Marillion - Marillion dot com - 1999
Although Marillion could be seen as anything but a progressive rock group, it is undeniable that any release or news on this veteran band is always an event that shakes the progressive community, either for morbid or real interest. Marillion nowadays has shifted from being an excellent group that revitalized the progressive scene in the dark 80´s, to be a tempest that re-awakes the polemic with each of their releases, with the support of one of the best and most loyal fan clubs on earth. Therefore, before starting my review of this CD, I want to make clear that I can be called anything except anti-Marillion, since the band was until relatively few years one of my favorite ones. It was at the time of the release of "Afraid of Sunlight", when a new phase in the musical orientation of the group started, in which do not deceive ourselves - Steve Hogarth became the artistic leader of the group, with Rothery, Trewavas, Kelly and Mosley as mere partners. A good test was the solo CD of Hogarth, in which all the cliché's that would be appreciated in the future career of Marillion were already present. After the disastrous "Afraid of Sunlight" came "This Strange Engine", another low-profile album that only thanks to a couple of songs and the suite that gives title to the album, hid horrors like "Hope for the Future". Then, the following "Radiation" CD was another flop: tasteless songs, played with no emotion, while drinking from varied sources (The Doors, George Harrison, Radiohead, etc.). Marillion is now that, a prog-Brit-pop band in the style of the last Porcupine Tree or the already mentioned Radiohead. A band with which we are usually all too condescending, as we still have our mind set on the marvelous"Fugazi" or "Brave". However, looking at it objectively, they now do not have enough quality to be taken seriously, neither for the progressive or the Brit-pop fans (a Radiohead fan can make much better things than buying a Marillion album). With "marillion.com", I feel the same that with the last albums, short pieces that do not exceed the 6 minutes duration, with two gifts of disparate quality for lifelong fans (or so they believe) such as "Interior Lulu" and "House", weak compositions, technical apathy, and yes, plenty of innovation from Mr. Steven Wilson, alma mater of Porcupine Tree and the man in fashion behind studio controls.
The CD opens up with "A Legacy" (6:16), a good sample of what will come later. Plenty of keyboards, excessively treated vocals (just what Hogarth likes), and a rock motif towards the middle of the song. Very original and very modern, but not too progressive, unless you consider progressive to mix 30 musical styles in a blender and to carry out a six-minute song with the resulting sauce. After this small deceit, we discover that it can become worse, as the second track "Deserve" (4:23) is awful, with a very standard melody and, attention, a wind section. No words can describe it. Things improve slightly (it is not so difficult after all) with "Go!" (6:11), that sounds more like Marillion and in which one can notice that, apart from Hogarth, four other musicians participate. Even though the playing of Rothery is not very inspired (I insist in the apparent apathy of the musicians), at least it seems that here he tries to show us that he is still a good guitarist. The song is very typical, developing in a crescendo of those the band like so much, but lacking the dramatic impact of previous compositions.
The expectations awaken by "Go!" fall flat when listening to "Rich" (5:42), another crazy excess of Hogarth in which they combine elements of the maddest and more unbearable Doors (even Mark Kelly's sound reminds of that of Ray Manzareck), with all type of whispers, strange vocal effects, and pop rhythms. "Enlightened" (4:59) is next in line, much to the style of Marillion, but of course, it is another intimate ballad like "Now she´ll never know" or "Estonia", so they had already composed half of it. In "Build-in Bastard Radar" (4:52) Marillion follows their classical sound, in this case in their most heavy style. In this song, very vigorous and catchy, at least we can notice the musicians role, even though the presence of sounds like Traffic is strange for the past moog master. Even then, close to the best track of the album. We are approaching the end where we have three totally different songs that summarize what is Marillion at present. In first place, "Tumble Down the Years" (4:33) which returns back to the weighty sound of "Radiation". Maybe to those that have never listened to The Beatles, the song may appear to be exceptional, but the amount of cliché's that surrounds it makes me worry about the quality and imagination of these musicians. On the other hand "Interior Lulu" (15:14) (neither The Smiths would have titled a song as stupidly as this) includes the best and most inspired song in the CD, with a central suite that reminds me of the best symphonic, with a keyboard solo that could freeze blood. In my view, the only progressive song in the album. Fortunately the album ends, but when I hoped that the more than 10 minutes of "House" (10:15) would follow trail to "Interior Lulu", my expectations got cut short. People like Vaya con Dios or Sade come to mind when listening to this piece, which includes an incredibly boring wind section accompanying one of the thickest songs I have listened to in my life.
The conclusion, as you can imagine, is not very positive for my formerly adored Marillion. Coming back to the beginning of this review, Marillion is now a group with good songs hidden in awful CD's. In this case, only "Interior Lulu" keeps the standards we hold for this band, whose quality has been shown along its history, but this is not enough to purchase the CD. The rest of "marillion.com" navigates between the boring and the anodyne, apathy and laziness. It is very possible that some will classifies this CD as avant-garde or experimental. A mistake. From Traffic to Joe Cocker, from Smashing Pumpkins and George Harrison to The Doors or Ultravox, this album shows their influence, so the result, in any event, could be considered as just cacophonous. If you are happy with little: yes, this CD is better than "Radiation". For me, and to the satisfaction of many, this will be my last review of Marillion, and, if it were for me, they would not have a place in progressive publications, as Marillion has now established a secure foothold outside the genre.