Marillion - 1998 Radiation


ARTIST: Marillion
ALBUM: Radiation
LABEL: Velvel
SERIAL: 63467-79760-2
YEAR: 1998


LINEUP: Steve Hogarth - vocals * Steve Rothery - guitars * Pete Trewavas - bass * Mark Kelly - keyboards * Ian Mosley - drums

TRACK LISTING: 01 Costa Del Slough * 02 Under The Sun * 03 The Answering Machine * 04 Three Minute Boy * 05 Now She'll Never Know * 06 These Chains * 07 Born To Run * 08 Cathedral Wall * 09 A Few Words For The Dead



Imagine how I felt when the band I'd looked up to for many years released an album I didn't 'get'. The first time I heard 'Radiation', I was absolutely gobsmacked.

Marillion, a band who's albums have often shown a high standard of quality control (even the uneven 'Afraid Of Sunlight' had it's classic moments) had released an album completely devoid of 'songs'.

The production values sounded under par and the whole thing was, well, horrible. Maybe it was me. Just maybe I wasn't in a Marillion place that day.

So, a few days passed and I tried the album again.. And again.. Still nothing. I came to the conclusion that the best thing about 'Radiation' was it's sleeve.

A few years later, I heard most of the songs from the album played live. With the bigger sound, the songs made far more sense and some of them weren't quite as aggressive as I'd remembered. It was time to dig out the album again.

The Songs

The opening track 'Under The Sun' is uncharacteristically heavy by Marillion's standards, with it's very direct approach and fuzzy guitars. Luckily, the on reflection, some of the lyrics are quite good fun.

The song deals with environmental issues from a reversed point of view: 'The polar ice is melting / Suits me fine / We'll go to the beach on the Northern Line'.

Also on the rocky end of the scale is 'The Answering Machine'. Although it's now a live favourite among many, the studio cut is ruined by too many vocal effects.

'Three Minute Boy' sneers at manufactured pop stars: 'Here today, gone this afternoon / A tune we almost remember'. Musically speaking, this is a little closer to the Marillion I've come to expect, a little more spacious, the main focus on the piano and H's voice.

'Now She'll Never Know' is sparse with more than a hint of Radiohead. The music matches the song's darker lyrical concerns of a soured relationship. Knowing that many of H's lyrics are personal to him, this must've contributed to the bleakness of 'Radiation' as a whole.

Sections of 'These Chains' (the only single to be extracted from the album) also deal with marital strife, although this time it's in third person narrative, so it may or may not concern H. Whatever, it's one of the best songs here.

The slow, almost bluesy 'Born to Run' is beautiful. I really don't understand how I could've overlooked this song the first time around. A very heartfelt vocal by H is matched perfectly to Mark's keyboards, which add real colour here, and another great Rothers solo. It has all the right ingredients to be a Marillion classic.

'Cathedral Wall' once again throws the listener back into the darker side of the band's work. An absolute monster live, like 'The Answering Machine' the studio version is marred by pointless vocal effects. Despite that, the song's main riff, played on the keys, has a rather jarring quality which makes it memorable.

Closing the album, 'A Few Words For The Dead' could never be described as uplifting. At over ten minutes, it has an ambient and slightly world music quality. Droning and a little ploddy, the main keyboard sounds remind me a little of 'In The Light' from Led Zeppelin's classic 'Physical Graffiti'.

In Summary

This is without question Marillion's weakest offering to date. It shows many different aspects of the band and I find some of it too challenging by far.

That aside, it's worth investigating for 'These Chains' and 'Born To Run'. If nothing else, at least this is proof that Marillion are a band capable of suprising even their most die-hard fans.

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