(All Album Reviews by polska)
Let's get this out of the way up front - the Fish went off (so to speak) some time ago, so this is quite a different Marillion we find ourselves confronted with on Marillion.Com. In other words, don't cry over spilt jesters. But fear not, the album has its fair share of moments of sheer and blissful progosity.
I'll cut to the chase – the track that will endear itself to most readers of Progressive Ears is the wonderful 15-minute-plus epic "Interior Lulu". On "Lulu" Steve Hogarth, the vocalist who stepped into Fish's size 14s, is in fine voice - his angelic rendering of the first section of the song is worth the price of admission alone. His plangent performance is underpinned by sensitive and appropriate instrumental touches from the band, especially bassist Pete Trewavas' evocative fretless bass intro. Hogarth's plaintive refrain gives way to one of Marillion.com's genuine surprises: a bracing, racing full-prog syththesiser break from Mark Kelly that comes fair out of nowhere and leads the song into a sparkling instrumental section in which all players shine. The song is full of filigree and thoughtful touches that plead for repeated listenings. And they follow this cracker with "House" in which you can almost hear the distant tinkle of moulds being broken. How can I frame it? House is a chilled ambient dub groove, peppered with latin trumpet noodling. What lifts the track is that at its core it is a strong song ... with a chorus that calls to mind - here we go again - Marillion's early nemesis Genesis.
Must mention too "A Legacy" - the ear-catching album opener - and the gorgeous "Go!". If Marillion keep reinventing themselves this way, while at the same time looking to their, er, genesis and their roots in progressive rock, they will keep my attention. Nothing fishy here at all.
I like this disc, it's definitely a keeper. Most of it is not progressive in any way, however. As much as I enjoy the great big hook packed rock rave-up "Built in Bastard Radar", there is no way to call that proggy. "Deserve" isn't exactly breaking new ground in the rock idiom either. A decent rock song, but nothing more. "Go!" is a pretty and melodic slow track, a shoe in favorite for lots of people, I'm sure, but it's a bit too long, slow and weepy for me. "Tumble Down the Years" is an unabashed Crowded House knock off, nice pop toon, but hardly progressive.
For me, the album really happens with "Interior Lulu". I love the spy-movie underwater guitar sound and the whole sad and spooky atmosphere in the first section. I love the vaguely Spanish phrasing that begins at about 5:10. Elegant and dramatic. I have a different lyrical interpretation of the song; It's about how the web brings everyone together, yet we're all much further apart, more alienated and lonely than we've ever been as a species. Fascinating subject that I dwell on frequently. While the Louise Brooks angle is more obvious perhaps, a well written song should have many different meanings and undercurrents. I like the whole 15:00 setpiece nature of it too, it's ebbs and flows, highs and lows. It really is a prog-rock epic in the classic sense. This track alone makes the album worth buying for any prog fan.
"House" is a really nice comedown track after the gigantic bombast of Lulu. A bit lengthy perhaps, but a very mellow and emotional melody. I like the trumpet, it's a nice unexpected sound that fits the tone of the song very well. The song's also a showcase for Hogarth. As much as I like the Fish Marillion output more overall (it's just more consistently artful) there is no way that Fish can sing "Righteous Brothers" stuff like this, he'd murder it. The 2 bands are really "apples and oranges" and it's unfair to compare them on most levels.
Frequently, when I pull this disc out to play, I only play the last 2 tracks for a top notch 25 minute blast. Those of you that don't like the album very much, I suggest you try doing that.
My 2 big knocks on the album:
Stupid name for an album, it's so "1999" and dated already. What's it gonna be like 15 years from now? Like Jtull.com, it lacks imagination and vision. Well, at least some lyrical the content of Marillion.com is about the web.
Terrible packaging. Ok graphics, but the light weight cardboard is junk. Fussy, awkward ergonomics and sure to be abused looking and shredded if it sits in the used market for even a little while.