, but judging by the reviews of other collaborators they are quite good. So, the original version is definitively 4 stars.

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Send comments to strayfromatlantis (BETA) | Report this review (#162796)
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2008 | Review Permalink
4 stars Although for many Marillion fans Fish's departure from the band was a severe blow to the quality of music from that point on few can honestly say that his final album with the band is a disappointing one. As a concept album Clutching At Straws works best listened to in its entirery but songs like the easy-going Prog- Pop of Warm Wet Circles, the bouncy kinetic feel of Incommunicado or the concept's melancholic backbone Sugar Mice are just as brilliant as stand-alone tracks. The storyline can be difficult to decipher but listening to That Time Of The Night its easy to picture the smoky, depressing barrooms in which much of the tale unfolds. Fans of Script For A Jester's Tear and Fugazi will be pleased to see the return of Fish's angry vocal delivery on White Russian, which was sorely missed on Misplaced Childhood, although there should be no mistake, Clutching At Straws is a definitive step forwards. By the end of the record you can't help feeling at least a little hard done by that this is the final farewell from the Classic Marillion line up.

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Send comments to TheRocinanteKid (BETA) | Report this review (#170166)
Posted Wednesday, May 07, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars This is one of the better examples of neo-prog, a fine example of the sound progressive rock bands such as Genesis would have had in the mid 80's, if they hadn't ventured into mainstream pop. I like Fish, and I like Peter Gabriel. I may like Fish more sometimes, it seems that he was more interested in giving his audience what it wanted than was Peter Gabriel, who always seemed to be more obsessed with his artistic integrity. The music contains the intricate melodies and highly emotionally charged sections of Genesis, but not exactly the same musical complexity, they are compositionally similiar. I love them both. But yes, you are never going to get away from the comparisons between these two talented singers. We can always relate to Fish's messages, because he makes them clear, while maintaining a poetic integrity. PG couldn't always do that, and the lyrics to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway are a perfect example. Does anyone know what the Lamb is really about anyway? Another important thing about Fish, is that when I play his albums in the presence of friends who are fans of Phish, they always want to know what it is because they think it's PG. Most Phish fans have no idea who Fish is.

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Send comments to kabright (BETA) | Report this review (#171596)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
The Crow
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Almost so good as Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at Straws is a great Fish's last album with Marillion...

The mood of the album is not so epic as their previous masterpiece, and not so commercial... Of course, there are some accesible songs, like Warm Wet Circles and Sugar Mice, but this album increases the ambiental passages, reducing the number of radio oriented tracks. The style of this environmental passages we can hear in songs like Going Under, is the Marillion's trademark in later album with Steve Howarth, like the masterpiece Brave, wich has the roots in the mellancholic passages from Misplaced Chlidhood, and specially from Clutching at Straws.

In this album the Fish's voice is also not so high pitched like before... He explores new sounds with his vocals, sounding very less strident, similar than in Misplaced, but even more mature. I specially love his singing in That Time of the Night and Sugar Mice... The vocal part after the solo is just incredible, the best Fish's has ever made vocally!

But the album is not so good as Misplaced Childhood anyway... This album was perfect from beginning to end, while Clutching at Straws has a great general quality, but not so outstanding. The very neo- progressive Just for the Record is dynamic, but not really remarkable. And so is the ending The Last Straw, not the best of the album. This tracks are not bad, just a bit under the rest, but they don't allow Clutching being a masterpiece in my humble opinion.

Best Tracks: Warm Wet Circles (perfect guitar intro for a catchy song, with sexy, original and very fishy lyrics...), That Time of the Night (I love the chorus), Incommunicado (pure neo-prog rock track, and a little Marillion's classic...), Slàinte Mhath (the best slow part of the album, with a great Rothery's guitars layers...) and of course, Sugar Mice (the best track of the album... I have goosegumps with the vocal part after the splendid guitar solo)

Conclusion: excellent last Fish's album with Marillion... And a great follow up to the masterpiece Misplaced Childhood. Not so good, but very close. The lyrics (and concept...) of the album is darker, and so is the music, making a marvellous mixture of neo-progressive hymns and touching ambiental passages. So this is a really recommended album for every Marillion, neo-prog or music's fan... And a splendid swampsong for an unforgettable and unrepeatable era: when Marillion's had this original and unique singer called fished, and together helped to creating a new progressive style with four marvellous albums, having Clutching at Straws the second place of the podium after Misplaced Childhood.

My rating: ****1/2

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Send comments to The Crow (BETA) | Report this review (#171619)
Posted Monday, May 19, 2008 | Review Permalink
SouthSideoftheSky
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
3 stars A more mature Marillion

With each new album Marillion slowly developed their own sound. In my opinion it was with this album that they dispensed with the most obvious Genesis influences and allowed something new to come up. I was never a big fan of Fish's vocal style, but on this album he is more down to earth, dispensing with his worst theatrical eccentricities. The songs are well written both lyrically and musically. All this makes for a more mature album compared to the earlier ones.

The mood is generally a bit darker and a bit more "serious" (for lack of a better word) than on Misplaced Childhood. Clutching At Straws is a good album and I like the overall mood of this album better than Script For A Jester's Tear and Misplaced Childhood. But not as much as my favourite Fish-era album Fugazi. However, this is hardly groundbreaking music and it follows basically in the footsteps of earlier albums.

The dark mood is continued on their next album, my personal favourite Marillion album, Seasons End. Compared to Seasons End, Clutching At Straws is less varied, not visiting as many different musical places. There is, however, a Celtic influence here, most noticeable in Slainte Mhath. You could almost hear the bagpipes in the background, but it is only in your imagination. The folky influence would continue on the next album with the song Easter and on Fish's solo albums Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors and Internal Exile.

If Fish-era Marillion is your favourite band then this album is essential. For everyone else it is good but certainly not essential.

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Send comments to SouthSideoftheSky (BETA) | Report this review (#178738)
Posted Sunday, August 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
TGM: Orb
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Review 70, Clutching At Straws, Marillion, 1987

StarStarStarStar

From the very promising Script For A Jester's Tear, Marillion seem to have developed a bit for Clutching At Straws (this reviewer doesn't yet have the intervening albums). Though it's still essentially got the same feel to it, the playing from all five members is much stronger than on the debut, and the band cohesion is far tighter. Psychedelic touches appear to have been ironed out and better incorporated, and a couple of guest vocal additions and new styles or influences rear their heads.

The biggest distinction between the albums, other than the general much-better-played, but slightly-less-memorable Clutching At Straws, is the fact that the latter feels sympathetic. There's none of the biting aggression of Chelsea Monday or Garden Party, or even Forgotten Sons, simply this overwhelming depression characterising the album. The lyrics are the main factor behind this, slightly cleverer than those of Script, and extremely well-written, but the musical atmosphere matches it. Solos don't appear to be there for the sake of a solo, but to enhance a point, and the much improved taste in the percussion parts does especially give the sympathetic tone to the album.

The moody Hotel Hobbies opens the album, with good performances all round, atmosphere contributed by Rothery's relatively minimal playing and the extremely strong bass part from Trewavas. Fish shows off a couple of Hammill-like vocal phrasing flourishes and the band as a whole makes an extremely good impression, showing off their solid use of dynamics and Rothery's incredible impact as a soloist. It segues right into the more accessible...

Warm Wet Circles, with more subdued elements, featuring Fish very prominently, as well as a very good performance from Mosley, while the remaining members provide some textures as well as a couple of more controlling leads from Kelly's piano and Rothery's biting guitar. A couple of almost-imperceptible additions from guest vocalist Tessa Niles are more than welcome. Fish is usually excellent, from the early Marillion pieces I've heard, but here he excels himself in both the slightly nervous and yet assertive tones of the album and a powerful 'she nervously undressed in the dancing beams of the Fidra lighthouse'. An extremely good piece, all in all, and the most rewarding of

That Time Of The Night is the first of the album's pieces that are perfectly good, but don't make that much of an impact. Fish's vocals and lyrics are fine, and his 'o-oh' has an interesting rapid vibrato sound, but the band's parts don't really seem much more than adequate to me. Mosley fits in a couple of Peartesque rolls and Rothery adds a couple of extremely nice slippery guitar whirls. Warm Wet Circles is brought back to mind pretty bluntly. Tessa Niles again appears to be featured, though I'm not sure, since the booklet is contradictory. Not bad at all, but not inspirational either.

Going Under is a different sort of piece, with a couple of acoustic guitar rhythms backed by some very neatly handled (especially a flute effect) synths. Fish provides a low key vocal with, again, strong lyrics. A nice idea, and well executed.

Just For The Record is a more rock-focused piece, re-using of one of the rhythms of Garden Party (could be mishearing) a little, and featuring a range of little vocal effects (whether whispers or little harmonies). Mark Kelly's keys and the whirly supported electric guitars work nicely, as does the rhythm section. The general development and inclusion/exclusion choices are quite nicely done, and the dudu-dududu rhythm around 'When you say I got a problem, that's a certainty' is particularly brilliant.

Wuthering wind effects introduce us to the superb White Russian, a schizoid trip through the narrator's mind and thoughts of censorship, with brilliant demi-nonsensical lines and roared lines from Fish, as well as little changes everywhere throughout the song. Mosley gets to rock a bit more than previously, and Trewavas' bass also gets its highlight in the soft middle section. Rothery, a superb guitarist on the rest of the album, especially shows up, with a range of brilliant guitar tones and some truly shrieking solos. The lush choral mellotron makes its appearance, among a range of other keyboard instruments. A glockenspiel or something similar echoes the 'Where do we go from here' melody to end the piece, stopping a note short on the last repeat. A real highlight for me, with all the elements coming together to make a great communal piece.

Incommunicado doesn't work so well for me. Fairly fast playing on all fronts, and matching vocals. Kelly's organs and synths, as well as Rothery's guitars continue a fairly nice set of riffs throughout much of the piece, and Fish's rather more hurried vocals are good, despite the irksome number of 'incommunicado' repeats. The issue, really, is not any of the individual components. I like basically all of the parts, sans a couple of small repeats crammed in, but I just don't enjoy the end result much. Perhaps it's that the rather upbeat feel of the song doesn't really mesh too nicely with the downbeat album, and the fade isn't really welcome in an otherwise very neatly segued or concluded album.

Torch Song is the second of the album's purely slow pieces, with really unstrained vocals from Fish, a fairly successful speech inclusion backed by some little guitar touches. As usual, all the players are solid, and the small background keyboard and guitar touches support the general rhythm. A piano solo fits in quite nicely to segue to...

Slainte Mhath, a piece featuring a Celtic rhythm with complete electric instrumentation and some tentative keyboard-based imitations of a traditional flute, as well as a much more traditional-styled vocal (complete with Scottish accent) from Fish. This is very well crossed with the more strutting and electrifying inclusions, and the general ideas are established before they are combined. A very enjoyable piece, and a welcome addition of diversity.

Sugar Mice is another slow one, with soft rhythm guitar backing Fish's soulful and repentant vocals, and a couple of small background touches pervading it. Rothery gets an opportunity for a fairly standard extended solo, using a couple of tones without overstressing it. A return to the softer theme of the song concludes it nicely, preparing us for the real gem of the album.

The Last Straw is a simply brilliant ending, with well-written lyrics, great vocals from Fish including the savagely tense background calls, a solid multi-instrumental riff or two, soft breaks with swirling synths and superb foreshadowing from Rothery as well as a threatening rhythm section. And suddenly, all the presence built up by Rothery explodes into one soul-wrenching, energy-filled solo, further emphasised by Fish's shouting vocals. An almost-mantric duet from Fish and Tessa Niles with rolling backing from Kelly leads us out to the album's negative, self-perpetuating ending.

So, all in all, a very good bunch with two or three pieces that don't quite make as much impact as the others, but generally very well written, consistently well played, and noticeably (even for me, and I don't often notice production on an album that much) superbly produced. Even if you're not an instant convert to the Marillion/neo-prog fold, I'd still consider the album a good choice, and if you don't enjoy The Last Straw, I don't know what's wrong with you. A deserved four stars.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Track: The Last Straw

Edit: haven't given this a listen in quite a long time... but, since I'm generally making the ratings a bit lower, I felt that an album with one or two weak points and a noticeable % of lesser but good tracks would probably fall into the new tenure of a 3.

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Send comments to TGM: Orb (BETA) | Report this review (#181675)
Posted Wednesday, September 03, 2008 | Review Permalink
LiquidEternity
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars I believe this is one of Marillion's strongest albums, if not their top release to date.

Here we have the band having discovered its own sound an album or two previously, no longer the Genesis clones that they pretended to be in their debut. Instead, we have a band focused on tight melodies and gentler neo-prog music. Lyrically, the album is very dark and rather depressive, focusing on patrons in a bar trying to drink away problems and all that. I heard from a friend once that Marillion are the sort of band that can turn you into a depressed alcoholic just by listening to them. Maybe that's true, but while the lyrics are fairly universally dark, the music does not muddle around the same way. Rather, it provides a light at the end of the tunnel, if you will, and keeps the overall mood from seriously dragging the listener down. Another strength of this album is the way the songs interact and flow: we have an album here that was built together and works together, rather than the mildly disjointed flow of the debut.

The first three tracks are linked together musically, as well as lyrically. They provide a nice flow to pull the listener into the album gently but very effectively. Just for the Record and Incommunicado are probably the two highest energy songs on this record, adding in almost a little bit of fun on this moody release. White Russian, a mild and melancholic tune, sits between the two. The strongest and most interesting song on this album, however, is Sugar Mice, with absolutely perfect guitar work. Marillion is not a band known for throwing their instrumental prowess out there, but this track shows just a hint of what the boys can do as Steve Rothery breaks out his best solo ever. The rest of the tracks are quality but less exciting and less remarkable. On the whole, the album works so well together that it's easy to lose a track here and there in the flow.

This is Fish's last album with the band, and listening to this record makes me sad about that fact. I'm not necessarily in either the Fish or the H camp (a discussion that has divided most Marillion fans), but something in their music declines after this album. If you are interested in Marillion, this is a wonderful album to pick up. It's one of the strongest they wrote, and possibly one of the strongest in the entire neo-prog genre.

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Send comments to LiquidEternity (BETA) | Report this review (#184472)
Posted Thursday, October 02, 2008 | Review Permalink
Queen By-Tor
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator
3 stars Misplaced Childhood II

If the 80s scene of progressive rock were to be depicted in Hollywood movie form the opening scene would probably show a barren wasteland not dissimilar to something out of The Matrix. Some of our favorite prog heroes were still around and making albums from the shadows fused with various influences like New Wave while other bands had been horribly disfigured and mutated by the toxic atmosphere and some of our most gallant heroes were staring at us helplessly and asking with panicked looks on their faces, ''who dunnit!?''. Marillion shook the progressive world back to its senses in those crazy days when they released Script For A Jester's tear and their third album, and best known masterpiece, Misplaced Childhood, an album that managed to score hit songs while maintaining the classic progressive feel with lush synthesizers and lengthy suites. These rebel forces, along with the rest of the Neo Progressive movement helped prog carry through those rough years, even as they fought through the trenches and the onslaught music coming out at the time. Clutching At Straws is a different, yet much similar album from the band, in that it maintains the classic Genesis-like feel combined with the 80s sensibility in rhythm and melody, but this one shows the band deciding to stick to the shorter side of things. While the album is linked throughout with strong thematic motifs it doesn't feel quite as ''together'' as their previous album. This one also tends to be a lot darker and more emotional than its older sibling, as Fish (who would leave after this album) wrote most of the lyrics around himself and his struggle with various addictions. All in all, it's not a very happy record.

Most of the songs run together and make for dynamic sides. Hotel Hobbies opens the album with a bang while Warm Wet Circles slows things down a notch until it's reprised at the end of the rather upbeat Just For The Record, which shows Fish's voice at it's most sympathetic sounding. White Russian is a rather aggressive tune with blasting keyboards and a grumbly voice from Fish as he describes the ''heralds of the holocaust'' and ''uzis on a street corner''. The emotional buildup felt in this song with the combination of lyrics like, ''were do we go from here?'' make this song a particular standout on the album. Side 2 opens up on a rather strange note, especially after ending the last side with such a dark tune. Incommunicado is an upbeat rocker of a tune led by fun synthesizers and a good chorus led by Fish. The rest of the side is very much overshadowed by this song, unfortunately, but it made for a good single, and a very good tune to act as a standout for the album. Other songs of note on the second side include the nicely paced Sugar Mice and the amazing closer which still stands as one of Marillion's most emotional tunes to this day, The Last Straw. Cataclysmic sections from each member highlight Fish's voice as it reaches it's emotional peak. A nice little trick is played at the end of the album as well, since there's the listing for a song called Happy Ending which, in fact, doesn't exist. There is no happy ending to this tale.

After this record both artists (Fish and Marillion) would face their trials and tribulations and, as some would argue, would never be quite as good again without one another. Hogarth era fans of Marillion will argue differently, for sure, but the distinct sound that made this record and the previous 3 that were behind it would be gone. This album is not as fantastic as some of those which lead up to it, but it certainly has some brilliant moments that any fan cannot live without. This one is recommended to those who liked the Fish era of Marillion, or those who really, really don't want to believe that Abacab or Invisible Touch ever existed. 3.5 stars for a good album.

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Send comments to Queen By-Tor (BETA) | Report this review (#188469)
Posted Saturday, November 08, 2008 | Review Permalink
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'-

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Send comments to Xanadu3737 (BETA) | Report this review (#212162)
Posted Wednesday, April 22, 2009 | Review Permalink
progkidjoel
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Waiting on the whistle to blow?

Marillion ? Clutching At Straws

Review by ProgKidJoel

Following up Marillion's smash hit "Misplaced Childhood", Clutching at Straws had the undesirable job of following up what was invariably considered a masterpiece. "Clutching At Straws" is possibly the most unique album the band released featuring FISH on vocals, and was also the last spear-headed the charismatic frontman. A concept album, CaS tells the tale of "Torch", a man transformed from a charismatic band frontman/jester into a factory worker in Milwaukee, all thanks to alcoholism. He has become a deadbeat father, a failed singer and is stuck in a failed marriage. Through all this, Torch seeks alcohol to comfort himself. As he sinks into a deep alcoholism, he writes about his surroundings and emotions through a veil of alcohol and regret. Although many herald this album as the death of Marillion, it is clear after a single listen this is far from the truth, and that this album supplied one of the most interesting and heartfelt albums Marillion has released to date.

1. Hotel Hobbies

Opening with an entertaining keyboard riff, this is probably Marillion's slowest opener with FISH on vocals. Somewhat ambient, this track leads into an amusing keyboard riff which carries this track over to its upbeat chorus. Slowly increasing in volume and strength, this track picks up to a typical Ian Mosley drum beat and another great Rothery guitar riff. FISH's vocals also pick up, and the band is in great form towards the end of this track. A couple of rhythm changes lead this song into its impressively short guitar solo, and furthermore into its outro and gapless entry into the next track.

5 out of 5

2. Warm Wet Circles

One of Marillion's best tracks, this features one of Steven Rothery's best ever guitar solos, mixed excellently with FISH's heartfelt lyrics and vocals about small town dreams. The first chorus feels incredibly uplifting, and is one of my favourite Marillion moments. About the dangers of slipping into regrettable alcoholism, this track picks up nicely. Featuring some of the bands best gelling work to date, this song was one of three singles from CaS. Continuing its pretty riff with a piano compliment, this track is amongst the most heartfelt Marillion have ever produced. Amazing vocals and lyrics are what carry this track like so many others from FISH, but the band is in particularly good form on this track. Another excellent trademark Rothery solo hits hard in this track, supplying the perfect bridge. Perhaps the best track on this album, you simply have to hear this.

5 out of 5

3. That time of the Night (The Short Straw)

A fan favourite from this album, The Short Straw is another great track. Beginning in a similarly ambient tone to Hotel Hobbies, the overture is inspiringly dynamic. This track picks up to eventually reveal what is perhaps Mark Kelly's best keyboard riff ever. A heavily 80's track, this does not disappoint. Perhaps a little bit repetitive in the middle section, this finishes to a fantastic outro featuring Tessa Niles' singing with FISH. The best part of this song is easily the chorus; although, its replayablity is somewhat hampered by repetition of its verse. Many people think this is the best track on the album, although it isn't quite as good as some others. Still very interesting, mind you.

4.5 out of 5

4. Going Under

A great guitar riff and soften vocals mark a massive change of pace from The Short Straw's intense ending. Also incredibly ambient, this track is fascinating, and you will hear something new every time you listen to it. An echo effect catches on to FISH's voice, and helps to create interesting dynamics and stereophonics. This song is about slipping into a deeper alcoholism, and marks a worst stage in the life of Torch. Closing quietly, this is another very interesting track.

4.5 out of 5.

5. Just For The Record

Perhaps the most upbeat track on the album, this marks a change in the state of Torch in out story. A much more hopeful track speaks of "Just another gesture with an empty glass. Just another actor, behind a tragic mask". This leads into an impressive synth solo from Mark Kelly, although it doesn't seem to suit the mood of the track very well. Impressive none the less, the bass also provides another dimension to this song. Towards the end, a piano track comes under the rest and provides and epic, heavy handed exit for this song.

4 out of 5.

6. White Russian

What FISH describes as this albums epic will not disappoint; A heavy handed passion play about the rise of neo-nazis in Europe, this features the bands technically best track on this album. Incredibly brutal vocals and lyrics mark another change in the mood of this album; this song also lacks any continuation of Torch's story. Perhaps the most technical guitar solo on this album, a genuinely angry song, FISH really hits the mark with his vocals, particularly in the song's close. Possibly the least accessible track on the album, White Russian is a truly shocking protest song, akin to Forgotten Sons. If you haven't heard this, I highly recommend doing so; its one of the hardest hitting Marillion songs released. An eerie xylophone closure finishes what is one of the strongest tracks on this album/

5 out of 5.

7. Incommunicado

Once again, this sticks out in bleak contrast to White Russian. Heavily 80's, this track is very reminiscent of Collins Era Genesis, complete with heavy drumming and a great keyboard riff. Based on the pitfalls of record companies, this track speaks of desiring fame. Incommunicado was the second single from this album, and also faired the best in the mainstream Market. This song, however entertaining, really related how Marillion felt during the Misplaced Childhood tour; swamped in a media storm. Its easy to see why this single faired the best of the three; it's the easiest to listen to, the most entertaining and it takes it self a hell of a lot less seriously than Warm Wet Circles and Sugar Mice. Another great synth solo from Mark Kelly helps this track stay interesting after multiple listens, adding to the value of this straight-up poprock track. Closing in the same way it opened, you should really here this track. Its film clip is also incredibly amusing, and suits the subject matter more than perfectly.

5 out of 5.

8. Torch Song

This track reverts to Torch's uphill battle with alcoholism, featuring a conversation with a doctor and pure vocals. FISH's trademark wordy lyrics help this track aswell. "Burn A Little Brighter Now", the song's main lyric, is a clever play on words about Torch, and helps this track through a slow rhythm to become incredibly climatic. After Torch's conversation with the doctor, this track picks up its tempo and volume impressively. FISH's vocals really shine here, incredibly reminiscent of FUGAZI's vocal high. Leading into another excellent track, this is also great.

5 out of 5.

9. Slainte Mhath

A Scottish term which literally translates to "Good health", this is often used as a toast by mates down at the pub. Another piano driven track, FISH's vocals shine here if they ever did. The bass is particularly impressive here, working in tandem with slow drums to flesh this track out. One of my favourites, this track is filled with energy when played live, generally doubled in tempo. Another great, albeit short, guitar solo which feeds into this tracks closure, which is nearly as epic as White Russian. Powerful drumming and bass pick up here, leading into FISH's vocal assault.

5 out of 5.

10. Sugar Mice

Easily my personal favourite from this album, Sugar Mice has one of my all time favourite guitar solos combined with heart felt lyrics and an unforgettable lead lyric. Ambient bass comes in again here, and it remains part of the background for a majority of the track. Another fan favourite, this track has been played several times live by Dream Theater (Who tend to suck all the feeling out of it, but that's a story for another time) and never fails to disappoint. Featuring some Genesis lyrics (The waitress, is counting out the time), this is probably the most powerful track on the album. The guitar solo here, although not technically over the top, really shows Steve Rothery in top form, playing his heart out to the last note. Perfectly executed, this is easily the best point in the song, and works perfectly with the rest of the band to flesh the track out nicely. Torch appears to be in trouble in this track again, and this is visible both in the lyrics and video clip. Based on Torch's fatherhood behaviours, this song is incredibly heavy handed. Listen to it.

5 out of 5.

11. The Last Straw: Happy Ending

Ay, theres the rub! An awesome guitar riff and powerful lyrics bring this track to its end. Obviously about the crisis which Torch faces, this end is as fitting as it is epic and truly closes this album with its head held high. Truly about the Last Straw, this track tells the end of Torch, and the end of his battle. Featuring the album name as a final lyric, if there was ever a Marillion track you couldn't miss, this is definitely it. Another bleedin' heart Rothers guitar solo brings this track into its epic close, which is simply classic. Dynamics play a leading role in this track, making it one of the most enigmatic and interesting Marillion ever released. Insanely powerful vocals truly carry this track, and make it a fitting end for a truly epic album. Closing to an insanely powerful vocal duet of FISH and Tessa Niles, you just can't miss this. A much better final track than White Feather on Misplaced Childhood, this track truly deserved to finish this album. Do we get a happy ending? The answer is No, as we hear FISH yell in the very last second on this track, followed by insane laughter. This represents Torch's will to give up the drink, yet repeated failure.

5 out of 5 (Deserves a 6)

Closing comments:

This is a truly sad album; it tells the story of a failing alcoholic through some of Marillion's best songs, and also marked the departure of FISH. Its important, when listening to this album, to treat it as you would any other concept album; that is to say, with careful consideration of the lyrical themes and what you already understand of the concept. Although a heavy concept, you can enjoy this album as you would any other without having to worry about the dismal and sometimes depressing lyrics.

A fitting end for FISH?

Definitely.

A Happy ending?

Definitely not.

Please ? Just buy it!

-Joel

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Send comments to progkidjoel (BETA) | Report this review (#213032)
Posted Thursday, April 30, 2009 | Review Permalink
Chicapah
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Sometimes you just get a gut feeling about a band's potential and I'm so glad I stuck it out with these guys because the payoff has been massively gratifying. I found their courageous debut to be a bit unsteady and amateurish at times but there was something enticing about it all that made me want to explore them further. The upgrade in the drumming department made "Fugazi" a pleasant surprise but it was the magnificent "Misplaced Childhood" that completely blew me away, thus confirming the honorable esteem they enjoy with the noble citizens of Progland. When I got this, their 4th and last album with the emoting Fish, I was wholly prepared to be underwhelmed. I didn't see how they could possibly equal their previous recording. I was wrong to doubt their ability. I'm happy to say that Marillion hit two grand-slam homers in as many at- bats. "Clutching at Straws" is just as great as "Misplaced Childhood" while steadfastly maintaining its own separate identity.

If there are any of the "old guard" (of which I am a member) reading this that have avoided investing in this group's work because of their frequent comparisons to Genesis I ask you to consider this: Do you think that, in the world of painting, Monet should be considered a plagiarist of Renoir because they were both impressionists? Of course you don't. The same principle applies here. If you love Genesis then you'll adore what Marillion has to offer. Trust me; in their prime these boys were terrific (I have yet to explore their post-Fish offerings). They may have painted with the same colors as their mentors but the resulting landscapes and portraits they created are unique and all their own.

The engaging "Hotel Hobbies" draws you inside their shadow-strewn tavern with Mark Kelly's droning synthesizer laying down a sturdy foundation for Steve Rothery's crisp guitar to flitter overhead briefly before Ian Mosley's drums explode into a charging riot, abruptly altering the song's direction and mood. Rothery delivers a ferocious guitar solo but it's Fish's stringent vocal that pulls it together when all is said and done. It'd be unfair to state that his words reflect some kind of a tired, saloon-as-a-metaphor-for-existence theme because that's overly simplistic and shallow. Fish as a lyricist is one of prog's most intuitive and literate and he doesn't disappoint here as he toys with the implied serendipity of a hotel lounge's "happy hour." He poetically presents the panoply of its patrons as plain folk "jostling for attention/as the sunlight flares/through a curtain's tear/shuffling its beams as if in nervous anticipation of another day."

They segue into "Warm Wet Circles" with its wonderful, melodic progression that carries the perceptive words aloft like a kite in a cool breeze. Fish describes a young lady at the bar with her jealous friends, enraptured in the throes of naïve love. "She faithfully traces his name with quick bitten fingernails/through the tears of condensation that'll cry through the night/as the glancing headlights of the last bus kiss adolescence goodbye..." he sings. Suddenly the atmosphere changes drastically as an engulfing wall of fevered sound crashes down and Fish and Steve pour their souls into their performances, leaving you breathless in their wake. Completing this conjoined trio of songs is "That Time of the Night," a track that starts out like a dream state's soundtrack, then settles into a smart groove as Ian's drums and Pete Trewas' bass fall into a tight rhythm. Fish snidely remarks with conviction that "...if you ask me how do I feel inside/I could honestly tell you/we've been taken on a very long ride/and if my owners let me/have some free time someday/with all good intentions/I would probably run away." The band's scintillatingly smooth accents that slide through during the 2nd part are sublimely transcendent and the enormous scope of the final segment is awesome. Guest vocalist Tessa Niles adds an unexpected dimension to the poignant "warm, wet circles" line that resonates repeatedly like an accusing mantra and the subtle finale is a stroke of pure genius.

"Going Under" is a somber, captivating piece presented sans drums that has a slightly nostalgic "Trick of the Tail"-era aroma surrounding it. They set up a cavernous depth of field while Fish assumes the resigned attitude of a habitual drunk who muses "...can you understand it's the way I choose to be/everything seems so easy this way/but I'm going under fast/slipping away/am I so crazy?..." "Just for the Record" (is that a great title or what?) is a rocker that drives hard in 7/8 time on the verses and straightens out to 4/4 on the choruses. Kelly's keyboards shine throughout but his perky synthesizer lead is outstanding in particular. Here Fish acknowledges his own affinity for alcohol but he tries to convince us that "when you say that I got a problem that's a certainty/but I can put it all right down to eccentricity/it's just for the record, it's just a passing phase/just for the record I can stop any day..." (Yeah, right.)

The edgy "White Russian" adopts a demonic, waltzing-with-Beelzebub motif to accompany Fish's exasperated vocals as he condemns the senseless violence perpetrated by homegrown terrorists brandishing Uzis as if they were cap pistols. "Where do we go from here?..." he solemnly asks. This multifaceted number features striking guitar lines from Steve, a sudden ascent into a lighter space midway through followed by a deep, growling movement and a ghostly, ironic music-box coda. "Incommunicado" is next and it is spectacular. The infectious energy and Mark's bright synth solo is exciting enough but when the bottom falls out on the bridge it's this progger's wet dream come true. I kid you not. It's a river of sunshine. Combine that with wickedly sarcastic lyrics about fame and you've got a classic on your hands and in your ears. "I'm a Marquee veteran, a multi-media bonafide celebrity/I've got an allergy to Perrier, daylight and responsibility/I'm a rootin'- tootin' cowboy/the Peter Pan, the street credibility..." he sneers. Beware; the echoing "incommunicado" refrain at the end is as communicable as the Ebola bug in a hot zone.

"Torch Song" is a well-placed ballad that still has meat on its bones courtesy of Mosley's strong drums. It's a vividly transparent ode to Fish's weakness for drugs & drink in which he justifies his excesses via a desire to light his candle at both ends and go out like some of his tragic heroes. "Read a little Kerouac and it put me on the tracks/to burn a little a little brighter now/something about roman candles fizzing out/ shine a little light on me now..." he sings. Mark's flowing piano comes in to lead you into "Slainte Mhath" with its Who-ishly bold, punchy attack, Steve's prickly guitar effect and a raw intensity that never lets up. No watering hole is complete without its own cadre of war veterans and here Fish relates "... you listen with a tear in your eye/to their hopes and betrayals and your only reply/parading their anecdotes tired from old campaigns..."

The beautiful, expertly-structured "Sugar Mice" is now my top Marillion song (and they have a boatload of good ones). Everyone in the group is brilliant from start to finish but it's Fish's brutally honest vocal that makes it soar. He captures the essence of a cowardly man who has abandoned his family in favor of a love affair with the bottle. "Well, the toughest thing that I ever did/was talk to the kids on the phone/when I heard them asking questions/I knew that you were all alone/can't you understand that the government left me out of work?/I just couldn't stand the looks on their faces saying 'What a jerk'/so if you want my address it's number one at the end of the bar/where I sit with the broken angels/clutching at straws and nursing our scars..." he whines. The image those self- pitying words project in my mind is numbingly heartbreaking and real.

The driving, straight forward cadence of "The Last Straw" makes it an excellent album closer. After a couple of rounds of the stirring verse/chorus pattern they unleash a bridge that expands like a swollen river flooding over its levees. Fish's prognosis of the band's growing cancer is right up front as he cries "we're terminal cases that keep taking medicine/pretending the end isn't quite that near/we make futile gestures, act to the cameras/with our made up faces and PR smiles." Rothery's slashing guitar resurrects the rock momentum and initiates a build to an amazing fade out where once again Ms. Niles catapults the track into the nether regions as she screams above Fish that they're all drowning while desperately clutching at straws. She giveth goosebumps.

The title says it all. Straws are quite useful for stirring mixed drinks and hoovering up Peruvian marching powder and if you're aware of the sordid early history of Marillion you know there was no lack of either of those applications in their daily rituals. While bad habits damaged their health and personal lives and eventually led to a divorce of the group and their charismatic front man, somehow their vices didn't ruin their ability to write and record exemplary music. Chalk that up to youthful stamina, I guess. Nevertheless, they were still as doomed as the rudderless Bismarck. Yet they fought through their differences and their final album with Fish is no shabby collection of half-finished snippets and demos bundled up to complete contractual obligations. On the contrary, they went out together in grand fashion. It is a masterpiece of progressive rock that deserves widespread recognition and accolades for centuries to come.

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Send comments to Chicapah (BETA) | Report this review (#218053)
Posted Sunday, May 24, 2009 | Review Permalink
Bonnek
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
4 stars It may be due to the cover, but this album feels a lot darker and grittier then any of the previous albums. The sound is surely less colourful. Maybe for that reason, this album originally lacked the appeal that Fugazi and Misplaced Childhood had on me. But so many years later, this album has become one of my Fish-era favourites.

The band sounds a lot more mature then the initial Genesis remake they set out to be, and most of all, Fish vocals - which I gradually got a bit tired of - are here in full glory, powerful, heartfelt, rich in melody and tone,... well, just perfect!

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Send comments to Bonnek (BETA) | Report this review (#236891)
Posted Thursday, September 03, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars Laughing at the world till the barman wipes away the warm wet circles

A tragedy foreseen through the lyrics of one last masterpiece album, by the band who re- invented and kept alive progressive music. If I was asked to pick which album I prefer among the four unique classics released by Marillion during their years with Fish, I would not pick one. But if I was forced to, then I would probably pick Clutching at Straws.

One should note that this is an album that reaches its peak only in specific circumstances, and most importantly played at night. Otherwise this may just be another album.

Obviously, the Warm Wet Circles trilogy (tracks 1, 2 and 3) is enough in and of itself to make any album memorable. I become paralyzed each time I get to the pitch at "She nervously undressed in the dancing beams of the Fidra lighthouse", and I have listened to this album quite a number of times believe me. But Clutching at Straws is so much more than Warm Wet Circles.

Once the energy level coming off of That Time of the Night comes down, the album makes a pause; the songs stop flowing seamlessly from one to another as the next track, Going Under, is an ambient, nocturnal and depressing keyboards song about alcoholism ("I ain't got no excuse and that's really the news - Got nothing else to say, that it's my way"). What looks like an innocent song the first few times you listen to the album ends up like a very important part of it once grown. It really sets the atmosphere of Clutching at Straws, which is exactly this - nocturnal, dark, depressing.

After Going Under, the more lively Just for the Record then has Fish suggesting that he may change his life around and put it down, only to stunningly end up with "It's too late, I found, it's too far, I'm in two minds - Both of them are out of it at the bar (...) - Just for the record I can stop any day".

White Russian takes Marillion back to its earlier style and strays away from the overall sound of Clutching at Straws. This song is notably reminiscent of Forgotten Sons, on the album Script, with an average back-and-forth rock body, followed by a mellow verse, pumping a powerful finale of all-out, booming instruments along with dynamic singing.

My least favourite song, Incommunicado, might have been a radio hit attempt and sounds a bit like Market Square Heroes, but the band did not sell its soul for it either (they would later on with their second Hogarth album).

Torch Song is another great nocturnal piece, only slightly less gloomy than Going Under, and is followed by the excellent, celtic drinking company anthem Slainte Mhath.

Finally, as if this album did not give enough yet, therein comes Sugar Mice, a progressive rock ballad with a heavier twist by the end, and also a gloomy composition, which notably has one of the finest guitar solos I know.

Fish had signed his resignation letter from the band in That Time of the Night and talks about the band's impending split in the dramatic closing track, The Last Straw.

Like its predecessor Misplaced Childhood, Clutching at Straws includes some perfect and seamless transitions from song to song. And also like MC, Clutching at Straws should not be assessed song by song (despite my description attempt above). This is an album with a soul, an atmosphere. It is one of a kind, and more difficult to fully appreciate. But how rewarding it is once grown. If this is not a progressive masterpiece, then I am the king of Mars.

My deepest regret about this album comes from the art cover. Whilst the three previous albums each featured a brilliant art design by Mark Wilkinson, this time, as explained by Fish, there was not enough time nor enough budget to allow Mark Wilkinson to design the sleeve they wanted.

Also worthy of note is the booklet included in the remastered, 2 CD edition. It is full of thoughts, memories and comments by the band members, including those of Fish, and it allows for a good understanding of what lead to the break-up.

At this point I want to thank Marillion and Fish for the four great unique albums that they gave birth to together. Those are beyond special to many, and for good reason I believe. They carried a melodic and melancholic magic that is not to be found anywhere else, nor before nor after them. And now we're still drowning, clutching at straws...

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Send comments to SentimentalMercenary (BETA) | Report this review (#238028)
Posted Monday, September 07, 2009 | Review Permalink
Sinusoid
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars My first try with neo-prog wasn't exactly met with success; I expected a lot from IQ's THE WAKE, and that album never lived up to my expectations. I figured that the next neo band I should try would be Marillion, but CLUTCHING AT STRAWS wasn't the Marillion album I wanted to start with, but an inexpensive price tag at a random music store was too much to resist. So, what has become of try #2 into the neo-prog world?

Well, CLUTCHING AT STRAWS didn't exactly live up to my expectations, but I really never set my expectations high for this album, no offense meant. One thing I can say is that Fish's voice is a force to be reckoned with. While his timbre doesn't differ much from Phil Collins here, Fish really belts out everything as if his life depended on it, particularly on ''White Russian'' (a song I have lots of praise for). The instrumentation is well thought out; while nobody really sticks out, nobody tries to outdo themselves or overdo anything. A special kudos is sent to Steve Rothery's crystal-like guitar work that gives this thing an 80's sound but in a good way.

At best, this is a very carefully constructed pop album with lots of prog overtones e.g. the overlying concept about some poor sap named Torch. The one major problem with this album is that other than ''White Russian'', there really isn't a memorable song here. ''Incommunicado'' and ''Just for the Record'' have nice moments as well, but CLUTCHING AT STRAWS doesn't have much that really grips me. It takes too long to get started and finishes on a whimper.

It's not too bad, but fails to really stick out amongst the sea of prog I've heard thus far.

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Send comments to Sinusoid (BETA) | Report this review (#266044)
Posted Saturday, February 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
JLocke
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars This particular entry by Neo-Prog pioneers Marillion is somewhere in-between their masterpieces Script For A Jester's Tear and Misplaced Childhood, and their slightly less-satsfying Fugazi album when it comes to my enjoyment of it. There is some incredibly strong material on here that the band would arguably never quite reach again, but there are still a few moments on Clutching At Straws that sound like filler to me.

The best tracks for me are ''Warm Wet Circles'', ''That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)'', ''White Russian'', ''Incommunicado'' and ''Sugar Mice'' (the last of those listed tracks being of my favorite Marillion songs ever produced from any album). However, all the rest of the songs are hit-and-miss for me, and more misses happen on this record than the previous one, at least from my perspective.

However, the number of songs that do appeal to me are so high quality, it makes owning the entire album seem more worthwhile just so one can experience those specific tracks. I think Fish was once again writing about themes and concepts, but the narrative approach had left by this point, and the album doesn't particularly flow like a concept album. Songs segue into each other, and some references to the title are weaved within the track names here and there, but ultimately this album works much better when viewed merely as a collection of scarcely-related tracks.

The moments that move me the most make up for the weaker sides that this piece has, and overall it's still a great Fish-era Marillion record. Still better than Fugazi, as mentioned earlier, but not as good as this line-up's two masterworks. It's simply a just above-average record that should appeal to all who enjoy Fish's work, but it doesn't relay the same epic, forward-moving feel that some of its peers did. I think that is mainly because this particular line-up of the band was about to stop working together, and the tensions were likely higher than ever in the studio. So the final presentation may have been slightly tainted by this, but the music itself managed to dodge the bullet, and Marillion's last record withy Fish ended up being a very worthy final hurrah.

If you enjoy accessible Pop music with heavy Prog leanings, this one might even appeal to you the most out of all the Fish-era albums, but if you're more eager to hear the grand concepts and innovation of Script and Misplaced Childhood it probably won't help you reach the same heights while hearing it. Despite that, it's still a fantastic record, and an enjoyable swan song for this era of Marillion.

Happy listening.

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Send comments to JLocke (BETA) | Report this review (#270557)
Posted Monday, March 08, 2010 | Review Permalink
Rune2000
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Prog Metal Team
5 stars Clutching At Straws will always be remembered as the last Fish-era album which is unfortunate considering all the excellent material this release has to offer!

I honestly think that this record is just as great as all of the band's earlier highlights if not even better. Unlike Script For A Jester's Tear, that overemphasized its lyrical content, or Fugazi, that gave us a weird mix of compositions that in the end didn't accumulate into a cohesive album, Clutching At Straws is a perfectly balanced album that brings out all the best qualities that existed on the previous three albums. Might it be the conceptual arc, strong lyrics or commercially-oriented escapades. This album offers it all!

The first three tracks form a loose suite and it's a great way to transition the music from Misplaced Childhood by giving the audiences just enough familiar ground to keep them interested in hearing the rest. The remainder of the album keeps up a dark and melancholic-like atmosphere all throughout the release. Tracks like Incommunicado and Slàinte Mhath do try to lighten up the mood but even they carry some connection to the overall theme of the album and don't, in any way, break the atmosphere set by the rest of the material.

I believe that moody atmosphere on Clutching At Straws is here for all the right reasons and the fact of Fish's departure actually adds to the strength of the of this album's style. It's true that this material took me slightly more time to appreciate compared to the band's previous works and that could probably explain why not as many people like this album in comparison to classics like Misplaced Childhood. It takes a few more revisits and a bit more patience until the music settles in but once it does the quality of this material becomes undeniable.

Just like Peter Gabriel before him, Fish left his band at the hight of their career and just like Genesis, Marillion managed to maintain their popularity for years to come. Although Clutching At Straws will always be overshadowed by his departure this album is an essential piece of Neo-Prog that has to be in every prog rock music collection!

***** star songs: Hotel Hobbies (3:35) Warm Wet Circles (4:25) That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw) (6:00) White Russian (6:27) Slàinte Mhath (4:45) Sugar Mice (5:46)

**** star songs: Going Under (2:47) Just For The Record (3:09) Incommunicado (5:16) Torch Song (4:04) The Last Straw (5:58)

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Send comments to Rune2000 (BETA) | Report this review (#276631)
Posted Tuesday, April 06, 2010 | Review Permalink
Flucktrot
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Although a slightly frustrating album for me, there's just something about the atmosphere that brings a uniqueness to Clutching at Straws. Unlike a lot of neo-prog, this album feels like something fairly fresh. Instead of looking back (i.e., Genesis), Straws reminds a lot of the time period, with the standard power ballad (Sugar Mice), and plenty of moments--somewhat bluesy and mournful--that really remind me of the prototypical late 80s cop show involving a lead detective who is out-of-luck and out of chances. Fairly standard stuff, but the combination with some prog elements, true passion, and a believable plot really helps Straws to stick out nicely in my collection.

Highlights: Hotel Hobbies/Warm Wet Circles/Short Straw, Incommunicado, Sugar Mice, the Last Straw. The opening 3-song suite is a very solid piece, with perhaps the most interesting music coming right off the bat (Hotel Hobbies). If the whole album was of this quality, we may be looking at 5-star material.

And then, the album falls into a fairly generic, 5-minute-ish song structure, with long gaps between songs that really cause the album to lose momentum. Perhaps things were rushed or strained in the recording studio, but it just feels a bit incomplete. However, some of these "singles" are very listenable, from the energetic Incommunicado to the sassy finale.

Of course, Sugar Mice is in its own class here. It's so deceivingly simple that structurally there is little difference between this and your run-of-the-mill power ballad. However, Sugar Mice blows Every Rose has its Thorn out of the water, probably because Marillion are better songwriters, lyricists, and can deliver some real emotion. I've been noticing this all the time with prog, and I just love it when prog bands take another band or genre's calling card and come up with something so much better than the original!

The subject matter is tough too, but mostly because it's connecting with something that so many struggle with. The self-centeredness that alcoholism brings can lead to a captivating album, but because it was also partly happening in real life, it was perhaps inevitable that there could be no fruitful band collaboration with Fish moving forward from Straws.

Some great moments, countered by some relative duds, and a bit of a lack of coherence and momentum in places, but I enjoy coming back to Clutching at Straws frequently. Perhaps it inspires me to be just a bit better person...to never let myself be #1 at the end of the bar.

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Send comments to Flucktrot (BETA) | Report this review (#291123)
Posted Monday, July 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
PROG REVIEWER
4 stars Ah, Marillion... The band which in the 80´s rescued symphonic rock from obscurity and put it right back to the limelight for the new generations! How can I be grateful enough? And yet I must admit I had lots of prejudice against this album (without even listening to it). Like a lot of dumb prog fans I was fearing so much that Marillion had become soft and pop after the worldwide success of Kayleigh that I simply refused to even listen to their new stuff. One glance at the local TV showing their video for Sugar Mice was enough to see "sell out!" everywhere! (my worst nightmares seemed to come true). I decided to forget it all about this band and keep the good memories I had from Script For A Jester´s Tear. Who could ever guessed at the time that Clutching At Straws would become my second favorite Marillion album?

Well, it just took a few listenings, in 1990, when in a fit of nostalgia I thought it would be good idea to hear all their former CDs before Fish left the band in 1988. And I realized that Clutching At Straws was so far away from being that pop record I feared for years. Ok, the music changed, there are no epics, no 9 minute suites and all, but it is still great prog music, that only a talented bunch like this could produce in the late 80´s. Marillion was often labeled as Genesis copycats, but they were really making their very own sound since the beginning. Even better, this CD clearly showed they were also paving the way for the future prog bands. And, like Misplaced Childhood before it, Clutching At Straws is another concept album (something considered way too reckless by the music industry then). The story of succesful writer Torch against his problems with drugs and alcohool is quite too close to home (Fish anknowledges the character was based largely on his own life at the time).

Musically the album has great moments, although it is not perfect. There are some tracks that took quite a long time to like (White Russian, Slàinte Mhath, Incommunicado, Sugar Mice), but eventually even those ones won me over. However, the first three songs (Hotel Hobbies, Warm Wet Circles and That Time Of The Night) were so wonderful I still think they are worth the price of the CD alone. Besides, Just For The Record has one of the most Banks-inspired synth solo ever done by Mark Kelly. Not to mention the group´s tight performance, absolutely amazing.. Fish never sang better and Steve Rothery reached new heights with his guitar playing. Nowadays it became clear that those guys could do little more after this string of outstading albums. Marillion was the Yes of the 80´s. And like that band, they could not go much further in terms of musical relevance for their time. Typical case of too many good hands in one single band too long. One had to get out sooner or later.

Conclusion: another excellent release by this great band. Its swan song was one of the most beautiful works of their short time together with poet and singer Fish, but, when they were together, how they shone like few others ever did! Rating: 4,5 stars for this one. Highly recommended.

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Send comments to Tarcisio Moura (BETA) | Report this review (#292007)
Posted Monday, July 26, 2010 | Review Permalink
EatThatPhonebook
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Marillion's last album with Fish, so the band's fourth album, is a nice surprise. Fish ends his Marillion career beautifully, with an almost masterpiece. "Clutching At Straws" is the second best Marillion album, only second to "Misplaced Childhood", in my opinion (even though some may not agree).

IT has all the elements typical of the band: nice symphonic prog influences, heavy synths typical of the 80's, and, of course, memorable melodies, which ae conceived thanks especially to Fish's strong and effective voice.

Great songs, like the haunting "Warm Wet Circles", which could easily be a cut from "Misplaced Childhood". "The Time Of The Night" is another great one, with a great melody and chorus. "Just For The Record" is a brilliant pop song, "White Russian" a relly good prog song, with a catchy melody. "Incommunicado" must be, even if I'm not sure, a huge hit at their concerts, "Slainte Mhath" another fabulous tune, even this one a little "Misplaced Childhood" influenced. Some other songs, however, a little less appealing, and didn't draw my attention much.

As a conclusion, I must say that anyway, despite some defects, this is definitely an album to listen to, if you like Neo Prog.

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Send comments to EatThatPhonebook (BETA) | Report this review (#296876)
Posted Tuesday, August 31, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars A true masterpeace! Rothery is on fire here (White Russian!) I also like Kelly's piano parts very much. I still play this album. The only track I allways skip is Incommunicado, that's really awfull... When I visited the Seasons end tour later I allways wondered why they skipped Hotel Hobbies, it is a nice openere and it really fits there. Just for the record has some great keyboard solo's. Going under is a filler but a nice one. White Russian is the best track of the album Incommunicado, Jughhhh... Torch song is ok and it leads up to Slainthe mhath, a great rocker. Indeed a good concertopener for them. Sugar mice is again a song where Rothery can excelerate. The last straw is the second best track of the album. 4 stars and that's only because of Incommunicado.

The bonus cd is all so very nice, you can hear what could have been if they had just taken a year of to record soloalbums instead of breaking up...

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Send comments to Luc (BETA) | Report this review (#297473)
Posted Sunday, September 05, 2010 | Review Permalink
lazland
PROG REVIEWER
3 stars Coming off the back of the critically acclaimed and commercial monster smash Misplaced Childhood, Marillion, under pressure from EMI, released this LP in 1987, rather than taking the break that all of the band agreed was desperately needed following years of relentless touring and recording.

This is an album which divides Marillion fanatics like myself and also reviewers on this site. Reviews veer between masterpiece and god awful, whereas, in truth, it lies somewhere in between.

The one thing I will say about this is that it is, essentially, a Fish solo album in all but name, and the big man himself has been quoted many times as stating it is his favourite album from his period with the band. Take a look at the cover. The band look disinterested in the pub playing pool or staring vacuously into the distance. For this is absolutely all about Fish's personal demons. Drink, marriage, a rotten society, drugs, and more drink. More over, the band, aside from some of Steven Rothery's trademark beautiful guitar solo bursts, sound like an outfit truly in need of a rest and also rather tired of the whole (show) business.

That is not to say that there are not some wonderful moments on this. That Time Of The Night is one of the era's finest tracks. With Sugar Mice, Fish continued his uncanny knack of producing exceptional commercial music with prog sensibilities, although the other hit single, Incommunicado, is a little bit too frenetic for my tastes.

Also, when he sings with genuine passion and bitterness, especially on Slainte Mhath, Fish can raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

There are, though, too many fillers and tracks where the band are merely going through the motions. Going Under and Just For The Record, especially, are very forgettable. What follows these, White Russian, is, by contrast, perhaps the most mature track that the band had produced, with a thunderous riff and Kelly shining on piano accompanying a bitter and cynical Fish observation.

After this, the band and Fish would go their separate ways. For a lot of people, it was the end of the band as an interesting prog outfit. For me, their finest moments were to come, and the first time I heard Hogarth singing The King Of Sunset Town on his debut Season's End, I knew everything would be alright. Strange, really, because I had followed the band since seeing them at The Marquee before most people had ever heard of them, and Fish was as close to an idol for me as I was ever likely to get in that era or any other.

Three stars for this, although it would get a 3.5 on such a rating system. It is very good in places, but, to these experienced Marillion ears, the least satisfying of that era of the band. The best was yet to come.

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Send comments to lazland (BETA) | Report this review (#337535)
Posted Sunday, November 28, 2010 | Review Permalink
J-Man
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars The End of an Era

Just two years after the commercial and artistic triumph that was Misplaced Childhood, Marillion crafted another masterwork with 1987's Clutching at Straws. Despite all of the tensions and problems during the recording of this album, Marillion still managed to come out on top, creating one of the definitive releases in eighties progressive rock. This would end up being the last Marillion album with Fish behind the microphone, and I think time has proved this as the perfect swansong for the dramatic and theatric vocalist. Providing some of his most emotional lyrics and vocal performances, complimented by some of the darkest music Marillion has ever produced, you have some of the greatest material the band has ever created. Clutching at Straws is a masterpiece out of the league of all other masterpieces, and there really is no other way to describe it. Even though I love both Fish and Hogarth-era Marillion, no future album would ever top this one. If you like progressive rock, neo-prog, or just music in general, Clutching at Straws is an essential masterpiece!

The music here is very similar to the first three Marillion albums, even though the mood is much darker and melancholic and the sound is slightly more mature. This means that you should expect dark neo-prog with beautiful vocal melodies, poignant lyrics, and melodic instrumentation. The keyboards on Clutching at Straws are much more atmospheric than on the first three albums, even further proving Mark Kelly's keyboard prowess. Many of the solos on this album are from Steve Rothery. I adore his melodic playing style and, even though he isn't the most technical guy out there, his picking has more feeling and emotion than almost anyone. Clutching at Straws also features some of the best basslines Pete Trewavas would ever perform, not to forget about the spot-on drumming from Ian Mosley. The musicianship is very professional overall, and is yet another reason to love this album. However, the greatest assets of this entire album lie in the strength and sheer emotional power of the compositions. When I say that this album has some of the most beautiful music ever written, that is no overstatement. Songs like "Sugar Mice", "Warm Wet Circles", "Going Under", and "The Last Straw" are all emotional masterpieces. There are also some more upbeat tunes like "Just for the Record" and "Incommunicado", both of which are also masterpieces. Every song on Clutching at Straws is easily 5-star material; how many albums can you really say that about?

It's nearly impossible to discuss a Fish-era Marillion album without mentioning Derek Dick's terrific lyrical force. I'm not usually one to pay much attention to lyrics, but I must say that the words here have captivated me from first listen. Clutching at Straws may be some of Fish's finest work, considering the amazing amount of emotion he put into songs like "Sugar Mice" or "The Last Straw". If lines like "So if you want my address it's number one at the end of the bar, Where I sit with the broken angels clutching at straws and nursing our scars, Blame it on me, blame it on me" or " We're terminal cases that keep talking medicine, Pretending the end isn't quite that near" don't send shivers down your spine, you may not have a soul. The deep lyrical context Fish has created in relation to his own alcoholism is truly spectacular. I don't hesitate in saying that this album contains some of the greatest lyrics ever written. Add in some of Fish's most inspired and emotional vocal performances, and you have another aspect where Clutching at Straws is superb.

The production is the best that Marillion has ever had. Whereas their earlier works sounded slightly too synthetic, this is the perfect balance between an organic sound and a powerful mix.

Conclusion:

Since the first time I heard Clutching at Straws, I knew it was a complete masterpiece. This is one of the most emotional and spectacular albums I own - it's one of my all-time favorites for sure. If you like progressive rock and still haven't gotten a copy of this classic, I would fix that as soon as possible. This is one of my favorite albums, so I have no hesitation in giving out a 5 star masterpiece ranking. Even though Marillion would release some more great albums after this, Clutching at Straws is the end of their definitive era. Fish and Marillion were an unstoppable force back in the eighties. They created some of the best prog rock ever as well as many of my personal favorites. I'm so glad I've had the experience of hearing their music - this is magic in its truest form!

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Send comments to J-Man (BETA) | Report this review (#346521)
Posted Tuesday, December 07, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Clutching at Straws is the final studio album that Fish will make with Marillion but what an impressive set of recordings he leaves behind. Script, Fugazi and Childhood were very consistent and, although they may not have stretched the musical boundaries of prog rock, each of these is of exceptional quality and are deserving of a place in any prog rock collection.

Clutching of Straws matches the quality of the earlier efforts. These are generally shorter songs (longest is White Russian at 6:28) that flow into each other. There are again no weak tracks. There are some great guitar and 'Banks-style' keyboard solos but it is really Fish that delivers an impressive performance.

There are many highlights but I do enjoy the Torch Song in which the Jester (Fish) is a victim of his fame and lifestyle ? a Roman candle burning out.

Highly recommended. 4.5 stars

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Send comments to KeepItDark (BETA) | Report this review (#358944)
Posted Monday, December 20, 2010 | Review Permalink
octopus-4
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
RIO/Avant/Zeuhl Team
4 stars The last Marillion's album with Fish is the end of an era, and a pity because it contains some of the best songs ever released by the band. The sound is similar to Misplaced Childhood, but even if all the songs are more or less about alcoholic themes it's not properly a concept album.

I won't go through each single song as there is already a high number of reviews I agree with. One of the reasons why I have this album in my heart is that when it was released I was aware of Fish leaving, even if a radio was speaking about "disbanding". So I was surprised to find a so good work for a band whose elements were about to quit.

The songs and the arrangements are excellent, with highlights in "Warm Wet Circles", "White Russian", "Slainthe Mhath" (hello in Scottish) and "The Last Straw", but the real excellence is in the lirycs. This adds "Sugarmice" to the highlights. It's poetry. Fish will come back to a similar argument in his first solo album (Family Business).

The only weak track for me is "Incommunicado". This should have been the hit single from the album so it results in the less progressive track. Nothing more than good pop. A note: for the first time Marillion have chorists, but in the TV gigs two men and a women became two girls. In the 80s there was a big attention to the look.

4+ stars for the last act with Fish. A must have for all the Marillion fans

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Send comments to octopus-4 (BETA) | Report this review (#373208)
Posted Wednesday, January 05, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars In my view, one of the better prog rock albums of all time and by a large margin; the best neo-prog album of all time.

Marillion returned after the massive success of Misplaced Childhood which sold a zillion copies, filled out stadiums and made Marillion the big name. It would had been easy to write and record Misplaced Childhood # 2 while they were on the top of the surf. But to their eternal credit; Marillion did not do that. Instead, they released this dark masterpiece called Clutching at Straws.

At this time, Fish had some personal problems (substance/alchol related) which ended with his departure from the Marillion line up. A departure which probably saved his life, according to some media reports. These problems though runs like a river through this album. The title of this album says it all. Clutching at Straws....... we have all been there. I also believe most of the songs here are in that vein. I believe because I have not checked up on the Marillion/Fish facts lately. I am not sure in other words. But Clutching at Straws is one heck of a darkened album and far too dark for the tight confines of the neo-prog genre. This album has resonated well with me since I bought it a few days after it's release and it has become a dear friend. Which says a lot about me, btw......

The songs are all almost perfect and in the masterpiece class. The album is dark, but it also has a lot of lights, shadows and grandeur. Most of all; all songs are absolute great. Yes, the music here also sounds like early Genesis too. Another plus in my book.

Fish does a wonderful job on this album and really gives it the identity it got. The rest of the band is great too.

For me; this is one of the very rare five stars albums. As simple as that. It is also a dear friend to me.

5 stars

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Send comments to toroddfuglesteg (BETA) | Report this review (#442313)
Posted Tuesday, May 03, 2011 | Review Permalink
Ivan_Melgar_M
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Prog Specialist
4 stars Goodbye Fish, you will be missed

Since I learned that Fish left MARILLION after releasing this album refused to upgrade it to CD, being that it gave me some sort of nostalgia to listen the "swan song" of a glorious band that turned dull and in-transcendent after the departure of the talented frontman, vocalist and lyricist, but instead of complaining, lets talk about the last album of MAERILLION with the charismatic Derek William Dick.

The album is opened "Hotel Hobbies" a song that begins with a long and mysterious introduction with Fish singing almost a cappella, being that the music is so subtle that we can almost only hear the voice, but suddenly the song radically changes into a heavy section with Mark Kelly and Steve Rothery giving a memorable performance.

Almost instantaneously "Hotel Hobbies" morphs into "Warm Wet Circles", one of the most beautiful and melodic classics of the band, the vocals are so unique, that I can't imagined it being sung by Hogarth...One of the top moments of the band.

"That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw)" is one of the songs that I like less from the album, but I can't deny that the keys and bass are spectacular and the soft changes are very interesting, probably one of the few songs that reminds more of the four man era GENESIS.

"Going Under" is another high point with the excellent guitar and atmospheric Mellotron, but best of all the way it links with the faster and strong "Just for the Record", this guys manage the contrast between songs in a very skilled way.

The following two tracks are among my favorite MARILLION songs, the atmospheric but hard "White Russian" with radical changes plus amazing piano and the eternal "Incommunicado", a classic that shows the typical Fish MARILLION style, simply frenetic and delightful, with one of Derek"s best vocal performances.

"Torch Song" is a beautiful ballad, not spectacular, but good enough, specially because the Synth, but it leads to another classic "Slainte Mhath" which after the soft introduction changes into one of the best tracks of their history, perfectly syncopated by Ian Mosley who has one of the best timings I ever heard, but not lack of emotion and abrupt percussion explosions, and to complete the scene, Fish showing all the energy he's capable of.

The album ends with "Sugar Mice" and "The Last Straw", both soft and melodic, as to lower the revolutions after the frenetic "Slainthe Mahth", but in my opinion not the best option to close the last album with Fish in the vocals.

Obviously "Clutching at Straws" is not in the superb level of "Script for a Jester's Tear" or even "Misplaced Childhood", but surely an essential release for every Prog collection, so 4 stars it is.

BTW: My version of "Clutching at Straws", comes with a second CD that I won't write about (I only review the albums as they were originally released by the band),, that contains good unreleased material and some alternative versions of the best tracks , but despite this option I take, strongly recommend to get it, some of this bonus tracks are very good.

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Send comments to Ivan_Melgar_M (BETA) | Report this review (#526638)
Posted Sunday, September 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
Warthur
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars Although I think Script For a Jester's Tear has some of Fish-era Marillion's best songs, I think Clutching At Straws beats it out in my estimation as their best album. Whereas Misplaced Childhood was an occasionally twee look at an ultimately safe topic - everyone sympathises with romantic disappointment, after all - Clutching At Straws sees Fish directly confronting the subject of his own binge drinking behaviour which at the time was spiralling out of control. The opening triptych of Hotel Hobbies-Warm Wet Circles-That Time of the Night showcases this theme particularly well, Sugar Mice is a heartbreaking account of how people end up disappointing each other, whilst White Russian shows that through it all Fish still hadn't lost his social conscience.

Incommunicado, the single from the album, might be a fairly poppy merry-go-round, but like Kayleigh you get a lot more out of it in the album context - in this case, the jollity expressed by the song is clearly a facade which finally crumbles with The Last Straw. On the whole, the album sees an excellent performance from the band - in particular, Mark Kelly is absolutely on fire this time around - and it also features a deft inclusion of female backing singers which works far better than anyone could have expected it to.

It might represent the end of Fish-era Marillion, but talk about going out on a high. I think it's the best album they ever made with Fish, and must surely be in the pantheon of their best albums ever.

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Send comments to Warthur (BETA) | Report this review (#587617)
Posted Wednesday, December 14, 2011 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is a must. One of the biggest albums from the eighties. Beautiful melody-lines from start to end. As a complete album I think this is the best Marillion-album ever. Jester and misplaced childhood are also good albums, but this one is special. No other album have this punch of passion you find here. Just listen to going under and the words "Where do we go from here" and the finest Marillion song "Sugar mice" ever. Soon you will realize that Fish is just in top shape here. The lyrics here got also high class. The best there is, in fact. I just love it. This is a masterpiece. Five stars from me.

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Send comments to RogerRockable (BETA) | Report this review (#591073)
Posted Sunday, December 18, 2011 | Review Permalink
AtomicCrimsonRush
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Symphonic Team
4 stars Marillion present one of the best prog albums of 1987.

Neo-prog progenitors Marillion's followup to the "Misplaced Childhood" masterpiece certainly does not disappoint and features some of the tracks that permeated their live concerts. Fish was a commanding theatrical presence during this early era and knew how to move an audience through an emotional experience using just the right dramatic intonation and costumes to evoke a response. He was a master vocalist similar to Peter Gabriel in the early Genesis phase.

Musically the band are legendary implementing into the songs intricate structures, the pleasant synths of Mark Kelly, strong melodies held together by the drums of Ian Mosley and the basslines of Pete Trewavas, and of course the powerful lead breaks of Steve Rothery. Of course the drawcard is the vocals of Fish; a key element to the brilliance of the early incarnation of the band. The band were the dominant force of the prog 80s. If it were not for bands like Marillion or Rush, prog would have suffered during the difficult 80s period. Fish story telling vocals are prominent such as on 'Hotel hobbies', 'Warm wet circles' and 'That time of the night (The short straw)'. The reverberated guitars and synths generate an ambience as Fish softly croons.

These first 3 tracks flow together seamlessly. Then the first power ballad comes with 'Going under'. The vocals are exquisite, "I'm going under fast, slipping fast, am I so crazy", and very spacey symphonic textures draw the listener in.

'Just for the record' has a faster tempo and heavier guitars and drums. The 80s synths are everpresent but this also has some heavy distorted guitar. The synth solo is terrific and it has a striking melody. A howling wind begins 'White Russian'. Fish sings "where do we go from here" until a driving riff motors along and the next verses are sung more forcefully with images of terror, war, poppies on the cenotaph, the holocaust and uzzies on the street corner. Fish sings with insightful conviction "replace our faith in human rights" in this anti-war song that is a highlight on the album. It finishes with a musical box song, a nice touch. 'Incommunicado' is one of the fan favourites sung many times live, and it features a prevailing hook, and fast beat with progressive time sig changes. This one is a blockbuster, loud and brash, it breaks through the serenity with some stunning organ runs and Fish at his most roguish, singing aggressively and abrasively.

A quiet guitar begins 'Torch song' and Fish is temperate in mood, "burn a little brighter now". There are some narrative sections over a chiming synth and guitar. It segues directly into the melodic 'Slàinte Mhath'.Fish is excellent on this, "this is the story so far", and the guitars of Rothery are hypnotic. The music on this album is truly infectious.

'Sugar mice' is a Marillion classic with very serene passages in the verses and a commercial sound suitable or radio. In fact it was a single for the band. The lyrics are quite iconic, "I heard Sinatra calling me down through the floors". The power ballads of the 80s are an 80s fixture and this is Marillion's version. It builds in the mid section with loud lead guitar break, effective bassline and 4/4 percussion. The straight forward feel is welcome after the more intricate songs. The wonderful melody is soaring and easy to soak in to the system.

'The last straw' closes the album and features Fish performing a duet with the powerhouse vocals of Tessa Niles. It closes the album with a soulful approach and the repeated phrase "we're clutching at straws" is echoed by Niles' "still drowning".

Thus ends a very effective album with consistent quality and some of Marillion's best material. 1987was admittedly a weak year for prog but "Clutching at Straws" was one of the saviours as far as prog was concerned.

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Send comments to AtomicCrimsonRush (BETA) | Report this review (#604569)
Posted Saturday, January 07, 2012 | Review Permalink
4 stars The Anachronism Part 4: As perfect as can be

If my memory serves me well then this is Fish's favorite and he is proud that "Clutching at Straws" - in spite of the tensions that had grown between him and the rest of the band - became "their best album". I can't disagree because - if you do not prefer "Script" in spite of its inferior drumming - it is ( with Fish, of course, not the best of their entire catalogue ! ).

Here the guys really gave the best they were able to ( without really breaking new ground, though ), and, what's most important to me, it's a very fine collection of songs. Stripped off of the "Concept-Album-Frame" they managed to increase the level of perfection without losing the spark and urge behind the music ( or, with the exception of a few snippets, die in beauty ). I really like it as a whole - "Incommunicado" took the longest time but in recent years I finally got it.

It's close to being a five-star-album ( well, for me, personally, it IS one, but I'd like to keep the "tradition" of not giving straight personal ratings so I can perhaps serve the "average Progfan" a bit more - if there is, and I have "experienced" that for sure there are ), and it deserves all the praises that "Old time Marillion" usually receive, and I can't really understand why it's not rated ( and treasured ) at least as high as its predecessor. To me, on "Misplaced Childhood" there is not a single song with the quality of "Slainte Mhath", "Sugar Mice" or "Warm wet Circles", and not a single moment that can touch me as much as they do, which goes to show: for Rupert - it's more about the songs and the expressions of emotion that they deliver, not about concepts or showcases for how good the musicians can play.

As a biiiig fan of Hogarth-Era-Marillion I don't wonder that Mr. H, when it comes to doing "the old stuff", always looked the best with performing material from this album. It's a great one, and, of course, Fish ( as well as the others ) can be proud of it. Can all the lovers of that "golden era" forgive me that I sincerely need to add that many ( not everything ) that was to come was even better ??? I'm very happy with this band, and, if you like, the greatest of happiness already started here, so it should not be too hard to forgive me, even for those who can't agree.

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Send comments to rupert (BETA) | Report this review (#610434)
Posted Sunday, January 15, 2012 | Review Permalink
Starhammer
PROG REVIEWER
5 stars "Chasing the clouds home..."

Clutching at Straws is both a quintessential example of Neo-prog, and Marillion's finest hour. Whilst many consider that honour to lie with one of their earlier albums, for me there is just no competition. Don't get me wrong, Misplaced Childhood has some really great tracks, and Script for a Jester's Tear is certainly their most accomplished "prog" record, but neither possess the refined dynamism of Clutching at Straws.

Instrumentally, I find the overall sound to be warm and welcoming, full of 80's keyboards and melodic guitars, but Fish also brings a darker side, with sharp vocals and despondent themes throughout. It was Marillion's final album to feature the bath-loving Scotsman and he is at the top of his game, both vocally and lyrically. The music itself might not be particularly challenging, some might even call it pop-infested soft rock, but the song writing is excellent and the album flows superbly. I find it impossible not to listen to this from start to finish, and that is truly the sign of a great record.

The Verdict: Synthsational.

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Send comments to Starhammer (BETA) | Report this review (#823322)
Posted Tuesday, September 18, 2012 | Review Permalink
Angelo
SPECIAL COLLABORATOR
Honorary Collaborator / Retired Admin
5 stars Mesmerizing

This album was released when I was 15. At the time, my table tennis coach was a huge Marillion and Rush fan (and he still is). He got me hooked on both in the end, although Rush did a much better job at sticking with me - probably because I'm a 'Fish-era Marillion fan'. I recall that he didn't want to lend me this album at first, because he thought it was too dark and possibly confusing for me, from a lyrical perspective. Little did he (and I) know that this would over time become my favourite Marillion album. That didn't happen on the spot, I only really started listening to it after I was stricken by the raw energy of Slaínthe Mhath on the live album The Thieving Magpie.

Over time, Just for the Record, Slaínthe Mhath, Sugar Mice and White Russian have become part of my list of all time Marillion favourites, together with the often despised Incommunicado. The story of the album, the melancholy of the singer wasting away and loosing his dream has inspired the band to great music - a pity it also led to the departure of their own singer.

Musically, this album contains everything that Marillion is known for: emotional vocals, wonderful guitar work, driving, yet melodic bass and ever present keyboards. This album defines Neo-prog, if it needs a definition, and as such will always be one of the few real prog master pieces of the 1980's.

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Send comments to Angelo (BETA) | Report this review (#911660)
Posted Saturday, February 09, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars By analyzing and qualify such classic albums, I struggle with nostalgia and emotions that lie in my memory. Counting the pennies, gained Clutching at Straws in my teens. I was looking Misplaced Childhood, and did not find, at least at a price I could afford. So I got a cassette of the album later. After channeling a little anxiety, I began to notice the undeniable quality from the first to last track.

The Union Hotel Hobbies / Warm Wet Circles / That Time of the Night and Torch Song / Slainte Mhath are absolutely unbeatable. Not to mention White Russian and Sugar Mice.

The band was going through moments of great fatigue and tension, but the music and the ideas are fresh and innovative. For some people it was an inferior sequel to the masterpiece produced a couple of years ago, something similar to The Final Cut over The Wall. Let me disagree completely to the idea, and time properly put things in place.

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Send comments to sinslice (BETA) | Report this review (#990663)
Posted Monday, July 01, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars To (sadly) complete my reviews of the Fish era Marillion studio albums I relistened to this album. Another concept work by a band that I had learned to love a great deal up to this point.

The album starts off well with "Hotel Hobbies" and I'm promised another mood rush similar to the rushes that the previous three albums brought on.

"Warm Wet Circles" - I get a kind of Kayleigh vibe from this track. Very nice emotionally lighter number from the band. I find the title of the track and the lyrics here brilliant. I've had the unfortunate circumstance in my life of sitting sadly alone in a smoky pub studying the moisture circles left by the bottom of my beer mug on the wood top of the table.

"That Time of the Night" - The mood continues in a brilliant melancholy way. This kind of continues my retrospective thinking into harsher times past (most of us have had them I guess).

"Going Under" - Vocally brilliant. Stunningly magical. This is seriously good music mature music covering very mature mood sets.

"Just for the Record" - The mood is lightened by this piece at the right time on the album. A more upbeat almost quirky piece.

"White Russian" - A Vodka based cocktail. An almost angry track with a hint of the hopeless attached. This track ends in a stunningly powerful vocal delivery as only Fish can deliver.

"Incommunicado" - Upbeat radio friendly track serves to break the melancholy mood again.

"Torch Song" - "My advice is, if you maintain this lifestyle, you wont reach thirty". The fight against the clutches of alcohol.

"Slainte Mhath" - Your good health (a toast). Still fighting the clutches of alcohol. An angry track.

"Sugar Mice" - Dealing with the losses and consequences of alcoholism. This is a really sad track although the musical mood is upbeat.

"The Last Straw" - Ending a dark album on a dark note.

This concept album revolves around the clutch of alcohol on the lives of people who end up in a really hopeless, loss filled situation because of it. It is brilliant in what it sets out to achieve. Sadly this was Fish's last studio album with the band but he ended things on a high note. I never really got on with Fish's solo work but here in Marillion he was brilliant. I prefer this album to the previous one however I can't say that it resonates with me as strongly as the first two albums do. I've had my personal fight with alcohol so I do understand the power in this work - luckily alcohol was never able to grab ahold of me and today, if I feel inclined to, I can still polish off a bottle of Bourbon in a sitting with no real consequence other than a headache if I'm unlucky - however I guess that I very seldomly feel inclined to these days.

Rating wise where I gave the previous album a solid 4 stars I would vector toward 4 and a half for this brought down to 4 due to some tracks that don't really do much for me. The best part of this album to me are the three tracks "Warm Wet Circles" and the following tracks "That time of the Night" and "Going Under".

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Send comments to sukmytoe (BETA) | Report this review (#1002597)
Posted Sunday, July 21, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars This album is very special for many reasons: 1) It is the last heroical statement of Fish in front of Marillion 2) It marked the middle point of the old Marillion (in songs such as Warm Wet Circles, Incommunicado, White Russian and Slainthe Math) and the new Marillion (Going Under, That Time of the Night, Just for the Record) 3) It contains one of the most heartbreaking songs I've ever heard in my life, Sugar Mice. Definitely, one of the best albums in the Fish era with all the members playing at a great level. Fish singing with passion and such a power that makes you shed a tear with Sugar Mice; Steve Rothery with wonderful guitar solos and arrangements, Mark Kelly working as usual with excellent keyboard sounds that rescue the neoprog category. Ian Mosley and Pete Trewavas, working with the accuracy which is a feature in them. One of my favorite albums of Marillion!

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Send comments to Memo_anathemo (BETA) | Report this review (#1012948)
Posted Wednesday, August 07, 2013 | Review Permalink
4 stars The last Fish-era Marillion album is a strange end point as in many respects it represents a clear creative development from Misplaced Childhood and their earlier records - there is no sense here of a band running out of ideas. On the contrary, in the story of a rock star finding emotional emptiness in commercial success there are some neo-prog brilliant songs - notably That Time of the Night, Going Under, Just for the Record and, in particular, White Russian, arguably Marillion's most accomplished song.

The final third of the album (from Torch Song on) is perhaps less effective than the earlier parts, with the lyrics sliding dangerously towards self-pity at points, and the album is undoubtedly less cohesive than its predecessor. But this is still one of the very best neo-prog records.

The great sadness of this album is that one feels this line-up of musicians still has so much more great music to produce, if only they had given themselves a chance; but if there's a consolation it's that Fish-era Marillion never produced a bad album.

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Send comments to jmeadow (BETA) | Report this review (#1097105)
Posted Sunday, December 22, 2013 | Review Permalink
5 stars After the huge success of their previous album "Misplaced Childhood" the band MARILLION decided to have another go at a concept album in the form of CLUTCHING AT STRAWS. This is a tale of an unemployed loser by the name of Torch who has the unfortunate luck to be bad at everything he attempts including being a good husband, father and singer in a band. His downward spiral only continues as he drowns his sorrows in alcohol. MARILLION had a way of keeping the progressive side of music firmly embedded within the human experience which is a breath of fresh air in a genre that relishes in alienation and mental escape into the realms of fantasy, the extraterrestrial and interdimensional.

The theme and concepts that revolve around the human story of a working class bloke who fails to keep his life from becoming shambles is a successful formula which in my opinion opened up the possibilities of progressive music to a wider audience who eschewed the strange and freaked-out musical world that had its reign the previous decade. Sadly the touring schedule burned out the band which proved too much for lead singer Fish who would depart after this album in order to pursue a solo career. The album is also different than the last in the fact that unlike "Misplaced Childhood" where the tracks smoothly blended into one another, on CLUTCHING the songs are distinct and take the listener on a roller coaster ride of hooks, riffs and tempos.

For me it's a clean sweep of 5 star albums for Fish-era MARILLION. These four albums represent a cornerstone in the history of progressive rock. Although I would hardly count them as the most progressive and complex that the genre has to offer or even the most original since the Genesis influence is so obvious, that doesn't seem to be the point. They are simply put, a renaissance of melodic and dramatic representations of the human condition and the new bearers of a torch that had been abandoned by money hungry bands tempted by the pop side. Although the neo-prog sound would carry on as would the band itself, I am hard pressed to find anything that equals the melancholic beauty and emotional depth that these first four albums present.

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Send comments to siLLy puPPy (BETA) | Report this review (#1221362)
Posted Thursday, July 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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