Intact Recordings, 2004

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


This may sound like a weird statement to make at the start of a review, but Marbles, the latest release from Brit neo-prog rockers Marillion, is the kind of disc you need to see performed live to truly appreciate.

It's not like there's a stage show revolving around the disc a la The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway; rather, it's seeing lead singer Steve Hogarth and crew get into and become one with the music contained on this disc that the listener truly understands just what is unfolding in front of their eyes and ears. Even without the benefit of seeing them live, Marbles does contain some of the best music Marillion has made in a few albums -- an amazing statement, seeing I've liked almost everything I've heard from them. (The band released two versions of this album: a two-disc set available only on their web site, and a single-disc version to retail. This review covers the single-disc release.)

A disc three years in the making, my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Marbles rightfully gave the band their first British Top 20 singles in some time with "You're Gone" and "Don't Hurt Yourself". Unfortunately, American radio has the spine as strong as a gelatin dessert, so most people probably haven't heard either of these songs. This, kids, is what we call a God-Damned Shame, especially seeing they are superb, and are a far cry better than most of the sludge poisoning the airwaves today. Look, I know that the occasional radio station visits these pages. I dare one of you program directors: Program either of these songs in at least a medium rotation, give it a fighting chance on the air, and watch what happens. You can thank me later.

The truth is, briefly overlooking the four "Marbles" interludes spaced throughout the disc, Marillion hit the bulls-eye almost constantly with these selections. "The Invisible Man" and "Neverland" are two epic tracks which, when given the time to unfold in front of the listener, reveal multi-faceted songs with an incredible level of power. Likewise, "Fantastic Place" is a song which screams "potential hit single" and deserves more than a passing glance.

Hogarth's vocals and the songwriting by the band are what propel Marbles to realms almost never heard from mainstream bands. Hinting at the finality of existence on "Don't Hurt Yourself" is a daunting task, and can be misconstrued in any number of ways, but the song is delivered with such energy (especially in Hogarth's vocal lines) that you can't help but treat this music as a celebration.

Criticisms? I have only two. First, I honestly would have lopped off the first portion of "Angelina" and allowed the song to kick off right at the start of its almost bossanova-like rhythm section. Once you hit this point, the song and its portrait of loneliness, broken only by the anonymous voice of the eponymous radio announcer, is incredibly powerful. Second, as much as I try, I just can't get into "Drilling Holes" -- though I do like the reference to fellow Brit rockers XTC. (The reference also explains a lot to me, since both bands refuse to play by the industry's rules and almost constantly release outstanding discs which get no attention from radio.)

Marbles is a not-so-subtle reminder that Marillion has been, and still remains, one of the best-kept secrets in rock music today. The fact the band is getting some attention in the charts suggests that the secret is being shared rapidly -- and I'm glad to help spill the beans by telling you to pick this disc up.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2004 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Intact Recordings, and is used for informational purposes only.