Marillion
Clutching at Straws


4.0
excellent

Review

by JungWooTie USER (10 Reviews)
March 9th, 2011 | 174 replies


Release Date: 1987 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Not quite a masterpiece, but a stellar piece of work that should be heard by fans of Progressive Rock or intelligent Pop.

A foreigner alone in a strange land.

I'd made quite the number of friends during my visit to China, and yet despite the popularity and the excitement of being in a foreign land, I often prefer to drink alone. For whatever reason, a sadness constantly haunts me-a sadness that only alcohaul can numb and people can pour vinegar on.

I entered the bar alone, sat down at the bar-the last bar stool to the left- lit a ciagrette and ordered my beer. The smoke drifted and disappeared into the void-much like myself. I played "Clutching at Straws" on my I-pod. Music to escape in. Music to make the outside world disappear, and thus, began my voyage into the past. The haunted memories in my mind.

"Clucthing at Straws" is the album to drink alone to.

Following the incredible masterpiece that was "Misplaced Childhood," Marillion returns with yet another cyncial slab of pure, proggy goodness.

By this time, dislike and hatred had reared its' ugly head within the band, and the recording process of this, Marillion's figurative final album, was ugly to say the least, because soon after this release, eccentric and brilliant frontman Fish would leave to swim in the ocean alone, which would permanently alter Marillion's overall sound and forever divding fans.

I won't get into that, because it isn't the topic.

"Clutching at Straws" is a brilliant display of Neo-prog. It combines stellar musicianship with gorgeous lyrical imagery. It doesn't lack in variety either. Whether it be the toe-tapping (and somewghat happy despite the bitter lyrics)" Incommunicado," to the atmospheric and heart breaking tale of lost innocence, "Warm Wet Circles," or the poppy and powerful closer track, the album features something for everyone. "Sugar Mice" also bears mentioning. A sad tale of loneliness and travel, which has reportedly made the bassist cry during its playing live on stage.

While not a concept album per say, it does follow a theme. Namely: Drug abuse, alcohaulism, and the loneliness the former inevitably brings. Rest assured, this is not a happy album by any means. The album is peppered with sorrowful atmospheres, all brought to life by lyrical genius Fish. He truely is a poet of the modern age, painting detailed pictures within your mind. Yes, the album, whether you like it or not, will take you to rundown bars, hotel rooms, and darkened hallways.

I can't comment much on the keyboards and drums, as honestly, they never caught my attention. The drumming and keywork is restrained to say the least, serving only to help build atmospheres rather than create them. The bass is audible and is well-played for those who strain to hear it. "Clutching at Straws" mainly focuses on the vocals and writings of Fish and the stellar guitar playing of Steve Rothery.

Rothery plays his heart out on this album, giving us gorgeous leads and melodies, well surpassing any other band of that era. Sad, angry, empassioned-these are the feelings that will flow within you as Rothery sweeps us away. While not exactly technical by any means, that was never the intention. This isn't guitar wizardry, it's guitar poetry.

Only a few things keep it shy of "masterpiece" status.

Firstly, the emotional climaxes never reach such heights as those found on "Misplaced Childhood." While nearly every track off that album had a spine tingling moment, they are sparser here on "Clutching At Straws." Rest assured, they can be found, however they simply aren't as breathtaking.

Secondly, there are a few weaker tracks. That Time of Night and White Russian simply fail to grab me. Don't get the wrong idea, they are not bad and I've read on various sites that White Russian is the standout track for many, however, I find them mostly boring.

Despite these shortcomings, "Clutching at Straws" forever holds a place in my heart. It is my personal soundtrack to alcohaulism and if you let it, "Clutching at Straws" can be the soundtrack to your broken dreams.

I was suddenly pulled out of my daze by a loud slap on my shoulder. My friend, William, arrived to the bar and asked "What the Hell, are you here alone?,"

"Yeah," I replied.

Drunk and hazey, I hadn't noticed that the music had stopped playing 40 minutes ago. I looked down to find myself clutching at the straw that was left on the bar.



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user ratings (106)
Chart.
4.2
excellent

Comments:Add a Comment 
JungWooTie
March 9th 2011


39 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

It's also worth mentioning that the record label pressured the band to end the album on a high note, to counter the depressed feeling throughout the entire album.

Fish refused, and thus, the sarcastically titled The Last Straw/Happy Ending.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
March 9th 2011


21610 Comments


Marillion are great although I haven't heard this one as yet and by the sounds of it I should.

Rothery is a criminally overlooked guitarist, his solo 2 minutes into Blind Curve (from Misplaced Childhood) is amazing.

Great first review.


Digging: Foxes in Fiction - Ontario Gothic

Jethro42
March 9th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I haven't listened to that album in ages. Script, Fugazi and Misplaced Childhood are all classics

qwe3
March 9th 2011


21368 Comments


intelligent pop

probably the dumbest phrase ive ever heard

Scoot
March 9th 2011


17914 Comments


I love this band, they don't get any credit here

Digging: Renounced - The Melancholy We Ache

scissorlocked
March 9th 2011


3511 Comments


Brave is also great Jethro

Digging: Low Roar - Low Roar

Jethro42
March 9th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

I agree although I'm more fond of the Fish era. Season's End is great too. Songs like 'Space', 'Easter' and 'Berlin' wouldn't be out of place with Fish aboard.

scissorlocked
March 9th 2011


3511 Comments


yeah, the Fish era albums always give me a strange sense of introspection. the band is so unique

Jethro42
March 9th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yeah I like pretty much their blend of dark and melodic and the tortured, theatrical charactere of Fish.

JungWooTie
March 11th 2011


39 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Thanks for the comments guys.

I'm a Metalhead by nature, by as I age, I find myself drifting more and more into Prog territory.

"Intelligent Pop, probably the dumbest phrase I've ever heard."

Heh, I'm aware that intelligent and pop are oxymorons "snicker" but, I can't deny that pop fans may also dig Marillion. Though Prog, there's poppiness all over this album, though not the usual Pop fare. I didn't know how else to say it. Maybe...tasteful Pop...or perhaps high brow pop?

Season's End isn't too bad, but it should also be noted that most tracks were written by Fish before he left...so it's not TRUELY the second era of the band.

I don't mind the second era of the band...but Fish's charisma made Marillion the beast it was in the 80's. Fish>Steve

Thanks for the comments y'all!

TheNotrap
August 7th 2011


8132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

The previous is definitely my favourite but all their records with Fish are brilliant and Clutching at Straws is one of those timeless records I never get tired of listening. Probably their darkest and introspective record to date.
All songs are amazing but my favourites are Warm Wet Circles, That Time Of The Night (The Short Straw), Incommunicado, Torch Song and Sugar Mice.

Absolute classic.

Digging: Funebrarum - The Sleep of Morbid Dreams

thetempler
September 10th 2011


61 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

good review i love this album it would be one of my desert island disc choices fish is a word wizard and the diffrence between his stint with the band and hogarth are a million miles away from each other seasons end apart and maybe the odd few tracks here and there when fish left marillion they were starved of breath and slowly started to die

TheNotrap
September 10th 2011


8132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

At that time of the night
When streetlights throw crosses through window frames
Paranoia roams where the shadows reign
Ohhh, at that time of the night

"fish is a word wizard"
definitely

Amazing record. Amazing band.

qwe3
September 11th 2011


21368 Comments


Heh, I'm aware that intelligent and pop are oxymorons "snicker"


uh no theyre not theyre just words

Jethro42
September 11th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hotel Hobbies - 4/5
Warm Wet Circles - 5/5
That Time of the Night - 5/5
Going Under - 2.5/5
Just for the record - 4.5/5
White Russians - 5/5
Incommunicado - 2.5/5
Torch Song - 3.5/5
Slainte Mhath 5/5
Sugar Mice - 3/5
The Last Straws - 3.5/5
Ok, after revisiting this, I must confess my 3.5 was rather harsh. Bumped up.
However, I remember how I was disappointed about this one when it came out, compared to Script, Fugazi or Misplaced Childhood. I still have my copy though...on cassette.

TheNotrap
September 12th 2011


8132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

Glad you bumped to 4 Jethro.
I believe you underrate some songs like Sugar Mice or even the "pop oriented" Incommunicado, but everything is subjective ;-)

By the way....Fish's favourite Marillion album is Clutching at Straws.

Jethro42
September 12th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

For myself, album remains my least favorite of the Fish' era.

JamieTwort
Contributing Reviewer
September 12th 2011


21610 Comments


I still haven't heard this one, I should probably check it out.

Jethro42
September 12th 2011


12638 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Yes of course you should Jamie. I'm sure you're gonna enjoy. Consult my songs ranking above if you wish.

TheNotrap
September 12th 2011


8132 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5 | Sound Off

All their classic records with Fish are very good.
Misplaced is arguably the best however I really love the other 3.

Marillion mark II also have good moments. Afraid of Sunlight is very good.
Check this out:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T_GzPCJWTmE

Jethro, I'm sure you will love this song



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