Marillion - Marbles
Marillion have not been quiet these last few years, despite their total lack of existence in the mainstream media, and have consistently churned out many an album for the faithful, some of which have been quite good. However, this release Marbles, might possibly see a return to the media for this most maligned of bands thanks to the efforts of countless little online Marilion warriors who have taken it upon themselves to promote the album. Great. "Join the Marillion Street Teams and E-Teams..." runs the blurb and conjures up the rather amusing image of being accosted on the street by rabid devoted Marillion cult members, intent of giving away copies of the single and begging donations to the church of Marbles. The Church of Marbles would, of course, in this fantasy be some pagan totem devoted to the worship of the childrens toy. If only life were so grand.
There's nothing wrong with the album, though, that a few good songs wouldn't cure. It sounds a bit like Pink Floyd if Pink Floyd possessed no creativity at all and weaved their sonic whimsies without humour, irony or taste. It's just a bland sort of noise, somewhat akin to the sound of a kettle boiling merrily on the hottest day of the year. Not irritating, but somehow wrong and puzzling. Possibly as some sort of Metal Machine Music in-joke it's been released as a double album and, like Metal Machine Music, you will wonder if some sections are not simply other sections played in reverse. Unlike Metal Machine Music, it isn't really worth listening to even once. Will anyone manage to listen to it in it's entirety? It's certainly a struggle and not one you should attempt if you're feeling drowsy, on medication or are in some way unfit.
There are no highlights on the album at all. Once you've put it in your machine the next pleasant noise you will hear is the sound it makes when it slides back out. The last noise you will ever hear it make is the sound of sniggers, guffaws and titters in the second hand store. Each song seems to consist of the same tempo, rhythm and arrangement, one fades out and the next one slowly fades in again and sonic boredom once more reigns king. Hogarth has a nice voice and that's meant as an insult. There's nothing threatening, charismatic or interesting about it all. It's just there, sitting atop a mix that someone has taken great pains to remove any excitement, interest or passion from. It’s the musical equivalent of a trip to the dentists. No, that's wrong, a trip to the dentists might offer some excitement in the form of pain or a comely lass to chat up in the waiting room. This is the musical equivalent of doing the washing-up after a very dreary meal. The best prog rock stuff has a sense of the theatre of the absurd about it, a willingness to tread the boards of insanity and this is sadly absent here. This is lift music; bass lines seem to run in scales, guitar solos, when they appear, are the sort that a bearded and bitter guitar teacher might offer and, as previously mentioned, any other instrument appears only to grip the songs to the same tempo. How terrible it would be if one song were faster or slower than another. Ocean Cloud almost, dangerously, wanders into exciting territory, but only for a few seconds and given that the song lasts for eighteen terrible minutes you'd expect that some of those seconds might reward the time you've spent listening to it.
It's a shame that a band that were once as great as Marillion are reduced to this sort of blandness. It's as though they spunked all their talent at once and are unable to see what impotent artists they have become in these wilderness years. Is this the same band that once created the awesome, spine-tingling 'The Uninvited Guest'? Your heart says no, but your head sadly says yes.