Marillion - Marbles Live Review
Live albums are creations which I've held in contempt for immeasurable times, and it's always been because I've viewed them as needlessly vicarious ways of experiencing the total enthrallment of the concert atmosphere. My attitude has been "If you weren't there, then dammit, don't pretend to be there" and the only live album that I've really taken a liking to was Metallica's S&M, which I really just appreciated for the symphonic take on the band's music.
I'm of a different mindset now, and I look at this live album from prog legends Marillion and I'm content. I've realized that you don't have to actively pretend you're at the concert to enjoy a live album...just simply feed off the crowd's joy and energy emanating so sweetly from the speakers.
Marillion is a band whose name I've heard tossed around all over the place and put in many other prog bands' influences list, but before this album all I'd heard were a few songs from their myspace page. Honestly, I was a bit disgusted. Here was this band who had a cult following in the prog community but the music didn't have any viscera or skill to it...it was just empty sentimental noodling. After listening to this album, though, I don't view them according to that description, or at least I don't care that they appear to be lacking in the technical department.
I think it was the slogan 'Find a better way of life at Marillion.com' that made me realize that prog doesn't have to be about extreme solos and wankery, but it can be a simple journey through the woods of your consciousness. The band plays simply, but effectively, and there are enough marks and long song lengths to qualify it as prog. The vocalist sings from the heart, with a lazy, Bono-esque croon and triumphant wail. The guitars aren't biting, but saccharine, and there are bizarre Moog-organ bits and airy synths scattered around. The drums and bass aren't overly special, but they follow along nicely.
Nothing about this album really screams prog...most of it sounds closer to alternative rock if you can ask me, but you can tell there's a majesty and insight present that most run-of-the-mill rock bands don't have. The lyrics, unlike many prog bands, have nothing to do with fantasy, but with real life. Some of the topics include lost love and rekindling old flames despite hardship. There's still that bright, hopeful quality to them though, such as in "Don't Hurt Yourself", where Hogarth emits "The past will only haunt you. Live for today. Each day's an open door."
There are four segues on this album entitled Marbles 1, 2, 3, and 4 that pull you even further into the wonderful abyss of introspection. The relaxing lounge atmosphere throughout this release becomes even more relaxing on these interludes since they are so short and they narrate the childhood experiences of playing with marbles. I'm guessing it's a symbolic way to interpret the desire to reconnect with the innocence of youth and/or confront unresolved issues in the past.
I'll break it to you straight- there's nothing too musically exciting about this album as a whole, but I think it establishes a new aesthetic for beautiful prog atmosphere in my mind. It's a very nice album to say goodbye to the world to for an hour and it doesn't distract and vex with too much 'activity' in the music. Recommended for a good spiritual bath.
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