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Marillion - Somewhere Else CD (album) cover





3.04 | 538 ratings

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4 stars the kaleidoscope...

with "Marbles", Marillion had won over a lot of listeners and, though it isn't my personal favorite, delivered an album that for many - perhaps including themselves - was no less than a landmark, their masterpiece or whatsoever. What it really was... perhaps the one "identity card" ( see my review to "Anoraknophobia" ) that had got accepted the best, and for sure it was a hard one to follow up, cause no matter what album they would have come up with - in many respects they were doomed to fail, but the worst they could have done, imho, was try to repeat it. So, once more, the band had some questions to give an answer to... at least for me.

The first question was: Could they come up with a real sign of life to make sure their journey wasn't over yet ? The answer was "Somewhere else", an album made to confuse some lovers of its predecessor again, cause "Somewhere else", I can gladly report, was "someTHING else again"... though it may have had no easy birth.

The second question was: If progress goes any further, where will it take them this time ? And the answer given said: "We're staying true to ourselves and thereby we'll see where it goes, but we'll make sure it's going to sound different."

With Michael Hunter stepping in for Dave Meegan as a producer ( well, Michael wasn't that "new" at all for the band, he had been involved in making "Marbles" already as its mixer, but given the producer's role for the first time he added - introduced -his very own handwriting to the recording process as well, gladly, I suppose ) the band sounds more "modern" ( but less lush or "big" ) here, and I really had to get used to it first, cause in many ways what's "state of the art" nowadays doesn't please my ears at all, and "Somewhere else" is no exception. The natural rooms for reverb, just as any rooms in sound, especially the body, are smaller due to make place for more stuff in the middle, the compression - instead of really adding dynamics - tends to downpress the edges and make things sound flat instead of bright... typical things that started dominating the age of digital production. In many ways it's perfect but the final result refuses to sound perfect, while... elder productions that, if you speed them through modern equipment to watch their frequencies in never before available distinctiveness, make the oscillographs over-peak like crazy but damn... they sound bloody brilliant and alive ! The irony of it: Nowadays loads of specialists are working like never before in order to get back those "human" soundeffects into the world of digital recording. And they haven't arrived yet, though, in the meantime, things started to get a bit better again. Michael Hunter is the perfect example for a young engineer of the digital age straying for perfection - but therefore he can't be any better than the equipment allows him to.

Many parts of "Somewhere else" still sound fresh and alive, though... and that's mostly due to the band's creativity, I think. You may, as a prog-lover, not like stuff like "See it like a Baby" ( the first single ), but it's really good pop-music and one of the reasons why I like Marillion's wide range of styles, it's one more surprise to make sure they're still daring. And, honestly, it makes me forget the opener "The other Half", a tune that seems to have been desperately tinkered together to have a song but doesn't possess any real flow and therefore fails to please me at all... an exception on this album, I'm glad to say this, really, although I had read a lot of praises concerning this one in music-mags. Why ? I don't know. Those critics and me may have different priorities - but i wonder if they themselves are songwriters. You can almost feel the pains the musicians had by stitching it together - but it wasn't really worth the trouble. Perhaps the lyrics were so important to Hogie that he pushed himself ( or the others ) too hard, too far, but apart from the lyrics it's a forgettable one.

"Thank you whoever you are" is rather not, with its strange change of the time-signature coming and going, leaving the average listener at a loss at first - until it became a natural thing just by repeated listening. But is it "Prog" ? Well, I'm not out to cheat you, it's not. It's a pop-song once more with a fine melody, it's been constructed a bit more complex than others, maybe, and being performed very skillful. Somehow I was supposed to like it from the start, but I couldn't imagine it to be a single-hit. Imagination isn't always a thing to rely on... because it was. In the Netherlands, ladies and gentlemen, and I can only congratulate the record-buyers there, a good tune does not fail on them, no matter how complicated it was constructed. It's somehow funny that - for a time - Marillion could do anything they want but didn't get airplay with stuff like "Under the Sun", "Deserve", "Rich", "Between you and me", "Map of the World"... but after "Marbles" had them come back to a brighter recognition, "Thank you..." earned them another hit-single. Crazy world, but still - well deserved ! Or what did Neil Diamond say ? "When you're hot... you're hot".

Then comes "Most Toys"... and please don't stone me ( once more ), cause I enjoy it. It's fun. Like a child bashing out its triumphant cry over all the "more lucky ones"... bababababa... and the words are true, aren't they ? All of us... losers. The biggest loser: "He who dies with the most toys"... but prog ? God be sure, it's no prog, and if it's prog, then it's "punk-prog" ( lol ). All you Hogie-foes out there you may call it "HogAaaargh" but me I like it still, no matter how disgraced you may feel about it... remember, it's short, it's over soon, the dentist only needed to drill a few minutes, if but for his own pleasure !

What comes next are the best three pieces on the album one after the other. And, be sure, three of the best tracks this band had recorded yet. What a trip... psychedelic art-rock is what I'd like to call it. Not so easy to swallow, perhaps, but it's here where we can hear the band progress the most after "Marbles" and leaving us astounded again... painful it may be, especially "A Voice from the Past", as the very best of the album... and the more you listen to it, the more you get aware that "Somewhere else" is not a different place to look at, it's a kaleidoscope to look through... a kaleidoscope that can show you colors and compositions to leave you astounded again. Lord, that's what I love about this band... they do it again and again but never do they do it in the very same way... cause, for sure, "Somewhere else" doesn't possess the same level of energy that "" or "Anoraknophobia" used to have. It's on a lower level here ( well, we're all getting older and "Marlbes" hadn't been on a higher one, it only sounded better ), but no less astounding. "A tap with clean water" is opening to fill liquid into the kaleidoscope just when Hogie starts repeating those words and those liquid pieces start moving around before one's eyes during the subtle, confusing rhythm-scale of "No such thing". You wanna clutch at a straw of security ? Sorry, there's no such thing either, security is an illusion...

"The Wound" may slightly be a hand to grab, cause it's something you don't get very often on this album: It's "Marillion sounding like Marillion". Perhaps a bit too much for me... cause it doesn't belong to my favorites, though it's a very solid effort that doesn't exclude new colors from the kaleidoscope, there's just a bit too much familiar in the composition as a whole. Perhaps I knew "The Wound" before. It may have been too obviously Hogie's wound that the long-term fan and listener long since has gotten used to deal with. "The last century for Man" is more of my cup again... as is the beautiful melody of "Faith", a brilliant ending that somehow reminds me of "Annie's Song" ( get it ? John Denver's one ! ) without being a rip-off or drowning in schmaltz at all... I have read it was a lesser one several times - don't know why, it's perhaps the best song on the album after that tremendous trip of the title-track, "A Voice from the Past" and "No such thing" have made it the very good album that it became already. Prog ? Well, as a whole, "Somewhere else" is an album full of progression and good enough to grace it with a fourth star. It's a different four stars than the ones I gave to "Marbles", cause it is "Somewhere else". With "Marbles" you were able to travel a long way, even under sea, but this one is more a Kaleidoscope to watch through... and then, perhaps, you'll want more and go somewhere else with the guys. Hm. Sorry. I've just told you what was in the bag of surprises this time. But never mind, surprised you'll be still... my recommendation: take that kaleidoscope into your own hands and have a look for yourself !

rupert | 4/5 |


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