Wednesday 29 August 2007

Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven)


"Tonight Matthew, I'm going to be... BONO!"

Seriously, if someone played you this song and told you it was the new U2 single... well, maybe you'd notice that Bono wasn't quite sounding himself, but otherwise there'd be no reason to suspect they were lying. In fact, played alongside the closest U2 song chronologically (that'd be "The Fly"), "Cover My Eyes" would undoubtedly be the most likely to be mistaken for them.

As far as U2 singles go, if it were one, this would rank somewhere in the middle of the table even back in those wonderful pre-"Vertigo" days, but it does beg the question of "WHY?" in large capital letters. For the lead single from Hogarth's first album as the band's fully integrated frontman, rather than just a guy singing his own words over Fish's music, this was an undeniably bizarre choice.

Video: Cover My Eyes (Pain And Heaven), Top of the Pops
I'm somewhat surprised Hogarth elected not to go all the way and don the shades for this performance. Also, Marillion on TOTP remains a difficult concept for me to get my head around. Marillion miming on TOTP even more so. The times they are a-changin'.

Monday 27 August 2007

Drilling Holes


And we're back! I'm probably not going to keep to a particularly regular schedule from here, but I do plan to get an absolute minimum of one a week out, and probably more most weeks.

So. "Drilling Holes" is the natural song to turn to to break out of this slump, because if my constant submission to sloth prevents me from writing about a song that is itself about constant submission to sloth, I assume it will also prevent me writing about anything else. Does that logic seem sound to you?

It seems like it should be completely inappropriate that such a lazy song in subject matter is actually one of the most upbeat songs on Marbles, but it works well because it's a change of pace from the generally slow and atmospheric nature of the album, which complements the way the jovial lyrics offset the usual sober introspection. And it's nice to see that Marillion don't actually take everything 100% seriously all the time (though clearly I frequently enjoy the times when they do) - from the brilliantly convoluted rewriting of "Why put off until tomorrow what you can leave for the day after" in the first verse to the unexpected harpsichord-sounding breakdown halfway through, it's all so gloriously whimsical.

Just a great soundtrack to a hot summer day spent lounging around in the grass, perhaps enjoying a cold beer, and watching the world pass by. You know, one of those days.

Monday 30 July 2007

No Such Thing


This one, I'm fairly certain, started life in an improvised jam session in the middle of the live performance of "This Strange Engine" at the 2003 Marillion Weekend; the line in question ("There's no such thing as a winnable war"") doesn't actually appear in this song's list of many things in which Hogarth reportedly does not believe, but nonetheless seems to have been the inspiration for the structure of this song.

To be perfectly honest, I'm really not sure why "winnable war" didn't make the cut; it's not an astonishingly profound sentiment, certainly, but... well, let's just say it wouldn't stick out for that. Some of the grim, atheistic statements ("no such thing as an ordered world", "no such thing as a perfect day") are reasonable enough if you don't have a problem with grim, atheistic statements in and of themselves, and I don't, but then you get head scratchers like "There's no such thing as the ozone layer". Science or religion, Steve, you've got to pick a side! Also, there is, apparently, "no such thing as a faithful wife", which is probably the most telling line here, as well as being patently ridiculous, however you're choosing to interpret the word 'faithful'.

If you're noticing a fairly repetitive tone here, it's not just you. The lyrical structure is extremely monotonous, and the music's not a great deal better; it mostly consists of one chilled out guitar groove repeated ad infinitum. Ian Mosley injects a little life into proceedings towards the end with some drumming that can't really be described as energetic, but is at least not totally devoid of vitality, but it's a pretty cursory gesture. I realise that it's meant to be lethargic, but when you're dealing with those kind of moods, there's such a thing as creating too authentic an atmosphere, and it's a pitfall that this song dives headfirst into. Wait, no, that's far too energetic a description. It's a pitfall this song wearily stumbles into without any particular enthusiasm, just because it was there.

Video: No Such Thing

Sunday 29 July 2007

Punch & Judy


The first single from Fugazi, and the only one with a hint of commercial appeal. It's somewhat of a departure from the territory that Fugazi usually treads; it's still somewhat nightmarish, but it's a middle age, middle class, mid-life crisis nightmare rather than that of a drug fuelled rockstar. But perhaps it's the same thing; the rockstar fearing the mediocre life of ennui that could befall him if he doesn't press on with his hedonistic, self-destructive ways. Wherever the idea stemmed from, though, it's a pretty huge success. Not commercially -- it stalled at #29, which was a bit of a dip following "Garden Party", which hit the top twenty -- but artistically it's a pretty big triumph, at least as far as I'm concerned.

The song was first released in 1984, which shows how much some things don't change, because twenty three years later, the picture of a stereotypical suburban lifestyle painted by the verses sounds extremely familiar; "Found our nest in the Daily Express/Met the vicar in a holy vest/Brought up the children Church of E/Now I vegetate with a colour TV". It's all fairly lighthearted and dripping with satire, which leaves you wholly unprepared for the disarmingly earnest chorus that plainitevly wonders where it all went wrong, "Whatever happened to pillow fights?/Whatever happened to jeans so tight, Friday nights?". It's a surprisingly touching reminder that inside every miserable, balding, overweight office drone is a boy with real passions and dreams that somehow fell by the wayside.

Of course, much like the domestic abuse in the puppet show the song is named for, there's an unexpected sinister tone to it all; with Fish's frantic vocals dropping in and out of falsetto all over the place, it's pretty easy to miss the fact that the final verse ends with the line "Just slip her these pills and I'll be free". That's pretty bleak.

Video: Punch & Judy (and Assassing, but that's not what the link is for)
Way to flub the second verse there, Fish.

Saturday 28 July 2007



Had the band bothered to release any singles from (or being more generous, perhaps that should read 'been in a position where single releases from would serve any purpose'), it's fairly safe to assume this would have been the first; it appears as an easter egg on the EMI Singles Collection DVD, and it's just generally one of the most instantly catchy songs they've ever recorded.

Lyrically, it's a fairly unimpressive piece of "you make your own happiness" life affirmation, with a little bit of vague anti-celebrity sentiment ("They sold their friends to get ahead/They do therapy instead"), directed at no one in particular and thrown in for no good reason that I can see. But the energy packed into every other aspect of the song gives the fairly trite words a lot more power than they reasonably seem like they ought to have. We get what we want if we really want it, and judging by their performance here, these guys really want it.

It's just a shame the total performance energy quota for .com wasn't greater, because evidently this one wonderful burst really cost the rest of the album dearly.

Video: Deserve
The DVD easter egg, which I guess makes it the official music video in the alternate universe where this was a top ten hit. It would seem a lot less out of place there than half of their actual top ten hits, that's for sure.

Friday 27 July 2007

Story From A Thin Wall


One of the demos included on the bonus disc of the Clutching At Straws remaster that might have gone on to appear on the fifth album, had Fish stayed with the band. Parts of all of these demos were later scavenged by both parties, but I think this one came out least unscathed from it all; a pretty close approximation of the music later became "Berlin" from the Seasons End album, and the lyrics are almost word for word the same as "Family Business" from Fish's solo debut Vigil In A Wilderness Of Mirrors, both of which I got to know pretty well before ever hearing this song.

As a result, it's pretty to tell whether the seemingly awkward fit between words and music here is a sign of the fracturing relationship between the band members, or if it just sounds off to me because I'm used to hearing both in different contexts. Either way, it makes for an interesting listen on an intellectual level, but impossible for me to really feel emotionally. I've only recently got hold of these, and have barely listened to the others as of yet, but it seems like the rest of them are different enough from the songs born out of their ashes that I won't end up writing six more entries that say the same thing. Let's hope so, anyway.

Thursday 26 July 2007

Fake Plastic Trees


I'm not going to write an entry for every song the band have ever covered live, or even the just the ones that have been released on live albums, because that would still require me to buy a whole bunch of those and I ain't made of money. But if they've been released on singles, whether they're the a or the b-side, they'll get an entry. So, "Fake Plastic Trees".

Just to cement the Radiohead comparisons the album received, this was the b-side to the only single to come out of Radiation. It stays extremely faithful to the original, so I'm kind of at a loss for what to actually say about it. I don't know, Hogarth's vocal delivery is somewhat less slurred than Yorke's. That's a difference, I guess. I don't think it affects my enjoyment of the song one way or another, it's great either way.

I suppose if you want to play someone else's song live because you love it, without trying to put your own spin on it or whatever, that's probably OK from time to time, but it really shouldn't be b-side material.

Video: Fake Plastic Trees
There's no 'tube of the Marillion version, but the original's much the same, so that'll do. It's got a pretty nice video.