Marillion have long since been pioneers of sailing your own ship. Advocates of crowdfunding before crowdfunding was even a thing, they are ambassadors for the freedom of speech and creativity that can only be found in not having to tow the line. It’s no surprise then, that Marillion’s 18th studio album F.E.A.R. (Fuck Everyone And Run) covers subjects such as ageing, the transient existence of life on the road and a healthy dose of social commentary examining the migrant crisis in Britain today and the crippling effect of global capitalism. This is Marillion after all, and they have a lot to say.
F.E.A.R. splits into five separate parts, to call them tracks wouldn’t be entirely correct given three of these parts split themselves into multiple segments to form a whole but each one examines a different facet of what it is to be a disillusioned adult in Britain today if you will.
Opening part ‘El-dorado’ begins with an almost dream like vision of an England which exists on the verge of extinction, and progresses with a sense that in our green and pleasant land things are about to change. As the clouds roll in on a wave of keys and guitars, at times reminiscent of a Division Bell era Pink Floyd, an examination of the lyrics reveals that this is in effect a commentary on our handling of change as a country and how a ‘not in my back yard’ mentality appears to have been given sway.
It’s clear from this opening part that F.E.A.R. is not an album for those who like to sit back and let the music wash over them without any emotional involvement and the intricate layering and intertwining of keys from Mark Kelly, guitars from Steve Rothery, bass from Pete Trewavas and drums from Ian Mosley support Steve Hogarth’s vocal and invite you not just to listen, but to hear.
The second part of F.E.A.R. – the stand alone piece ‘Living in Fear’ acts as a counterbalance to the issues raised in El-dorado and is in effect a song inciting us to stand together against many of the questions raised in this album. If Marillion did anthems for peace, Living in Fear is that anthem.
The third part entitled ‘The Leavers’ steps away from wider world issues for the moment and gives us instead a very personal insight into life for those who are always moving and for me, this is the stand out section of the album. Beginning musically with an almost transient feel perfectly echoing the fact that we are lyrically dissecting life on the road, Mark Kelly’s effervescent keys push the first element ‘Wake Up In Music’ relentlessly along. There is a sense of longing to stand still by the time we get to ‘Vapour Trails in the Sky’ and an almost ethereal quality to Hogarth’s vocals here which complements perfectly the sense of fleeting existence experienced by someone who arrives but never stays. Steve Rothery’s guitar comes to the fore in ‘Jumble of Days’, almost like a monologue to homeward thoughts. Just when we think that Marillion are telling us they want to go home though, to settle and stay, comes the sting in the tail that is ‘One Tonight’ which brings with it the realisation that for all the longing to stand still, when all you know how to do is move, the struggle to adapt to a sedentary life when the call of the road pulls you back demonstrates a vicious circle of longing to be home yet needing to be away.
The shorter section ‘White Paper’ concludes this introspective element of F.E.A.R. by lastly asking the question what happens when you still have that desire to live a colourful life but find that advancing years mean you have become an observer of life rather than a participant. A sombre thought perhaps that with age comes experience but also invisibility. Hogarth’s vocal is again tinged with a sense of displacement and echoed by Mark Kelly’s fragile, piano led lament before the section picks up with a harder accompaniment, a sense of bitterness at fading youth perhaps. A sense of resignation certainly.
We are back on the world stage for the final part of F.E.A.R. with ‘The New Kings’, exploring capitalism and the effect the few who have much have over the many who have little. After the self-searching translucence of the previous two sections, The New Kings carries with it a hard hitting punch, and certainly leaves you with the feeling that in no uncertain terms, this is musically a dark as night vision of the world according to Marillion.
Marillion are never ones to back away from saying what they want to say, and this is their strength, to fly in the face of convention under their own banner and to use their musical and artistic freedom to challenge. It comes as no surprise at all then, that, eighteen albums in, F.E.A.R. does just that, far from mellowing with age, Marillion have proved that they are just as ready as ever to stand up and be counted.
Marillion – F.E.A.R (Fuck Everyone And Run)
- El Dorado (I) Long-Shadowed Sun
2. El Dorado (II) The Gold
3. El Dorado (III) Demolished Lives
4. El Dorado (IV) F E A R
5. El Dorado (V) The Grandchildren of Apes
6. Living in F E A R
7. The Leavers (I) Wake Up In Music
8. The Leavers (II) The Remainers
9. The Leavers (III) Vapour Trails in the Sky
10. The Leavers (IV) The Jumble of Days
11. The Leavers (V) One Tonight
12. White Paper
13. The New Kings (I) F*** Everyone and Run
14. The New Kings (II) Russia’s Locked Doors
15. The New Kings (III) A Scary Sky
16. The New Kings (IV) Why is Nothing Ever True?
17. The Leavers (VI) Tomorrow’s New Country
Marillion – F.E.A.R (Fuck Everyone And Run)
Release Date 23/09/2016
Label – Ear Music