Exposé Online banner

Marillion — Clutching at Straws
(EMI 72430 498611 2 1, 1987/1999, CD)

by Dane Carlson, Published 1999-11-01

Clutching at Straws Cover artThis EMI reissue has given me an opportunity I thought was long past: to review what I consider to be Marillion's finest moment. When I first discovered Marillion, I was dying for something new to listen to. Sure, they weren't exactly original, but with each successive album I was convinced they shed that comparison and emerged as a unique and original band (attested to by all the "Marillion clones" that followed). Marillion merged the lyrical and complex sound of old Genesis with the power and pomp of the 80s version. While the band was certainly an able bunch, the singer known as Fish was the defining element. Fish could unleash a stream of words that combined both the soul of the poet with the delivery of the Shakespearean actor. Clutching at Straws is a blatant self-portrait filled with lyrical brilliance and cute innuendo of excess. You really didn't need the booklet to sense the band was in trouble. In following with the other excellent reissues, 1987's Clutching at Straws is now 24 bit (the obnoxious purple border tells you so), digitally remastered and reissued with an entire disc of bonus tracks and comprehensive liner notes by the players in the drama that was to become the end of Marillion. I really don't need to say much about the album except buy it. If two seconds of "Hotel Hobbies" doesn’t convince you, what else can I say? The second disc contains "alternative" versions of "Incommunicado" and "Going Under," the excellent B-side "Tux On," a very different version of "White Russians," and "Sugar Mice." The remaining seven tracks are the demos from the band's next album which, of course, never happened - or did it? My viewpoint is this: These sessions allowed both parties to release one more mini-masterpiece-Fish's "Vigil in the Wilderness of Mirrors" and Marillion's "Seasons End." It's in these crude and inferior demo recordings that we hear the origins of that legacy. The music from "Beaujolais Day" becomes the outstanding "Season’s End"; "Story from a Thin Wall" is an odd track with the lyrics of Fish's "Family Business" combined with the music of "Berlin"; and "Tic-Tac-Toe" becomes "State of Mind." These early sparks show the creative process at work; however, they're not lost gems. Only "Exile on Princess Street" really rises and grabs you, and it would have made a great album cut. This reissue is a must for the fan and if you've never heard Clutching at Straws before, here's your chance. If this is Neo, Neo rules!

Filed under: New releases, Issue 18, 1999 releases, 1987 recordings

Related artist(s): Marillion, Fish (Derek William Dick)

Latest news

2018-05-14
Glenn Branca RIP – Experimental guitarist and composer Glenn Branca has died at the age of 69. He was known for compositions featuring large ensembles of guitars, and for the use of feedback. He founded his band Theoretical Girls in the mid-70s as an art-punk answer to what he saw as the increasing commercialization of punk music. His compositions were highly influential, with such figures as David Bowie, Thurston Moore, and John Lurie among his fans. » Read more

2018-04-05
OBEY Convention XI Set for May 24-28 in Halifax – As the 2018 festival season rapidly approaches, we’d like you to be aware of a real treasure of diverse and creative music that’s going to take place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, next month. The OBEY Convention is on its 11th outing, and features a wide range of artists from around the world. From avant-industrial noise to experimental takes on Classical Chinese music, from chamber jazz to doom metal, from ambient soundscapes to Canadian First Nations drumming, you’d be hard pressed to find a festival with more variety in sound anywhere in the world. » Read more

2018-04-04
Close to the Rain Festival in Bergen Announces Lineup – Now in its second year, the Close to the Rain Festival of progressive music is scheduled to take place in Bergen, Norway, on June 7 - 9. They've got an amazing slate of bands lined up, including such powerhouses as Anekdoten, Major Parkinson, Arabs in Aspic, Tusmørke, and many more. » Read more

2018-03-01
Seaprog 2018 Artist Announcements Raise Festival's Profile – Seattle's Seaprog festival has been going since 2013, and the 2018 edition features a slate of artists that's sure to bring more attention to the event. Cheer-Accident, Bubblemath, and Free Salamander Exhibit are in the first round announcement of performers. In keeping with their tradition of focusing on regional artists, they will also present a number of artists from Washington and Oregon. [Edit: Just added: Inner Ear Brigade] » Read more

2018-02-26
Adelbert von Deyen RIP – Word reaches us that German electronic musician Adelbert von Deyen has died. His recorded legacy reaches back to 1978, when Sky Records released Sternzeit. Von Deyen, who was born October 25, 1953 in Süderbrarup, was also known as a painter and graphic artist. » Read more


Previously in Exposé...

Iona - The Book of Kells – Imagine the best elements of Enya/Clannad blended with the folk-rock presence of Fairport Convention with Sandy Denny, make it a bit more progressive and powerful, and top it off with a Christian...  (1994) » Read more



Listen & discover



Print issues