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Marillion - Anoraknophobia CD (album) cover





3.35 | 515 ratings

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3 stars An album that is one of the more controversial amongst the band's incredibly loyal fanbase, this was the first release of the 21st Century, and was, on the back of Marillion.Com, a further attempt to move the band away from the stereotypical neo prog label and also to break back into commercial success. At the time, Steve Hogarth, especially, was popping up in interviews everywhere to inform the population that Marillion were no longer a prog rock band, and should now be compared to bands such as Radiohead. Thankfully, he no longer does this, now that prog is no longer a dirty word, but it should be made clear that they are no Radiohead, either.

This album, with its playful title nod to the rather obsessive nature of fans such as myself, was recorded on a pre paid basis by said fans. This review, however, is of the single CD generally available at record shops.

What we have here is actually what the band have usually always been very good at. Attempting to progress beyond what they produced before and move on, whilst still appeasing fans like myself who demand exceptional musicianship and thoughtful music.

It starts off on a high, with Between You And Me, a rollicking opener which has, rightly, remained a live favourite ever since. Great vocals, great riffs, and great rhythm section. Six and a half minutes of fun, even better on the live LPs.

Quartz is a nine minute epic which, to my ears, is very disjointed. When it's good, particularly in the quieter "It's So Hard" passages, it's very good, but, otherwise, it doesn't seam together well at all and sounds a bit of a mess. It doesn't help that the production isn't particularly good, either. There are, however, some great guitar breaks from Rothery and, especially, strong funky bass lead by Trewavas, so it's not a total disaster.

My favourite track is the clear "let's get back into the charts, boys" commercial single, Map Of The World. It wasn't a smash hit, by any means, but it certainly is very typical of what this band, in whatever incarnation, do very well, marrying progressive rock with commercial instincts, and the story, of a girl dreaming of escaping a drab, poor, life to travel and see the world, is marvellous, and the band execute it extremely well indeed. This is one of the best tracks the band have performed and released, and also one of the most obscure in terms of recognition. Rothery's guitar solo in the mid section is one of his finest, and you are tapping your toes relentlessly throughout.

When I Meet God runs at over nine minutes long, and is far better and joined together than Quartz. It is the type of track they do best. Thoughtful, melodic, emotional, and musically very tight indeed. Hogarth is on supreme form, Kelly has rarely sounded better creating a lush synth backdrop, and Rothery is almost shouting in his understated support. Fans of great bass playing should also listen carefully to the melodic lead that Trewavas creates on this, whilst Mosley makes up the best rhythm section in the business. A delight from start to finish, this is worth two stars on its own.

The Fruit Of The Wild Rose was the band's attempt to reinvent themselves as a jazz improvisation quintet. It doesn't work and, thankfully, no further attempts were made. This track, I'm afraid, has throwaway screaming at you.

We get back on track with Separated Out. The musical theme returns to that of the opening track, and it races along at a fair old pace, with some tremendous riffs and a great vocal performance by Hogarth dedicating the track to all of us Marillion anoraks. Cheers! The film vocal interludes are, to me, a bit annoying, but overall this is great fun.

Two epic tracks close the album. This Is The 21st Century is the longest track on the album, at over eleven minutes long. Lyrically interesting as an attempt to prove to the masses that Marillion are a modern band, as, indeed, with the funding exercise, they most certainly were, proving themselves true trailblazers. There are some delicate, intricate, and experimental guitar pieces from Steven Rothery, and the entire piece is understated and almost trancy, certainly with the excellent instrumental passage closing the track, but still undeniably Marillion. A very enjoyable track which demonstrates the true progressive nature of the band, never afraid to try something different.

If My Heart Were A Ball, It Would Roll Uphill closes the album, and is similar in many ways to Quartz, in that it is decent, but disjointed, and really could have done with being four minutes shorter. The experimental riffs, and Ian Mosley's hammering drum performance (probably the heaviest in his Marillion career), make this a very interesting track, but, ultimately, not amongst their finest.

Marillion have, for very nearly 30 years now, been my favourite band, but a review must be honest in its critique and rating. This is a good album, but no more. Certainly, I have given four star reviews to far superior albums from the band. Completionists, like me, will, of course, have to own this album. For all others, it is decent enough, but not, in my opinion, particularly representative of the now extensive catalogue of work, and certainly not a good place to start with the Hogarth era if you are not familiar with it.

Three stars. Masterpieces were to follow!

lazland | 3/5 |


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