Review Summary: A stone-cold classic
The year was 1984 and Marillion were on top of the world; everything was going marvelously for the group and the Orwellian nightmare proposed in 1949 was but an utter jest to the newly triumphant troop. Their latest album, Fugazi, even managed to hit gold in the U.K and witnessed the debut of exemplary drummer Ian Mosley to replace the juvenile Mick Pointer. But apart from Mosley filling the last jigsaw piece of the roster, the quintet also managed to find the perfect balance between their shorter balladesque tracks and the longer compositions more typical of the band’s debut record. The band truly surprised the prog world with the brilliance of Fugazi, especially considering that the genre was a decade past its prime. But alas, Marillion, like everyone else in music, needed to move forward or risked drowning in self foisted stagnation. But what road to take? What direction to go? Unbelievably enough, the United Nations prophetically announced 1985 to be “International Youth Year”; completely oblivious to the fact that a certain group of musicians would record the most incredible concept album ever exploring the essence of childhood. An album telling tales of depression, heartbreak, and reminiscing of the facets of boyhood in all their forms. The name of that album is Misplaced Childhood.
On the tour promoting the record, Marillion vocalist Fish would often start the evening by saying “ Now there is time for one more track, the name of the track is Misplaced Childhood”, followed by the album played in orderly succession. The remark, only meant as a light witticism, encapsulates the album experience briefly and splendidly nonetheless. The band bridges all the individual songs together using light instrumental transitions and childhood-esque themes, thus circulating the album into a singular unified escapade. Much like how a river often thinly connects two much greater masses of water , lightly veiling two otherwise distant entities into a single flow of movement.
The record begins with a faint tune known as Pseudo Silk Kimono, quickly introducing the listener to the wonderful prose of Fish, whilst suggesting some of the darker themes rampant through much of the LP. But alas! Pseudo Silk Kimono is only a mere glimpse of what is yet to unravel. The following piece, Kayleigh, is, for lack of a better description, pop perfection. Kayleigh begins with a bittersweet melodic guitar lick melded with ethereal mellophone-esque instrumentation before breaking out into the nostalgic remembrances of heartbreak crafted by Fish.
Do you remember, chalk hearts melting on a playground wall?
Do you remember, dawn escapes from moon washed college halls?
Do you remember, the cherry blossoms in the market square?
Do you remember, I thought it was confetti in her hair?
Kayleigh, is it too late to say I'm sorry?
Do you remember, barefoot on the lawn with shooting stars?
The lyrics stay true to the spirit of childhood; childhood is, of course , a phase of human life in which very few damns are given. A time where one can bask in the simplicity and carelessness sanctioned by lack of fiscal responsibility; a time where one can enjoy the simple pleasures in life to their fullest extent. A time in which every grown-up recalls in morose longing. For those reasons, Fish abandons any aim of lyrical complexity and directs his attention to creating the most wistful and visceral lyrics imaginable; purposefully trying to incarnate the quintessence of childhood into lyrical form. Each and every song recalls youth into the listener’s heart. Whether it be through the affectionate simplicity of the piano-led Lavender or the saccharinely resolving Childhood’s End?. The album varies substantially on the emotional spectrum, as the lyrical contents can be as scatterbrained as the LSD-trip in which they were initially conceived. One often finds themselves wiping away tears of joy with a palm already damp from tears of anguish.
Due to the heavy emphasis on vocals, the instrumentalists are somewhat felt to be pushed to the side. Especially for the usual wank-filled norms of prog. Even the nearly ten minute epic, Blind Curve, places true marvels such as Peter Trewavas secondary to penmanship, something quite unheard of in a prog rock epic; but one must remember, this is an album made to commemorate a time where simplicity reigns. Getting caught up in the complexities and excesses of prog would be a fatal contradiction to what this album stands for. But of course, none of this is to say that the other members of the group don’t have any immense individual moments. The guitarist, Steve Rothery, even manages to scatter a few otherworldly solos throughout the record, most remarkably the one about two minutes into Blind Curve, where he plays with an elegant and heartfelt passion unparalleled by most others of its kind.
Ah, Misplaced Childhood. A piece of music that someone may dismiss as a victim of the vanished and tacky sound of the eighties decade. But one can rest assured that that “someone” simply has never experienced the delight of juvenescence.