Marillion returns three years after their epic, widely lauded Marbles concept piece with another self-produced album. While no one seriously expects them to top such a feat, all ears are curious as to how they attempt to follow up what many now consider to be the unexpected peak of their 25 year career.
Marillion spent their career in the '80s carving out a niche in the resurrected prog movement of the period, aping much of the territory that Genesis, Yes, and Gentle Giant had already covered so well a decade before. By the end of the decade, things would change drastically with the departure of their lead singer, the poetically-gifted choke-throated Fish, who would be replaced by Steve Hogarth, who brought to the band a more traditional pop-rock style of singing - not to mention the sensibilities of such a singer.
Over the past two decades since Hogarth joined the band, Marillion has slowly shifted from a progressive band into what they are now: a pop-rock band doing very intelligent music now that happens to occasionally be conceptual in nature. This album, however, isn't, and I'm personally glad they opted for an album of songs rather than another big concept piece. Following the amazing two-disc Marbles with another big, heavy epic like that would have been a mistake - too much too soon. Instead, what we get is a lighter, airier Marillion, but no less engaging (aside from a couple of stumbles.)
Marillion have found their sound finally - what really started to take shape on 2001's Anaraknophobia, if a little roughly, they perfected with Marbles in 2004, they now continue here, and that's basically a good thing. While it makes for an album of no real surprises, it's simple, smart pop with a good band and an emotive vocalist.
Where Marillion let the listener down on Somewhere Else is where they simply try too hard - "Most Toys" where they attempt to rock out as hard as they can (and mostly flail about instead of hit the target) and "Last Century For Man," where they attempt a cautionary tale and only score with the infectious and beautiful chorus, but the song falls flat in the verses. It just isn't a very strong message song - some bands are better at delivering straight-up messages and others are better at hinting at them creatively. Marillion should stick to the latter.
For fans, Somewhere Else makes a lovely transition out of the emotional, intense, and dense Marbles. For newbies, Marbles is going to be the place to start - and then give Somewhere Else a try as it's easily one of their most focused and solid albums since 1995's Afraid Of Sunlight. Songs such as nearly epic "The Wound" and the contemplative "Thankyou Whoever You Are" should quickly find themselves on many Marillion fans most-played lists, but it's the charming acoustic closer "Faith" that could be a surprise for everyone - it's beautiful.
(Originally posted by me at LookoutForHope and Blogcritics)
on April 11, 2007
Marillion's 14th studio album "Somewhere Else" is a promise well kept. As with Anoraknaphobia, Marbles, and others..I was originally a bit disappointed when I first heard sound clips for "Somewhere Else". Alas, any die hard Marillion fan knows that clips and first listens are absolutely meaningless. So like a good boy, I gave "Somewhere Else" many a listen before submitting my review...and the album is remarkable..further demonstrating Marillion's level of musical creativity, craftsmanship and genius. As with other Marillion albums, "Somewhere Else" takes us on a grand, emotional journey that guarantees us raw energy, unspeakable beauty, haunting passages, and even a few rough spots ('Most Toys' if you haven't already guessed). Highlights include the heavenly "Voice From the Past" ( an epic track that nearly had me in tears) and otherworldly title track "Somewhere Else". "No Such Thing" is a dreamy bit of psychedelia that shows how truly unique and creative Marillion is. "The Wound" is a haunting number that turns and winds in true Marillion fashion.. with more listenings it may end up my favorite track. The opener.."the Other Half" is emotionally intense with an absolutely beautiful atmospheric ending. The album ends with the beautiful, subtle, folky "faith"..an amazing track that is perfect for this album. So "Somewhere Else" can rightfully take its place as another Marillion masterwork...right there with "Marbles" and "Anorak"..with the boys all working in perfect harmony to create pure magic. "Somewhere Else" may not feel as polished as "Marbles" yet it is more complex, targeting deeper emotions as we got with "Afraid of Sunlight". If you are new to Marillion or a current fan..please, please, PLEASE give "Somewhere Else" a chance and listen to the songs all the way through....so that you can fully digest and appreciate the complexity, beauty, mystery and mastery of their music. Look out for album 15 next Spring...Life is wonderful!!!!
on June 6, 2007
On first listen, I really enjoyed Somewhere Else and thought it was the right kind of album for where they are now in their career. But it hasn't held up as well over time.
The major problem for me is that there's no real magic moment. Most Marillion albums have their flaws, but every one has had a gem of truly inspired music where the entire band takes flight. But here, the feel is very tempered throughout and nothing lifts off the ground. It's a sparse album, with lots of piano and simple guitar. The songs are very restrained. It seems that there are songs that have the potential for that classic Marillion emotional lift -- "Voice From the Past" and "The Wound" both come to mind -- but instead, the band decided to play it low-key.
The bright side of this, however, is that it's a very consistent album with some very good songs. "The Other Half" features some beautiful vocal harmonies and a driving 3/4 groove. "Thankyou Whoever You Are," "See It Like A Baby" and "Somewhere Else" are all good songs.
A big surprise to me is how uninspiring the lyrics are. "Last Century for Man" is truly cringe-worthy. I know Steve Hogarth is smarter than this, so I'm surprised he was so pedestrian with such a heavy topic. It winds up offering no insight or poetry into the world we live in. "Somewhere Else" starts well, but then wanders off. I don't know if Hogarth is trying to be intentionally cryptic, but I couldn't connect with any of the subject matter on this album.
Bottom line: A very solid and consistent album that I like to listen to. But I wish they had injected a little more life into the songs. 3 1/2 stars.
on June 7, 2007
Granted, Marbles was a tough act to follow. With epic songs like "The Invisible Man" and "Ocean Cloud", anything that resembles a repetitve, one-verse pop song is going to come up short. Oops... I just described "Most Toys", didn't I? In my opinion, many of the songs are one-dimensional and don't really move me in true Marillion fashion. The one song that seems to follow the Marillion formula of soulful songs that change, morph, evolve and make you feel like you're getting three-songs-in-one is the title track, "Somewhere Else". There's a little fun Sgt. Pepper-ish tonality in the title track... if you liked "Drilling Holes" you'll love this song. And speaking of "Invisble Man" (and "You're Gone" for that matter) ... the morbidity theme in Somewhere Else is a little heavy-handed. Sure, we loved "promised wedding now a wake...." in Script from a Jester's Tear, we'll always love "Easter" and who can't help but be moved by "Estonia"? But of the ten songs on Somewhere Else, guess how many of them are about someone dead? "The Other Half"? Yup. "Most Toys"? Kinda. "Somewhere Else"? Yes. "Voice From the Past". Totally. "No Such Thing" mentions the Pearly Gates, but I'll let that one go. You get the picture. If you're looking for an upbeat album to cheer you up this is NOT it. (Then again, are any Marillion songs feel-good, HAPPY songs? Hmmm... not even "The Last Straw: Happy Ending"?)
Maybe Somewhere Else will grow on me. Anoraknophobia did. I've heard that the band doesn't think This Strange Engine is their best either... but I think it's better than Somewhere Else.
I love the guys, but I'm not feeling this album. I will continue to be a fan and a collector, but I'm kinda disappointed in Somewhere Else.
on April 5, 2007
Somehow I got my copy in the mail today. On first listen I think the album has great growing potential. I'm still not convinced about the first single "See it Like a Baby," and I've pretty much never liked "Faith," which has been out for a while, but there is a LOT to appreciate here. I think "Somewhere Else" is going to be the song that immediately appeals to most who loved Marbles. And it is my instant favorite. However, "Thank You Whoever You Are" is infectious and has me completely hooked after only 2 listens. "Most Toys," I believe, is the best rocker since "Hooks in You." Speaking of rocking, this album is much more of a rocker on the whole, anyway. Great guitar (like that's a surprise) and much more up-tempo, but yet still atmospheric as you would expect. Shorter songs, too, with much of the album coming in at under 5 minutes. That's a little different to get used to. I do love a good epic! Marillion has been my favorite group for almost 20 years and I have tickets to 3 shows in the UK (I live in Cleveland, Ohio). The tour is sure to be electrifying and the album WILL NOT disappoint. It might take a few run-throughs, but fear not, people, Marillion have done it again! This review comes from a fanatic. I am very likely to enjoy anything Marillion puts out. However, I try to take an objective approach. This album will still have to grow on me. It isn't an instant classic. I liked most of it on the first listen. I liked more of it on the second listen. And that is how it should be, really. The stuff that takes longer to digest stays with you better in the long run. I didn't even like Season's End when it first came out. Now it is my favorite album of all time. It just had to grow. There is no band that even comes close to rivaling Marillion. None. And you'll never convince me otherwise. This is a good album by a great band and by the time I'm really accustomed to it, it will be a GREAT album by a great band. Give it time. Marillion delivers again and again and again...
on May 27, 2007
Whilst not being an absolute turkey, 'Somewhere Else' lacks all the charm, emotion and character that I have loved from the band's last 18 years of recorded work (namely the Steve Hogarth era). Finding albums such as 'Brave', 'Seasons End' and 'This Strange Engine' containing more than their fair share of classic, tear-jerking and emotive tunes that tap into the human spirit, it's hard to understand why this album fell so short. Maybe it's not surprising after the superb and stunning sonic treat that their last album 'Marbles' delivered. 'Somewhere Else' has failed to move me after more than a dozen sittings.
Firstly the production whilst not being poor is nothing on their last three albums for clarity and depth. Secondly, I have yet to find one song on 'Somewhere Else' that I can actually understand what S.Hogarth is singing without the lyrics in front of me. This wasn't a problem for albums like 'Brave' where the mood of the stella arrangements generated an understanding of the story or song being performed even when the vocals were almost inaudible whispers. Somehow it worked and fitted into the artpiece. Hogarth's vocal delivery is somewhat mumbled and unclear on 'Somewhere Else' and I often find myself frustrated to understand at least one sentence to graps meaning and content. This album is really more pop rock than anything else but it does not even have the luxury of being catchy. I have loved all of Marillion's previous pop rock albums ('Holidays In Eden' and 'Afraid Of Sunlight) as the songwritting has always been so strong and the lyrics so profound. Not the case here.
Sadly this is one of Hogarth's weakest vocal albums which can be best displayed on the track 'Most Toys'. Musically this song rocks, it's a great arrangement, like large parts of the album however, 'h' turns on the most irritating melody with the repeatitive and lame hook "He who dies with the most toys is still dead, still dead." His choice of vocal melody and range is like nails down a chalkboard and yes, we all know materialism isn't the answer to happiness and fulfillment in life. The dude with the most toys maybe dead but boy he looked like he had fun....
Marillion have been a favourite of mine for more than 15 years with very few disappointments in that time, so I am not too worried that this album is a turning trend. I'm confident that their next release will hit the mark for me in some way.
After many listens, I can not even give a highlight song as I have found that I drift off, which for me while listening to Marillion is unheard of.
I can truley say without being smarmy, when I listen to 'Somewhere Else', that's where I am.....
While there really isn't anything terribly wrong with this 2007 release, it just failed to interest me. Overall, it sounds like the group was trying too hard to sound like any number of British alternative rock groups (take Coldplay for example).
The tunes seem a bit uninspired and in at least one instance, somewhat irritating (Most Toys). Although this sounds like a lot of complaining, Marillion always grabbed me with their emotion - it is what first got me into the group back in the dark ages of the early/mid 1980s. Take the emotion away from this music and you are left with nothing more than dull alternative rock.
On the bright side, the playing is fairly solid and Steve Hogarth's voice is still in good shape. I always liked Ian Mosley as a drummer, whether with Trace or Marillion, and both Steve Rothery and Pete Trewavas contribute some good playing. The melodies are nice too - these guys were always good at the melodies.
The production quality is excellent and the CD booklet features the lyrics, a few pictures, and the recording credits.
All in all, while there are some nice melodies, and one or two tracks that I liked, there was not much on this album that I found to be engaging. I did, however, like the 2008 follow-up album Happiness is the Road (Volume I: Essence). Come to think of it, some other favorites include Marbles (2004), This Strange Engine (1997), Afraid of Sunlight (1995), Brave (1994), and Seasons End (1989).
on May 1, 2007
It's quiet simple: Somewhere Else is not Marbles, and I guess it wasn't meant to be. Since I cannot expect and pretend for a band to repeat a formula that worked in the past, you shouldn't have waited for a marbles part II.
Like any other reviewer said, this disc is a grower, it has fantastic songs on it and you should give it a try.
on June 15, 2007
...you can do better. You have done better for more than 25 years.
Somewhere Else, while perhaps achieving the new "get on the charts" primary focus of the band, is the thinnest, least creative, least distilled, most trite piece of work of an extrordary band. How disapointing.
When Phil Collins finally hit the dumb bottom with "Dance Into the Light" he had the maturity to pack it in. Yes, Marillion is scraping that bottom.
My hope is that the band takes the time to think about how little thought they put into this work and finds a way to bounce back. Comfortable artists sometimes forget to wad up the safe idea and toss it. H and Co worked the creative mine like they had something to prove in previous discs, but not this time.
"Somewhere Else" is simply boring. Let me put this in perspective -- I have a Marillion mix that I listen to EVERY NIGHT as I get ready for bed. I have spent a lot of time listening to this band. I appreciate the unique creative melodic slightly psycho genius of both the Fish and H incarntations.
Thank heavens Neal Morse, Rush and Dream Theater all had new music out at the same time. Unfoutunately, although none of these new works are awe inspiring, they all generate greater interest than "Somewhere Else".
I hope the next one is better.
on April 23, 2007
If you like British Rock which has a little of Coldplay, Radiohead and the Muse, then this is for you!
Building on Marbles, this puts this type of music in a more accessible format by a great band [14 albums over 20 plus years, everyone in its own right a gem]
Take the time to listen, and it will continue to grow like all great albums!