30 Day Song Challenge, Day 12

Day 12: A Song From a Band You Hate

This was an easy choice. Years ago when our tastes briefly aligned in a prog-rock sphere, Murray tried to get me into this exciting band he had discovered. That band was Marillion, and my reaction to them was initially indifference. As I tried harder and hard to listen to them, the reaction quickly became overwhelmingly¬†negative. It actually made me feel physical anger. Of course, time has moved on, and I don’t hate Marillion as much as I once did. I still do a little though…

The problem with Marillion for me is that I feel like none of the things they’re trying to do, they’re really capable of. They seem mediocre in a strange middle-aged kind of way. I kind of feel bad saying that now, but the fervour that surrounded them when the fan-funded album Marbles came out was nauseating to me. Marillion fans were really excited about certain specific stuff they were doing that I had heard so many other bands do so much better. As far as post-Fish era Marillion is concerned Radiohead is the obvious immediate comparison – and I don’t really have any interest in Radiohead. Additionally, the band described themselves at the time as “not sounding like you think we sound” and various other things in their arrogant self-penned press-releases that came across more like “okay, look… We know you think Marillion without Fish is an idea you wouldn’t like, but we’re still here, and our new music is totally exciting and innovative! Honest! We’re SO much ¬†better than most bands out there!” Yeah, right.

Anyway, using their fans they organised a campaign to get themselves back into the UK charts with You’re Gone and maybe win some new fans. They managed to go to #7. Except that being a song with no particular commercial appeal, and one which would never have gotten that high on its own merits, it quickly dropped to somewhere around #35, then off the charts completely as the campaign ran out of steam.

I don’t know what they thought would happen – perhaps that people would love them if only they gave them the time of day, or that their old fans from the Fish-era would suddenly remember a band they loved as teenagers and re-evaluate them in their middle-age. But the song they chose to do this with, the song I have chosen for today’s entry, just seems so amorphously bland and characterless that it’s no surprise the Marillion fandom remained an insular community.

I shouldn’t hate this band, after all they’re not hurting anyone, and their fans really seem to get a lot out of them. I just feel like they’re a little delusional that’s all. I shouldn’t hate them – but I still kind of do.

5 thoughts on “30 Day Song Challenge, Day 12

  1. As a fan of Marillion, and a lover of Marbles, I must admit that their reality distortion field embarrasses me. They’re good, but they’re not the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and they sometimes act as though they are.

    And with this song, I’d agree. I have no idea why they’d think it had any chance of making them popular again. It’s easily the weakest song on the album.

    And, to make things completely irrelevant, I noticed you were in episode 2 of a Game of Thrones. See?

  2. Thanks for the writeup Paul. I have a story similar to yours to tell – a very good friend of mine had tried to get me into their music. The more I tried to listen the less I liked what I heard, to the point that it started to strain our friendship. On the face of it, the reasons I don’t like them is a) the singer is too much in love with his voice; b) there’s something rather grating about their chords and harmonies, no matter how much effort they put into wrapping a modern production around their songwriting.

    They want to be compared to Radiohead and Coldplay, but they don’t quite seem to grasp what made those bands good in the first place. If they dismiss all the good things that were happening in 90s music (or then even the entire trees of genres spawned by punk rock, disco and minimalism), they shouldn’t act persecuted when the world outside their reality-distorted fanbase thinks they’re not relevant.

  3. Absolutely. Now I’m all for being confident about the music you make, but Marillion seem overly confident that they have something to offer, but I just can’t see what that is.

    There are a lot of bands who have these insular fan-groups who tend to be quite dismissive of other bands. I know bands like Tool (who I like), Coheed & Cambria (who I do not like) and Dream Theater (who I really do not like) have fans who generally moan about support bands on their tours, and really read far too much into the music and what surrounds it. The way I see it, you really ought to trace the roots of a particular band or style to really appreciate it, and doing so gives you a much more open mind to the different kind of directions you can go from the same starting point. For a lot of bands I listen to, Black Sabbath is at the root, but even Black Sabbath goes back into early blues.

    I guess my point is, music is kind of a continuum, and to get stuck in one particular era, or one band even, is unhealthy. Your taste stagnates, ceases to evolve. That’s what I feel has happened to Marillion, and to some of their fans. I’m sure Marillion would like to do new things, introduce new styles, but they’re so ingrained in the past, they can’t keep up with what others are doing – and this is true of most “prog” bands. One of the only classic “prog” bands I think that escaped that trap is King Crimson.

  4. This is Exhibit A of how narrow-minded and stuck in the past Marillion’s taste in music really is:

    http://www.marillion.com/band/top10.htm

    Here you have:
    – the keyboardist who has no interest in synthesizer or sampler driven music, or atmpospheric, soundscape-y music in general, and has only discovered Cocteau Twins a few years back apparently by accident (and thinks that it’s important to know what Liz Frazer really sings about)
    – the vocalist who’s openly dismissive about both punk revolution and all of 90s music, and only reluctantly lists one 90s record (you can easily guess which one)
    – and general over-abundance of classic rock and singer-songwriter records

    It’s beyond me that they demand an open mind from their would-be listeners but don’t have any themselves. It shows in their musical output, and shows badly.

  5. Normally I’d say it’s unfair to call them out on their influences, but yeah, it explains a lot that their choices are so unsurprising and obvious. I always love when an artist throws out an inspiration that you would never have guessed, and it leads you down a new musical path of discovery.

    Always love reading Steven Wilson’s current playlist, it shows that he’s listening to and has listened to a lot of music, new and old, from almost every genre going.

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