Throughout their over twenty-five year history, Marillion and their music have maintained what many thought impossible: prog without pretension. This has been a key component to their rabidly loyal fan base. It would appear that nobody jumped ship after the band's loss of their original frontman, Fish, way back in 1988. What would have signaled the death of many a lesser band became a rebirth of tenacity and quality that stands to this day. See, Marillion fans don't ever dislike anything the band releases. They simply have albums that the individual fan will prefer, or not prefer.
Hence, the controversial plan a few years back to pre-sell an album a year before its release to defray recording costs before it was even fully written. A risky experiment to say the least, and while some thought the hubris behind the move was a bit much, it didn't affect sales a bit - that is to say consistent as always over in Europe and sparse as always in North America. A lesser band might reward fan loyalty with substandard fare album after album but Marillion is different - this is a group that could release an album of ambient coughing, knowing that the punter eulogizing would still persist but these lads, God love Ã¢â¬Ëem have never taken advantage.
Similar funding campaigns have been asked of fans for album promotion and North American tours that, again, despite initial criticisms from those outside the circle, remained successful and nary a fan left unsatisfied.
But it all comes down to the music, doesn't it? What we have here is Somewhere Else, Marillion's fourteenth album and damned if it isn't another lesson in excellence with the boys from Britain showing no signs of age or cynicism. Referring back to comments made earlier in this review, to classify the band as prog may be misleading. Prog usually denotes substantial use of keyboards in a tweedly-tweedly-dee fashion and thus, usually dismissed by assholes such as myself as "kinda gay."
While the keyboards are an integral part of the bands sound, Marillion have always used them in an aggressive ambient way courtesy of Mark Kelly and tempered with the always-beautiful guitar work of Steve Rothery.
Opening with "The Other Half", the album bleeds its heart out for fifty minutes with barely a single misstep to report. In this case, the misstep can be whittled down to one song. You remember how back in the eighties, it was pretty much a given that a metal band had to include a ballad? Well, every so often, Marillion does the same thing by including an obligatory "rocker." "Most Toys" is an unfortunate two minute and forty-eight second diversion to not-so-good land. This could very well be the group's weakest track since 1995's "Cannibal Surfer Babe" on the Afraid of Sunlight album. As with everything in nature, a balance is found with "A Voice from the Past," which is quite possibly one of Marillion's finest songs ever recorded.
Somewhere Else as a whole has a more consistent structure like their previous effort, Marbles which, if judging the version released in retail stores was a good album with songs flowing effortlessly between each other but with no stand out track. The expanded two-disc version available directly from the band's own Racket Records contained numerous tracks that were almost criminal to have been excluded, like the sublime epic "Ocean Cloud."
The songs included on their latest album still segue beautifully but are just as mesmeric when judged on their individual merits. There's no lengthy seventeen-minute opus like "Ocean Cloud," but there is a great album packed with great songs from a great band with more great things to come.
Disclaimer: In the preceding paragraphs, the reviewer uses the term "gay" in a negative context to describe something he finds to be not good. This in no way reflects his views on homosexuality. While the reviewer admits that he does not in fact have any best friends that are gay or that he particularly enjoyed Brokeback Mountain, he freely admits to loving Hedwig and the Angry Inch, watching Grey's Anatomy each week, and concedes Patrick Dempsey is "kinda hot."
8.7 / 10
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