Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Marillion From A Swedebeast's Point Of View - Afraid Of Sunlight



Despite the greatness Marillion showed on 'Brave', the release of the follow-up, 'Afraid Of Sunlight', failed to register with me. Ever since I rediscovered the band, thanks to the excellent 'Marbles', I've been racking my brain for memories and clues as to why I dropped them so quickly, easily and unexpectedly. Unfortunately, I can't remember which is sad since 'Afraid Of Sunlight' is quite the gem. Therefore, this installment is the first of Marillion's albums where I truly had to back track because it took nine long years from it's release until I actually listened to it.

After the long combined recording process and subsequent touring of ‘Brave’, a very tired Marillion were not allowed much time to recuperate. EMI were on their heels to claim the previously promised more radio-friendly album. Giving in to that pressure, the band embarked on the mission to create what was to become ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’…only to hit immediate writers block. Thanks to the collective efforts of the band, John Helmer and producer Dave Meegan this hurdle was overcome and the proceedings could continue. 

Once they were underway ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ was completed fairly quickly, 8 months or so in all. Experiences on the road during the last tour, as well as on the home front, brought forth a somewhat different style to the songs. Which in themselves became more of individual compositions, rather than the usual conceptual structure. Marillion being Marillion there is a recurring theme flowing through the songs, after all it wouldn’t be them if not. Call it their “trappings of fame” album.

‘Gazpacho’ initializes the proceedings and is musically ethereal, soaring and dreamy with a quite noticeable Chris Squire/ Geddy Lee bass tone. Steve Hogarth sings about family abuse while keeping up appearances. The odd ball on the album, but yet quite good, is ‘Cannibal Surf Babe’. A story about a quirky femme fatale surfer girl. It starts off as a straight-up Beach Boys song which quickly turns into a rocker of sorts. Again, Trewavas plays a bass line akin to Chris Squire. The music on ‘Beautiful’ gives a feel of summertime being soft and transcendent which goes hand in hand with the anti-cynicism stance of the lyrics. It goes out to all those who are derided for believing in the beautiful things in life. ‘Afraid Of Sunrise’ invokes images of wide open spaces and clear blue skies with the narrator looking at the introspective side of fame.
 
‘Out Of This World’ tells the story about the British speed king, Donald Campbell, who forsake everything he had for fame and subsequently perished during a record attempt. The band is holding back, being reflective but after a while the flood gates open and emotions fly high. Abstemious at first, ‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ allows the music to give night way to day without asking questions. But in this setting it haunts our protagonist who dreads what the morning brings…infamy and shame! ‘Beyond You’ conjures the feeling of being awake at night watching the darkness thinking of lost ones, lost due to your own stupid actions. The music is sparse and wavers in and out between upbeat and tormented and readily enhances the wretched soul of the song’s main character. The honours of ending this magnificent album falls on ‘King’. And I guess it ties this release together perfectly since it deals with instant fame and the consequences of that. Everybody wants you. Pressure, pressure, pressure. It builds up and eventually explodes. Fin! Beautiful guitar work in the beginning by Rothery, before the songs kicks into rocking mode on and off. The dejection side of the lyrics appears in the shape of Mark Kelly’s keyboards.

‘Afraid Of Sunlight’ truly marks the end of an area as EMI dropped Marillion after it’s release. That’s a sad state of affairs since this album is a gem. I shouldn’t be talking though being part of why the band lost their deal. Poor record sales and the lack of a single/ radio hit was the final straw but looking back on things, Marillion bowed out from the mainstream with their heads held high. And they should be proud of this work and of themselves. After all, they relaunched their career as a truly self-sufficient, successful band in their own right.

-Swedebeast

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