Marillion: Fugazi (1984)
A young man comes home from work on a Tuesday evening in late May 1984. He crashes on the sofa , opens a cold beer , turns on the radio and tunes it to his favorite radio station. It's a ritual. Every Tuesday night they feature a new album from a promising young band. Tonight's feature is an English quintet who will be playing the Montreal Spectrum in a few weeks. The band is called Marillion and the album being featured is their second release, Fugazi. They're described as the second coming of Genesis. The young man perks his ears. He likes Genesis. The music begins. He is transfixed. The music can definitely be compared to Genesis, but the vocalist stands apart. His rage and anguish leap out of the young man's speakers and across his sparse living room. This is old, but it is new. Very now. The young man hastily jots the name of the band and album on a piece of paper. He must look into this band, This is something special.
The next day he skips work and heads to his favorite record store. He requests this record and the band's debut Script For A Jester's Tear from the vendor. He then stops into the Montreal Spectrum and purchases tickets for 1 of the 4 nights the band will be playing . He is quite excited. This day alters his life forever.
Marillion. The very name raises many reactions from many people. Neo rubbish. Genesis wannabes .
For those of us who were not old enough to have seen the classic progressive bands in their prime: Saviors.
The band who brought it all home to us. The band who showed us how the whole thing used to go down a decade earlier. This was the '80's. Reaganomics. Hair spray bands. New Wave. Boy George…. Aside from the burgeoning metal scene in the Bay area, what else was there to really sink our teeth into ? I had spun all my Pink Floyd records to death and was looking for something fresh to "come down" on. Fish and the boys hit me like a ton of bricks. This sounded like the stuff I used to like in the '70's but it was different. It was darker, angrier, more poetic. Yet another band which became a cornerstone of my progressive foundation. They were a beacon in prog's darkest hour . It's bands like this, who kept the faith, which allowed the whole '90's resurgence to occur. Albums like this one may pale in comparison to future progressive masterpieces, but they deserve their place in Past Present Classics.
And what do you call assassins who accuse assassins anyway ? My friend !- "Assasing." The album begins with an Eastern sounding keyboard line ,drum beat, and vocal chanting .It slowly builds to a head and the beat turns into (almost) an '80's dance tune until Fish's vocals kick in and the song takes off. The track speaks of Fish's love affair (sarcasm) with critics. This song was a show opener for Marillion tours for years to come. It's heavy, filled with crunchy guitar passages from Mr Steve Rothery . His" Less is More" attitude permeates not only this track, but all subsequent tracks; and was the second thing to draw this reviewer's attention after the superlative vocals of Fish.
World War Three, suburbanshee, just slip her these pills and I'll be free…- "Punch and Judy" is a jumpy little number. Mark Kelly kicks it off with a very Banks-like keyboard line. It relates the tale of marriage gone stale. Relationships which were once passionate, have now turned to bitterness. Musically, the track is upbeat ,but really a showcase for Fish's fantastic vocals skills. Very angry and angst-riddled. Clocking in at 3:18, it could have had immense radio potential.
Stand straight, look me in the eye, and say goodbye- "Jigsaw." This one, I believe ,was written to attain said radio potential. I am reminded of the Phil Collins ballads of the same era. Of course, Phil was never as poetic with his prose; nor as passionate with his voice. Not a very remarkable track, but yet another texture in the" Marillion Experience" of the era. Excellent solo by Rothery who really makes his Fender cry in the middle portion.
To don the robes of Torquemada, resurrect the Inquisition- "Emerald Lies. " An excellent drum/keyboard interplay gets turned up a notch by crunchy guitars only to fade into the background as Fish's inimitable vocals take over. One of the showcase pieces for the vocalist. Yet another track of relationships gone awry. This one definitely has a proggier feel to it with many time changes. Very dramatic and sounding much larger than the 5:18 package in which it is contained.
Watch the lizard with the crimson veil- "She Chameleon." The sleeper track of the disc. A repetitive, hypnotic keyboard line accentuated by a heavy drum beat. Once again we're plunged into Fish's world of anguish and woe ( where does he meet these girls?). Instead of a Rothery guitar solo at first, we're treated to a Mark Kelly keyboard fill. I call this one the sleeper because it may be one that you would tend to skip over in first listens, but draws you in with repeated listens. Steve does return for his patented 12 note solo
( if there's 12 bars, he plays 12 notes, but wrings every ounce of drama from each one. -Less is more)
I, the mote in your eye- "Incubus." Now were getting to the meat of the album. This one has remained a Fish favorite for years as he has often featured it in his solo concerts. It's tracks like this one that we all eagerly await within the set of any Marillion concert. Although the lyrics are somewhat hard to decipher, it seems to be about an actor who does not accept fading into that goodnight. This one really showcases (once again) Fish. That's not to say that the band does not equally shine as Steve Rothery's poignant solo in the middle still gives me goosebumps 19 years later.
Do you realize this world is totally Fugazi ?- "Fugazi." One of this reviewer's all-time favorite Marillion tracks. A veritable condemnation of the state of the world. Our indifference to the decay of our society. Our self-absorption as our society unravels. Probably the angriest track on the album; also it's most progressive. At times tempestuous, at times contemplative; it's another showstopper in the live Marillion experience. Fish's final judgement of society rings as true today as it did in 1984.
Love them or hate them, you cannot ignore them. If you're new to the progressive rock scene, you may find them outdated and irrelevant. If you're an old school progger, you may have completely overlooked them or dismissed them as "yet another Genesis clone". Either way you have missed out on something special. Having seen this band live in '84, '85 , and '87 under the Fish regime; I can attest that this is a band that you don't just listen to, but live vicariously through. A true pioneer in the field now labeled as Neo-Progressive; many bands owe a debt of gratitude to Marillion. I realize that their current musical style has veered off this path immensely, but I am here to attest to the fact that in the dark ages of progressive rock, Marillion was a beacon of light . The fact that they had such an overwhelming success in the " Fish years" is a testament to their talent (and his).