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Marillion - Script For A Jester's Tear CD (album) cover





4.23 | 1993 ratings

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4 stars There are many prog albums over the years that have enjoyed a dazzling musical entrance. The mighty riffs of Red or the piano arpeggios of Can You Understand (Ashes are Burning) come to my mind immediately. Not many albums, however, have enjoyed a striking lyrical entrance, with the vocalist softly rendering a powerful turn of phrase. Script for a Jester's Tear is one of those few. "So here I am once more in the playground of the broken hearts". With such a spirited entrance, it is hard for me, at least, to dislike the album that follows.

Not only does this line serve as a fitting opening to the album, it is also used as a motif for the title track as such. It is a technique that singer and lyricist Fish employs throughout the album. Not just a repetitive chorus, but a lyrical motif as a theme is explored through the length of a composition. As you can gather from this, Script for a Jester's Tear is very much a lyrical album.

Menswear's review mentions that this is an album that you need to read the lyrics along with to enjoy. In addition to that, I would also opine that your interpretation of a track's emotions might be completely at odds with what the band intended if you do not read the lyrics. Let me explain. For instance, Chelsea Monday sans lyrics might sound like a cheesy, overly melancholic dirge. That is at least the impression I got and, combined with Fish seemingly wailing through it, it may not be an inviting proposition. But on reading the lyrics, one gathers that it is a biting, ironic account of a narcissistic starlet. Thereafter, my impression and opinion of the track changed greatly. I especially love the lines, "Perform to scattered shadows on the shattered cobbled aisles/Would she dare recite soliloquies at the risk of stark applause".

Lyrically, Marillion are hard hitting, emotional and poetic right through, also attacking high society, politicians and war along the way. Their assault, unlike Genesis's witty approach, tends to be direct and in your face. Fish accentuates this directness to further distinguish the band from Genesis. He is usually heard wailing, shrieking or growling (NOT death- growls, mind) and Peter Gabriel-esque light hearted moments of pop comic relief are nowhere in sight. The emphasis is on forcefulness rather than finesse.

The finesse (or relative lack thereof) is also what distinguishes Marillion further from not only Genesis but the other prominent bands of the first wave of 70s prog. There's not much by way of subtlety in the music. Similarities with Banks and Hackett begin and end with arpeggios and the tone respectively. It might sound closer to 80s Banks, I give that.

But this is essentially hard hitting, keyboard based 80s rock music attempting to fit into the complex structures of 70s prog. The textural depth of great 70s prog which made the complexity more palatable is not quite in evidence here. Mark Kelly's keyboards sound rather predictable after a while and there is more of Kelly and less of guitarist Steve Rothery on this album. That would change to an extent on Fugazi and more the better, in my opinion. The drums too lack dynamics and tend to be rather loud and stiff. Even as Fish slips into soft falsettos to contrast his grittier, angrier moments. The expression in Fish's lyrics and vocals doesn't seem to be evident in the accompanying music, save some superb Rothery solos. The "Oh, it was the 80s" apology doesn't entirely convince me because Kate Bush used 80s technology to craft the incomparably more eclectic The Dreaming. Nor is the musicianship nearly as virtuoso as on King Crimson's Discipline. Who's to say that, given the chance, even in the 70s, Marillion perhaps may not have matched up to the standards of Genesis or King Crimson, musically that is.

Still, the complexity of five of the six tracks (excluding the radio-ready He Knows You Know) also serves to make it an engaging listening experience. Taken together with the lyrics, the album is more than solid and has an appealing consistency (if a bit tiresome on days when you are not quite in the mood for listening right through). Four stars for a very satisfying album that just lacks that something extra to push me to consider a five.

rogerthat | 4/5 |


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