Marillion: Afraid of Sunlight
I have been a Marillion fan since “Script for a Jester’s Tear” was released in 1983. However, when Fish left the band, I thought that was it. A few years later, I discovered they had continued with a new singer. Because I was such a fan of Mr. Dick, I never bothered to check out the new stuff. I am always very wary of such drastic personnel changes. Several years ago I finally decided to give it a try. The few songs I heard did not make me want to explore any further. More recently, some friends have been saying very good things about Marillion with Steve Hogarth. So, not wanting to dismiss them out of hand, I decided to really dive in. “Afraid of Sunlight” is not the first album I had heard all of the way through, but it’s as good a place to start as any.
“Gazpacho” starts the album off with a pleasant, hooky bounce. It’s a nice, upbeat tune (if a bit sugary at times), with a little surprise mood swing in the middle. It goes back to the bounce, and then finishes with a more somber jam (the last part has sound bites of a police chase).
“Cannibal Surf Babe” is the most interesting, and most likeable song of the set. This is where I perked up, and thought this album might hold quite a bit of promise. It’s a quirky homage to the ’60s, with one heck of a groove. You can tell they had a lot of fun with this one.
“Beautiful” is a song that is often talked about. I kind of forgot about it when first listening to the disc. When it shows up right after “Cannibal Surf Babe,” it comes as a huge letdown. It’s actually a very nice song. The lyrical content has much that I can identify with. Musically, it’s just so cheesy. Something that has always bothered me is Hogarth’s tendency to sound like an ’80s rock singer. This is 100% pop ballad.
“Afraid of Sunrise” brings some redemption. It is a cool, almost smooth jazz inspired number. Hogarth pulls back a bit to give the vocals some needed subtlety.
“Out of This World” continues in the now established slow down mood (from which the album will not return until the very end). This one is spacey, somber, moody, and not very interesting.
The title track has the marks of an anthem, and has Hogarth in full on ’80s balladeer mode (think Bryan Adams, or someone else of that ilk). It’s actually one of the better songs on the album, but it won’t knock you socks off.
“Beyond You” is yet another pleasant little slice of cheese. There are some nice atmospheric moments, but too few to counter the ill effects.
“King” is quite good, and my second favorite track. This is prog grandeur, with mood changes, and epic sounds, and a fitting ending to a fine prog album. It’s just too bad it doesn’t represent what came before.
This isn’t a bad album, nor is it all that good. There are some very pleasing moments, but overall I find it very average. Hogarth is a very talented vocalist, but his pop tendencies just get on my nerves. Another disappointing factor is in knowing how talented the musicians are. They never show the extent of their chops. These guys used to jam. Why hold back? Because there is some quality work here, I can’t bash it too much. However, I also can’t recommend it that highly.
Steve Hogarth – vocals, keyboards, percussion
Mark Kelly – keyboards
Ian Mosley – drums
Steve Rothery – guitars
Pete Trewavas – basses