Sanctuary Records, 2001

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It's not unusual for a Marillion album to confuse me on the first listen. In fact, it's not unusual for a Marillion album to confuse me after several listens. Steve Hogarth and crew are a more complicated band than one might see on the surface, and it often takes some time to get comfortable with one of their albums before the listener is finally ushered into the discovery of what the band was trying to accomplish.

So, you can imagine that I was taken aback by Marillion's latest release, Anoraknophobia, when I found myself actually grooving out to this disc on the very first listen. Wait a minute, something's wrong here. Something has to be wrong here. This is the same band whose album Misplaced Childhood I listened to for over a year before I was ready to pass any kind of judgment on it.

Quite possibly the most commercial Marillion album to hit the market (and I admit I still have a few discs in their backcatalog to get to) without betraying their progressive roots, Marillion have made a bold statement, and a stronger one than their last release my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 And while there are still a few moments where things don't seem like they're quite fleshed out, this disc is a pleasant surprise.

Oh, sure, some people could argue that Anoraknophobia might not have happened had Hogarth not recorded his solo album Ice Cream Genius a few years ago. That slab of pop pleasure is called to mind on more than one track on Anoraknophobia. Songs like "Map Of The World" and "Between You And Me" almost scream for acceptance on the radio; the thing is, they're so good, one wonders what's keeping stations from throwing these into their programming mix. "Map Of The World" is an absolute pleasure that stands as strong as such Marillion classics as "Kayleigh" and "Sugar Mice". If there were any worries about Marillion stagnating after nearly 20 years since Script For A Jester's Tear, these early moments should squelch those fears.

Other tracks seem to suck you in, even if you are taken in kicking and screaming. "When I Meet God" might remind some people of Dishwalla's "Counting Blue Cars" with the female imagery of God, but this song is actually much deeper than Dishwalla's, even if it won't necessarily start any theological arguments. Musically, it's quite charming - though, to be honest, that's almost expected from Marillion these days. Likewise, "Separated Out," a tribute to the "freaks" of society (either physical or imagined by the general populace), isn't one you will really want to enjoy, but you can't help yourself.

There are only two semi-weak moments on Anoraknophobia. The first, "The Fruit Of The Wild Rose," just doesn't have the kind of impact that the bulk of the songs on this disc do. It lacks a lyrical spark that could have taken it to new heights; instead, Hogarth and crew seem happy to leave this as a laconic song. In a similar vein, "This Is The 21st Century" has some powerful moments, but the track as a whole doesn't have the impetus it could have. (On the other hand, I might hate the title of "If My Heart Were A Ball It Would Roll Uphill," but the music is quite pleasing, especially the vocal harmonies.)

Marillion constantly sets a bar of expectations so high that it seems like no band will be able to clear it. That's been a standard of their work for two decades. Anoraknophobia easily clears that bar, and is possibly Marillion's best work since This Strange Engine.

Rating: B+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



© 2001 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 Sanctuary Records, and is used for informational purposes only.