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RETURN TO CHILDHOOD
on 18 October 2006
My favourite Marillion album from the Fish era has always been Fugazi but 'Misplaced Childhood' certainly has to be one of the most accomplished rock albums of the 1980s. For long time fans like me, it also takes one back to that great year (I was ten), when Marillion seemed to be in every paper and magazine, and on the radio constantly. We also got to see Fish in tartan suits and his kilt.
Again, only Marillion would be brave enough to attempt to make a concept album in 1985, but it is a triumph of music over people that it performed so well, and still sounds so good now.
Modern Marillion fans may harp on about the merits of 'Brave', but for me, 'Misplaced Childhood' will always win hands down when it comes to the better concept album.
The concept is alot less straightforward here than on 'Brave' however. It's based on a bad acid trip suffered by Fish, which caused him to have some spooky 'visions' which in turn caused him to envisage a drummer boy. He went on to scribble down his experiences as a child and a young adult with the young boy acting almost as a muse.
'Pseudo Silk Kimono' starts things off with some lush, misty sounding keyboards, and links superbly to the band's mega hit signature theme, 'Kayleigh'.
'Kayleigh' may still be a perennial radio favourite a la Van Halen's 'Jump', but it still remains an almost perfect four minute rock song. Lyrically romantic and powerfully played, 'Kayleigh' is highly unrepresentative of the band's sound, but it opened the eyes and ears of the nation to Marillion and their overall style as countless people went out and bought the album.
'Lavender' is very similar to 'Kayleigh' in terms of the commercial success it helped the band to achieve. It provided them with another top ten single and remains a lovely piece of rock whimsy.
'Bitter Suite' is very much the spine of the first 'side' and shows the band returning very much to the type of atmospheric, moody music which made their debut 'Script For A Jester's Tear' so absorbing. Lyrically enthralling with effective musical pastel shadings, it's an understated piece which reels you in as the listener.
'Heart Of Lothian' closes the first suite of linked music and is still a joy to these ears with it's football stadium chant style and soaring guitars and keyboards. It lifts the gloom of the previous track beautifully and provided the band with a top thirty single.
'Waterhole (expresso bongo)' is a stark piece with plenty of underlying menace as Fish continues to rant about his obvious dislike of 'wide boys', as mentioned in the previous track.
'Lords Of The Backstage' has the potential to be a top tune with an oddball rhythm section and a memorable theme. However, it seems to end just as it's begun which is a shame.
'Blind Curve', like 'Bitter Suite' on the first half of the album is a dark, moody atmospheric piece which shows the lyrical concept of the album gaining in depth, as a drug addled Fish sees the image of the drummer boy on his staircase. It ends as a political rant which leads into the excellent 'Childhood's End?'
'Childhood's End?', like 'Heart Of Lothian' is effective in that it brightens up the subject matter, which on the previous track is very dark indeed. It's a lively track with lots of top guitar and keyboards and a soaring chorus.
'White Feather', like every closing track on Marillion albums up to this point has a highly anthemic, almost military feel. It closes the record perfectly and makes you want to press play once again.
It's difficult to dissect 'Misplaced Childhood' track by track. You have to look at it as a whole, and 'Kayleigh', 'Lavender', 'Heart Of Lothian' and 'Childhoods End?' notwithstanding, the album is a wonderfully moody, atmospheric, epic work that flew in the face of fashion then (despite reaching number one in the album chart), and continues to do so now. The great thing is that 'Misplaced Childhood' is all the better for it.