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Marillion - Fugazi CD (album) cover





3.98 | 1424 ratings

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4 stars Between Plagiarism and Greatness

It took me a while to finally listen to Fugazi. Between the brilliance and awe of Fish's latter two albums with the band and the rather messy Genesis-worship of their debut, I wasn't really sure what to expect from the only record in Fish's time that wasn't critically acclaimed. The fact that I've never liked Script for a Jester's Tear has always been rather confusing to me, since it's nearly always listed up as high as Misplaced Childhood or Clutching at Straws on everyone else's lists. So I guess I was glad, but also rather confused, to find that Fugazi certainly is better than the debut, at least in my ears. It contains much of the same theatricality and Peter Gabriel/Hammill worship as Script did, but it seemed to break away into the style developed on Misplaced Childhood enough for me to enjoy it.

But let's be honest here, why do I really prefer this to Script, because a lot of the songs have a lot of the same problems, and there are still critically acclaimed tracks that I really don't get on this album. Firstly, the production is heightened. It's still 80's production, so it still blows rather hard at times, and piles on the cheese in layers during tracks like "Punch & Judy", but Ian Mosley's kit is sounding ridiculously arena, and as cheesy as this is, I do really enjoy it. There's a distinctly infuriating reliance on one synth tone throughout this album, the one that makes an appearance at the start of "Emerald Lies", and several times throughout the record - it just doesn't fit with the theatrical and emotional music that Fish is trying to pull out. And the fantastic stretchy synth that I love from later albums only makes an appearance during "Assassing", although brief moments come into "She Chameleon" and "Incubus". But in the end, it's really just "Jigsaw" that saves this album from the mediocrity of Script. Or, to be more specific, the chorus of Jigsaw, that absolutely flawless melody, with Fish singing as brilliantly as he ever has. I really wish that the instrumentation during the chorus matched the phenomenal vocal performance, because with just the deep bass and puffy synth, it's hardly anthemic, but I guess that just goes to show how strong that melody is. There's even a key change at the end! Man, I love 80's key changes.

The rest of the album is honestly just a slightly-more-competent Script For A Jester's Tear, with the same meandering tracks and the same strange melodies. Fish gets going on his Peter Hammill impression good here, "She Chameleon" being completely off of The Silent Corner and the Empty Stage (albeit with a lot more synth and cheese). Fish spends half of the track shouting words in unison with himself spoiler: click to read, and the other half being as dramatic as he can with minor organ arpeggios backing. Aside from "Jigsaw", this is probably the strongest track here, although both tracks feel as if they hold the same mood throughout and don't really change, which makes them rather boring after a while. The ending of "She Chameleon" is rather excellent, as is the closing minute or so of "Emerald Lies", both parts reminding me of moments during the two albums that would follow.

But as for positive things about this record, that's about it. Rothery's still on his game as an excellent soloist, but I don't think he's ever been off - Jigsaw's solo is certainly one of his best. But a lot of this record suffers from the same things that Script did, in terms of the pacing and generally rather boring passages, particularly evident in the two 8-minute closing tracks. Neither of them really feel as if they are going anywhere, it's just music to accompany Fish's rambling. And although he is my favourite lyricist, and tracks like "She Chameleon" hold some excellent lines, his lyrics are not enough to keep these tracks from being incredibly dry. I had this same problem with a lot of the songs on Script, they regularly felt like meandering compositions of themes piled together, rather than flowing tracks. It's odd, then, to think that Misplaced Childhood - a 40 minute song released just a year later - was such a shining example of how to arrange and execute an epic, yet I'm nearly asleep by the time we've hit the title track here.

I'm glad that Marillion found their feet with Misplaced Childhood, and produced a timeless classic with Clutching At Straws, but Fugazi really just feels like what it is - an intermediary. It's got some great moments, sure, but it also drags on a hell of a lot, and any emotion Fish pumps in with his vocal performance is sucked out by the cheesy as hell production style (which, although I like, really doesn't fit some of these tracks). It's certainly better than Script, which is one of those records that I just don't get the praise for, but it's no masterpiece.


Originally written for my Facebook page/blog:

Gallifrey | 4/5 |


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