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Marillion - Market Square Heroes CD (album) cover





3.90 | 117 ratings

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4 stars This is the one that started it all, a three song EP. I have the 12” picture disc version of this one, purchased shortly after I bought Script for a Jester’s Tear when I was trying to get my hands on anything of Marillion’s I could find.

First up is the title track “Market Square Heroes” which is heavy on keyboards, and with Mik Pointer’s drums and Pete Trewavas’ bass setting a really intoxicating rhythm that reminds me quite a bit of Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” and in some ways even David Bowie’s “Soul Love” (although I can’t really figure that one out – maybe it would make more sense to an actually musician). Otherwise this is really a poppish tune, but the rhythm saves this one from being forgettable. This was the introduction of the vocal phenomenon we were coming to know as Fish. While the comparisons to Peter Gabriel were inevitable, his sneering lilt and vaguely European accent would make this a breath of fresh air in an otherwise rather drab year for interesting new music.

“Three Boats Down From the Candy” features a repeated catchy guitar riff from Steve Rothery, and Mark Kelly’s whining-style keyboards that he would had perfected by the time Script was released.

The entire back side of the disc contains the 17:40 “Grendel”, and this is the real meat of the EP. Mik Pointer’s drum work is solid, tight, and really sets the pace of the song. Apparently this was his peak, as his output on Script was somewhat more suspect, and by the time Fugazi released he was gone. Fish tries out a few different vocal styles, ranging from the barmy Brit, to a kind of Orwellian omnipresent thunder god, to a sort of Syd Barrett babbling simpleton. Again, considering the musical alternatives in the early 80’s, this was pretty good stuff.

The really interesting thing about “Grendel” is the opposing-view angle of the Beowulf story. Grendel was the primary antagonist in Beowulf, a rabid monster (some say more like a troll) who invades the Danish hall Heorot and eats drunken men. Apparently there was a book written by an American author named John Gardner which retold the Beowulf tale from Grendel’s point of view, and this is the inspiration for Fish’s lyrics.

It’s a four part tale:

I – the men of Heorot wail for deliverance to their pagan gods as Grendel stalks the night shedding blood and inciting terror in men;

II – Grendel turns his attention to Heorot. The music paints a picture of impending doom, and a protagonist both hideous and powerful;

III – Grendel is at the gate – the stench of sulfur fills the air, and guard hounds howl in fear. Soldiers prepare to defend the enclave, knowing their fate is near;

IV – the finale. Grendel’s slaughter.

“So you say you believe in all of Mother Nature's laws, but you lust for gold with your sharpened knives. Oh, when your hoards are gathered and your enemies left to rot, you pray with your bloodstained hands at the feet of your pagan gods. Then you try to place the killer's blade in my hand - you call for justice and distort the truth. Well I've had enough of all your pretty, pretty speeches. Receive your punishment; expose your throats to my righteous claws – and let the blood flow, flow, flow, flow.”

I’ve read several different interpretations of this story, ranging from Grendel representing the homicidal nature of Cain that breeds in all men, to a righteous indignation unleashed on those who kill and maim out of greed and lust, yet hide behind the cloak of religious divination. Whichever, it’s a far cry from just about anything else there was to listen to in 1982, and a fantastic piece of progressive music. I don’t buy the “Supper’s Ready” comparisons, at least not in the lyrical theme, although there is a definite strong influence of Genesis and particularly Peter Gabriel in the music (see my Supertramp ‘Crime of the Century’ review for an alternate theory).

All of these would end up on full-length albums at some point, “Market Square Heroes” being the first on the 1984 Reel to Real live album, followed by “Three Boats Down From the Candy” and “Grendel” on the 1988 B-Sides Themselves compilation (“Three Boats Down From the Candy” also appears on the bonus disc of the 1997 reissue of Fugazi). All of these are re-recorded versions though.

This is a nice collector’s item for Marillion fans, and “Grendel” itself is worth the $6 USD I paid for this import back in 1983. It’s not essential (the only EP I’ve ever considered essential for any band is R.E.M.’s debut “Chronic Town”), but considering you can’t get these version of “Market Square Heroes” and “Grendel” in one place anywhere else, it is an excellent addition to the collection of Marillion fans and prog enthusiasts in general, so I don’t think that four stars is too much of a stretch.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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