Monday, July 18, 2016
Marillion From a Swedebeast’s Point of View
Holidays In Eden
'Holidays In Eden’ was the hardest nut for me to crack when I rediscovered Marillion. This is, after all, the album where I bid the boys adieu. As much as I actually liked, well sort of, the Fish-less, Seasons End', I just couldn't wrap my head around 'Holidays In Eden'. At first, without having heard one single note from it, I refused to buy the album. But during one of countless trips to London, said wax was duly purchased and given a few curious spins. Whereas several songs were good individually, as a whole they did nothing for me. It wasn’t until many moons later when I played ‘Holidays In Eden’ from start to finish again and I couldn’t help kicking myself for having ignored this beautiful recording. In my defense, I was – and still am - a staunch Fish supporter which clouded my judgment back then. Regardless, it pleases me immensely to finally see the greatness of this album…despite having some weak commercial parts. But that’s fine, as well as obvious, since the band was finding a new identity.
After completing successful tours on the back of ‘Seasons End’, Marillion faced the harsh reality of writing and recording a brand new album with “the new guy”. Most things were already done for the predecessor when Steve Hogarth joined. Now they all had to gel as a unit, but not only that. During the creative writing period – which took the better part of eight months to complete - they lost their management and had to fend off a lot of pressure from the label to produce several hit singles at the same time. Christopher Neil was brought in to oversee the recording whose claim to fame was to have guided Mike & Mechanics into the short pop hits territory. Both the label and the band was hoping for gold but it wasn’t to be.
‘Splintering Heart’ shows one of Marillion’s trademarks, the expertise at building up atmospheres. Soft, barely audible at first, the song explodes only stop again, allowing the main character to deal with pain and hurt over and over again. Rothery pulls off a heartbreaking solo halfway through. ‘Cover My Eyes(Pain And Heaven)’ is a re-worked version of How We Live’s (a former band of Hogarth’s) ‘Simon’s Car’. Poppy and rocky at the same time, this hook-laden tune tells us about the type of woman who can wrap any man around her little finger, only to break you in half at any given moment. A sad gut wrenching song, ‘The Party’ is dark and poignant musically and works so well with the lyrics, which is about an innocent girl who goes to a party. Never having been exposed to drugs, alcohol or careless sex, she gives in and dives head first into all the indulgences at hand and subsequently suffers the consequences the next day. Poignant lyrics but somewhat sappy musically, ‘No One Can’ is about separation in the sense of being away from your loved ones. And the strain it puts everybody under especially when you keep telling yourself “everything’s fine”. A dividing song if there ever was one, where the band was amazed at the lack of chart success, while a big part of the supporters were flabbergasted at its inclusion. To this day, it is still the odd one out. The title track is a boisterous and stomping rocker for the most part as ‘Holidays In Eden’ tells us about when the honeymoon is over so to speak. You’re off on your little adventures in life, living it large. But when finally returning home, those who were left behind aren’t impressed with the new you.
Another composition from Hogarth’s stint in How We Live is ‘Dry Land’. Trying to get through to someone, only to realize they have put up their defenses far too high, so you end up drifting apart. Dejection and frustration, you can say. ‘Waiting To Happen’ is the most upbeat song on this release. Soft and semi-acoustic at first, then pulsating, vibrant and full of life, Hogarth spills his heart about when you find love and what it does to you. How It changes your way of being as well as your look on life. Another stomping rocker, ‘This Town’ is about having to be observant of new surroundings. If you don’t embrace it, it can easily destroy you. Spacey and out there musically The Rakes Progress’ picks up lyrically where ‘This Town’ left off. A man who was broken while attempting to create a new life, emerges from some time spent in purgatory only to love his new miserable and pallid existence. ‘100 Nights’ is the continuation of ‘The Rakes Progress’ where the “liberated” man is now using his newfound negative approach to his own gain, no matter whom or what he destroys in the process. Musically, it is another build-up song with amazing guitar work from Rothery.
Revisiting this album has opened up my eyes and ears. It’s definitely much better than I first perceived, so like wine ‘Holidays In Eden’ has matured pretty well. Still, matching it up against previous and future albums, it’s one of the band’s weaker efforts. That says a lot however, because Marillion’s low is very high, meaning a lesser recording is still good.
The reasons why ‘Holidays In Eden’ is somewhat frowned upon to this day, is as many as the band’s supporters. My opinions are three-fold in the sense that the label had too much input in requiring hit singles; this was the first album the new line-up wrote and recorded together properly. And lastly, John Helmer, the band’s new writing partner from ‘Seasons End’ had very little involvement this time around for various reasons. Regardless, ‘Holidays In Eden’ is a much better output than all the negative attention it got suggested. I for one, know that first hand but happily admit that the folly of my youth has taken many steps back, allowing this decent, nay, good album back into the fold.