After parting company with EMI and going 'indie', Marillion had to come up with something good. This Strange Engine provides the listener with Marillions most commercial moments since Holidays In Eden. The album is a surprisingly laid back, acoustic guitar based effort, but the songs are terrific. Man Of A Thousand Faces is excellent, starting out as acoustic guitar pop number and ending up as a seven minute plus epic complete with choir.
One Fine Day is a traditional Marillion ballad with a bluesy whiff. 80 Days is classic Crowded House. Estonia is a beautifully dark anthem that wouldn't sound out of place on Brave. Accidental Man is a good rocky work out that I find reminiscent of The Police at their most enrgetic, and the title track is the longest, most proggy track the band have knocked out since 1982's fondly remembered Grendel. The only let down, song-wise is Hope For The Future. Marillion doing samba is frankly the stuff of nightmares. Also Memory Of Water is quite forgettable (I prefer the big beat version).
The biggest let down on this album is the weak, limp wristed production. Ian Mosley's drums have never sounded so wet. Just compare the sound on this album with the sound on Clutching At Straws and Brave if you don't believe me!
Luckily, the songs are so good that you can forgive that one...just.
Perfect for a balmy summers evening.