Fugazi is the one that always sorted out the Marillion boys, from the Marillion men*, if you really liked this one you were hardcore; lots of fans (very rightly) adored Script For a Jester’s Tear, owned Real to Reel and Fugazi, but only got properly excited again by Misplaced Childhood. Me? this was my absolute favourite Marillion LP for years. How could you argue with lines like,
Apocalyptic alphabet casting spell the creed of tempered diction
Adjectives of annihilation bury the point beyond redemption
Venomous verbs of ruthless candour plagiarise assassins fervour
or the sheer daring swearing of,
I never say no, in chemical glow we’ll let our bodies meet
So was it just a fuck, was it just a fuck, just another fuck I said
Loving just for laughs, carnal autograph, lying on a lizard’s bed
So was it just a fuck, was it just a fuck, just another fuck I bled
Degraded and alone, raped and still forlorn
Betrayed on a lizard’s bed
You couldn’t, or at least I couldn’t when I was 17. I bought into Marillion, good style, supported them vehemently like they were a sports team – wore the T-shirts, drew their logo on more school desks than I care to admit**. Which is just as well, as in the world outside they were seen as deeply, horrendously, irredeemably uncool – deeply nerdy, pretentious and overly wordy. Let’s face it, they were. I would have died for them at the time, without question.
The artwork by Mark Wilkinson as always was a huge part of why I liked them and every bit as important to the whole package as the music – just like Derek Riggs’ work with Iron Maiden^. The jester has moved out of his gloomy garret on the Script .. sleeve and ensconced himself in a modern apartment, looking the worse for wear, his existential angst plainly visible, his jester’s motley strewn across the room and only properly visible in the mirror. Now to a normal mortal this would just be a neat album cover, but not for such as me. I believe I can trace all the causes of his unhappiness in the cover.
Spilt Wine: Mr Jester shows appalling, basic drinking skills by spilling his wine – careful jester! That wine stain will be an absolutely bugger to get out the carpet.
There’s a copy of the 12″ of Marillion’s own Punch and Judy and Pink Floyd The Wall on the floor despite there being no visible record player – could this be the reason for his drunken/drugged-out angst?
In fact, he’s listening to a Walkman – the inferior, tinny cassette sound is clearly fuelling his weltschmerz^^
I’m not sure I’d have let the magpie with the wedding ring have full run of my flat either – there’d be crap everywhere.
The carefully draped memento mori skull on the sofa? dramatic, but not very comfy – another source of anguish?
A pet chameleon? chameleons release a mild toxin through their skins, called nestachoromylin, which induces feelings of intense sadness if human skin comes into contact with them too often.
The picture of a clown – jesters good, clowns bad; everyone knows that.
The high-heeled shoe next to the bed – clearly Mr jester has been experimenting with cross-dressing and I know from associating with ladies, that heels can hurt your feet if you’re not used to them.
- He’s lost a piece of his jigsaw – that’d make me seriously cross! Maybe even cross enough to lie on my bed, draped only in a piece of chiffon (a pale kimono), spilling wine. That cross.
The lyrical concerns on Fugazi are a perhaps a bit illuminating in terms of the contents of Fish’s head at the time, we have verbal backstabbing (Assassing), marital strife (Punch and Judy), failing relationships (Jigsaw), arguments in relationships (Emerald Lies), groupies (She Chameleon), being dumped by someone who’s doing well (Incubus) and the general fucked-up state of the world and stuff (Fugazi). So a quick straw poll gives us 6 tracks out of 7 about how crap people are, women in most cases and one track about how pants the rat race is/neo-Nazism/other stuff. Now I’m no psychiatrist but this was a dude experiencing some relationship/trust issues at the time. Or is it just the case that it’s always easier to write about a woman doing you wrong, than doing you right?^^
Now at the time I was digging all this my knowledge of the opposite sex was, a kiss or two aside, entirely theoretical. I’d have jumped at the chance of having my heart broken so I could sing along to all the bitterness even more. It’s funny listening again to this LP, like I say it was my favourite one by far, at least until Clutching At Straws was released but it doesn’t sit very well with me now, the production lacks any real bass (poor Pete Trewavas never quite gets a look in here) and the heavier bits don’t cut it so well as they had previously, or would do again.
There are some really good moments here though, ‘Jigsaw’ balances the wordiness with a delicate tune and Fish sings it with a real passion, there’s a short talkie bit and it has the best Steve Rothery guitar solo on the album, fulsome and lyrical. I’ve always had a thing for ‘She Chameleon’ and not just because of the swearing, although that’s always good but because of Mark Kelly’s organ sound. I also like the mood shifts in ‘Fugazi’, especially when it all goes a bit nasty when Fish spits out lines like ‘waiting, the season of the button, the penultimate migration’, although it doesn’t all quite work as a whole. There are some very good lines hidden away amongst Fish’s excess verbiage here, I was particularly taken with,
Through the Silk Cut haze to the smeared mascara
A 40 watt sun on a courtroom drama
from ‘Emerald Lies’. Overall though a bit too self-conscious and wordy, although at the time I would have held it up as the best poetry ever written by anyone ever, in the whole history of everness.
I think above all the good bits and the wrong bits the song writing on Fugazi just isn’t quite good enough by Marillion’s standards, there are bits here but nothing as good as some of the earlier tracks, or what was to come from them shortly. In fact the best track they did around this time for my money was ‘Cinderella Search’ a great tune relegated to being the B-side of Assassing. When I listened to Fugazi again today I enjoyed it for a lot of nostalgic reasons, it reminded me of being young and uncynical, ironically given the thrust of most of the lyrics but it has certainly shuffled down my Mental Marillion Pecking Order (MMPO) a few places.
I’ll leave you with the startling fact that Marillion not only predicted the internet on their debut, Fish wrote about and predicted something even more dear to my heart on Fugazi, yup he predicted me. Evidence?
I’ve seen a different doorway shut a million times before
The smiling he chameleon, the smiling vinyl whores
Guilty as charged Mr Fish, I am a vinyl whore, I do smile if provoked to do so and I have been known to close the odd doors, or two in my time. Okay so I changed ‘she’ to ‘he’ there, I admit. You want more evidence?
Whatever happened to … Complements on unnatural size
Again, guilty as charged. What can I say, it’s been a burden to me all my life.
P.S – I made the chameleon fact up.
*I use boy/man advisedly, Mrs 1537 being the only chick I ever met who was properly into Marillion.
**not sure what the statute of limitations is on logo-ing, so I need to be careful I don’t want to find myself doing a five stretch – particularly if they trace the 1988 Smashed Gladys outbreak back to me too! Mind you I reckon I could handle prison, I’ve watched Oz enough times – I’d need to set up my own gang, obviously, but I feel the 1537’s would end up running the wing, what with our astute music criticism and trivia knowledge. True story.
^I found this excellent interview really interesting – I had no idea at all that Mark Wilkinson had also worked with Iron Maiden and Judas Priest.
^^my new word, German for ‘world-weariness’.
^^Dr Feelgood’s genius ‘She Does it Right’ being the glorious exception to the rule.