Yesterday saw the release of the final ‘teaser’ for ‘Sounds That Can’t Be Made’, Marillion’s soon to be released 17th studio album. It’s a BIG tease: 17’24” of Leviathan, proglodyte complexitude in the vein of previous Marillion extended set-pieces such as ‘The Invisible Man’, ‘Ocean Cloud’, ‘Interior Lulu’ and ‘This Strange Engine’.
As the title of this post suggests, the song – which opens STCBM and according to sources within The Racket Club will also kick off the tour set – is inspired by events in the Middle East. This is a kind of ‘social commentary’ songwriting that the band have rarely ventured into before: the only examples that spring to mind are ‘White Russian’ (words penned by previous frontman, Fish) and ‘Berlin’ (lyrics by sometime Marillion collaborator, John Helmer) both inspired by events in the old Eastern Bloc. By contrast singer/lyricist Steve (h) Hogarth prefers (for the most part) to plumb the depths of his own emotional and experiential well for inspiration. Ok, ‘Easter’ – which became something of a band and fan anthem ever since its 1989 debut – was inspired by ‘The Troubles’ but is, in Hogarth’s own words ‘my love song to Ireland’ rather than any kind of strictly political statement. If he tentatively began to channel his inner Bono for a couple tracks on 2007’s ‘Somewhere Else’ record, then this track takes that to a whole new level.
Here’s what Hogarth had to say about the inspiration for ‘Gaza’ in a recent interview with Prog magazine:
‘We were on the guest list [for] Massive Attack and when you picked up your tickets they wanted a donation for the Hoping Foundation [which] raises money to provide materials and arts education … for children who live in refugee camps. I started reading about the history of that part of the world from before the last war through to the Holocaust and the creation of the state of Israel… Skyping quite a lot of people within the Gaza Strip and the West Bank to try and get a sense and feeling of what life is like there. I didn’t want to write a piece of naive, romantic nonsense [or] a song just bashing Israel. You’ve got to keep coming back to … the perspective of a child growing up there’.
Marillion‘s online forum, YouTube and Facebook accounts are already buzzing with heated musical (and political) exchanges around the new song. With less than a week to go before the commencement of the UK leg of the tour this is a timely opportunity to digest a sizeable and complex chunk of fresh material. It’s also (re)opened the perennial ‘can of worms’ with regard to whether ‘pop artists’ ought to use their position to raise awareness of social/political situations from which they are arguably distanced by geography and – relative – financial security. Personally, it’s gonna take a while and a few more listens for me to make up my mind how successful they’ve been in either musical or lyrical terms. As a long-time fan of progressive rock I’ve come to enjoy unravelling the threads of Marillion’s (and others’) more sophisticated compositions; and to me it seems only apposite that such musical depth and complexity is echoed in provocative and dense lyricism. But have they bitten off more than they can chew this time? Will STCBM go down as a TDSotM or a 6DOIT? Let’s see…
You can follow developments in the album campaign as they unfolded in my previous blog posts by following these links Sounds That Have Been Made , The Power of Marillion and Sounds That Can’t Be Made.