CD Review

Marillion – “Marbles”

By Marcus Pan

MarblesMarillion have been moving along since 1983, over 20 years now, and Marbles is their 13th release since 1983. They call themselves a rock band, but they tend more towards lighter pop. They have a long assortment of credits, toured to more than two million people according to their estimates and released 22 singles in the UK, 19 of which went top 40 and 3 of which went top 10.

Very impressive. But after 20 years, how come Marillion is still unheard of? It's one thing if you play experimental ambient and nobody's heard of you – after all, the tastes of experimental ambient run to a very small portion of the population. But pop/rock, 13 albums, 22 singles, 20 years + and I'm going, "Who?" It makes me wonder. Let's take a closer look then.

The current lineup of Marillion includes Steve Rothery (guitar), Mark Kelly (Heys), Pete Trewavas (bass), Ian Mosley (drums) and Steve Hogarth sings. The Marbles release comes to me as a single 12 track CD, but laments how it's actually a 2 CD set but because retail hates 2 CD sets (huh?). You have to get the special 2 CD "real" version of Marbles by going to their website and ordering it.

The opening, The Invisible Man, isn't half bad, but it does go through numerous changes during the course of its life. Could be as many as three songs squished together so it doesn't come out as cohesive as it could have. I can appreciate the talent behind this track, but it just runs too long to hold my interest or maybe I'm just not in the mood for it today. It closes powerfully however and Marbles I opens a comfortable, soothing soundscape. I'm starting to have some problems with Hogarth's vocals. His enunciation is sloppy and wishy washy, making his lyrics difficult to understand especially with the ambient tone backgrounds that are usually behind him.

Finally, some excitement! You're Gone, which is actually one of the tracks the Marillion press kit draws my attention to, opens very nice with fat back drums, floaty synths and an understandable Hogarth. It's certainly not a "rock" track, really, though the band holds the "UK Rock Legends" moniker at the top of their page...it's more light pop with pleasant guitars, interesting keyboard work and very well tied together with Mosley's fat back rhythm. It's catchy, fun and I like it.

Mellow is a good word to describe Marbles. Mellow to a fault at times, like Angelina, which is nice but very very slow moving. A modern lullaby. Marbles moves along in this manner...soft and lullaby like at least until track six, Don't Hurt Yourself. This one is a standout track here and for the first time I'm hearing the "rock 'n roll" that I was expecting from the beginning. Much like Transcendence's latest, Nothing is Cohesive, Marillion seem to take a small handful of good rock/pop tracks and surround it with mush. Some of the mush is tasty at times, but it's still mush. The Pink Floyd like Neverland is a decent track – though it really sounds so much like them that I'm having flashbacks.

Fantastic Places is one of those better tunes as a sweet, brooding and melancholy ballad. All of the players excel here with enchanting vocals, lead guitar, smooth percussion and keys. See, Marbles is one of those albums that it's hard to sumamrize. It's mellow for the most part, sometimes too much so – but those times when it's good it's real good. Yay or nay on this is a difficult proposition – but you can give Marillion a shot and if it turns out that you dig it even more than I you can always go for the double CD version thereafter.

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