The 1984 album from Marillion is the next in the series to benefit from the definitive spit and polish treatment.
Release Date: 10th September 2021
Format: 3CD & Bluray / vinyl
Eighteen months on from the remastered and expanded reissue of their debut album (our review) Andy Bradfield and Avril Mackintosh have stepped to the Marillion plate again. And once again they’ve done a sterling job on remixing the original – slightly thin and disappointing was the general consensus – of the difficult second Marillion album, adding beef and possibly testing the patience and wrath of some hardcore fans with the occasional tweak such as replacing the fade on the end of the title track with a vocal passage.
My cue line in the last act
So let’s begin at the beginning. The artwork, possibly the best of Mark Wilkinson’s Marillion work, is packed with clues and visual innuendo. Listen out for some insight in the excellent documentary on the Bluray (The Performance Has Just Begun) and in the accompanying booklet. Read into it as much as you like with interpretations about the indulgence that comes with the trappings of success and draw your own parallels with the Marillion story. The dig out your old LP and open the gatefold for the full effect and twinge of nostalgia.
Fugazi was the genuinely ‘difficult second album’; the job of having Fish’s Punch And Judy lyrics set as the single and the band trying to find a musical match being typical of how the collation of material was an arduous task whilst the ins and outs on the drum stool must have caused a hiccup or two. Ultimately Marillion was rescued by the calming presence and musical ship steadying presence of Ian Moseley whose professionalism and calming personality remains to this day.
Skipping briefly ahead, the documentary is revealing; perhaps the most honest (and best) of the added features which have accompanied this ongoing series of releases. Someone somewhere will have probably have counted the number of times Fish refers to cocaine in his comments and as he would observe in the next album, the cracks were already beginning to show. There’s also an excellent track-by-track analysis where many of the lyrical inspirations are clarified for anyone who’s not already been in for a deep dive.
A tongue forged from eloquence
It’s some of those lyrics which stand out as Fish’s most challenging word art. You’re never too far from some clever tongue-twisting wordplay even on the admittedly limited She Chameleon. A track flown in from the early days and never really getting a look in when it came to building a live set, it simply didn’t cut the mustard; although the underrated b-side Cinderella Search comes to the rescue and gets an explanation of the origins and personal qualities of the lyric by Fish in the doc and is the one piece from the period that even Steve Hogarth had conceded to sing the first part of when he joined the band – his only concession to Fugazi.
Musically, there are some period pieces that might be a sign of those times while some have worn much better and lasted decades and beyond. Steve Rothery makes some perceptive comments about the two major tracks – Incubus and Fugazi still feature in the setlists of his solo band. The last two numbers to be written and a classic Rothery solo on Incubus that must rank in his top five for sure and then there’s the snippet when we learn that the piano intro to Fugazi was placed on the same instrument as Freddie’s Bohemian Rhapsody… It suddenly elevates the title track into a different league.
Alongside Punch And Judy that provided the typically twiddly single and Assassing which had already been previewed at the Reading Festival, Jigsaw and Emerald Lies are “good tracks” (Rothery) but would have benefitted from a little more direction and polishing. Time that was at a premium with the budget of the debut album almost being doubled.
However, the real revelation listening to Fugazi pumping out on the remastered CD as opposed to my original vinyl and subsequent CD versions is that the new mix is fabulous. After listening to Pete Trewavas’ bass work coming through loud and clear on the recent Transatlantic album, you get a similar effect here. The sound is so much richer and fatter. That may not be quite the right technical term, but hearing Pete on the documentary talking about hi smore ambitious playing, you can clearly hear what he’s talking about.
An affair with isolation in a Blackheath cell
A Bluray overfloweth with goodies: to the aforementioned seventy-minute documentary and half hour ‘story of the songs’, you can add a full show from Montreal in June 1984 in plus a handful of demos/alternative mixes. With this gig and the Swiss TV performance, the band is tight and extremely gig fit and while the TV performance focuses almost exclusively on the new material, the catalogue is showcased in Montreal. Despite the struggles in getting music onto record in the studio, the live craft is as strong as it ever was and ever would be. The Fugazi material gets dragged up by the scruff of the neck, free from the limitations of the studio, there’s an urgency and grandeur that the songs deserve.
For the visual aspect, a fifty-minute Swiss TV concert includes five songs from the as then, new album; a performance very highly rated by Mark Kelly and an energy-packed delivery and a fine archive piece that captures Fish’s expressive delivery. A powerful and intimidating presence as always.
Drowning in the real
With chips down, I’d be on the side of Nick Tauber in declaring Fugazi as a better album than Script. The remastering and the package is another excellent addition to complete a thorough repackaging of the first four albums. The new mix and the details in the package make Fugazi more like the album it should have been.
Here’s the video for Assassing (timeless or a period piece…?):