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Marillion - F E A R (F*** Everyone And Run) CD (album) cover





3.77 | 444 ratings

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3 stars For their eighteenth studio album the original Neo-Progressive patriarchs followed an old-school musical tradition of putting social issues center stage, but without the oblique camouflage of "Close to the Edge" or "Selling England by the Pound" (two of the better-known '70s archetypes).

Marillion has always been more direct and unflinching in its encounters with Everyday Life (see: "Clutching at Straws", one of the higher-ranked albums in these Archives), and never more so than in this 67-minute criticism of The State of Things today. In classic Prog fashion the album opens quietly, with a gentle prologue invoking the poet William Blake ("the enchanted English walled garden", so forth). But the Dark Satanic Mills now threatening Blake's Anglo-Eden are geo-political, multi-corporate, and driven by insatiable, selfish policies of profit and greed.

This is one of those wordy albums that requires your undivided attention; otherwise it's a long haul across a very deep, evenly-graded rut. Not unlike a lot of Neo-Prog it draws musical and thematic inspiration from post-"Animals" PINK FLOYD, with far more unity of purpose than the Roger Waters-led group, but also with the same maudlin chords, the same sleepwalking tempos, and a similar, strident preoccupation with lyrical content over actual songwriting.

You might think all the moral outrage expressed in the text would extend to some equally indignant music. But this is the plushest hour of agit-prop you'll likely ever hear, full of the band's trademark soaring guitars and orchestral synths, arranged with little variation in tone or texture. The album was divided into three long suites, taking immediate aim at our reigning global oligarchy in the 17-minute mini-epic "El Dorado", rising to a climax of genuine strength and emotion in what has to be the highlight of the entire project.

The transitional anthem "Living in FEAR" is equally passionate. "What a waste of time", sings frontman Steve Hogarth, compiling a list of follies in a long history of misguided nationalism: the Great Wall of China; the Maginot Line; the Berlin Wall. It's too bad he didn't think to include the virtual wall of Ronald Reagan's SDI pipe dream. Or the Mexican border wall proposed by the newly inaugurated ersatz American president. Or even "The Wall" itself, erected and maintained by the band's role model Roger Waters: a real waste of time, for discriminating Progheads.

And then there's the odd subplot celebrating the transient lifestyle of the modern rock musician ("The Leavers"): the closest thing we have to a romantic gypsy subculture in a homogenized society and, according to Marillion, the best alternative to the grinding erosion of idealism around the world. It may be a wrongheaded misreading on my part, but I detect a whiff of elitism at odds with Progressive Rock's more egalitarian impulses: a sense that we schmucks can only hope to bask in their reflected glory during a concert event before regressing back to our humdrum lives.

The album never quite recovers from that misstep, and plods along under the burden of its convictions for another 45-minutes toward an unresolved ending, literally on a note of music hanging unfinished in mid-air, as if begging for a sequel. If true, let's hope the band rediscovers the collective fire that continues to motivate their better efforts. Or, failing that, at least remembers the immortal words falsely attributed to movie mogul Sam Goldwyn: "If you want to send a message, call Western Union."

Neu!mann | 3/5 |


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