Album Reviews 1- Marillion- Brave

Track By Track

Brave (1994) was one of the main concept albums that got me interested in writing a concept album of my own. Brave is one of the most musically and lyrically complex albums I’ve listened to. I know that sounds like it’s a bad thing but it’s just incredible if not intense. Musicianship from all members of the band is just magical from Ian Mosley’s drumming, to Pete Trewavas’ bass lines, to Mark Kelly’s keys, to Steve Rothery’s guitaring to Hogarth’s vocals. Definitely one of the most underrated bands in prog rock history.

It was the first concept album of the Hogarth-era, and the first concept album since Clutching At Straws. While Clutching at Straws had a pretty cool concept, about alcoholism, Brave in my humble opinion is one better. While Brave is darker, the intensity shown through the lyrics and music just can’t be matched on any other album. The album is based on a news story Steve Hogarth heard on the radio about a girl who was taken into police custody after wandering the Severn Bridge. They didn’t know who she was, she didn’t even speak that inspired Hogarth to write a fictional story about what could’ve caused her to be in this state.

This album had me tense right from the get go, and if you thought the album cover was scary, it certainly lives up to it’s cover with “Bridge” as the opener. The sound effect at the beginning where it’s either distorted guitar or a traffic sound effect is just haunting. When the tune does come in, it gives you this dark and grim atmosphere as if someone has just died and the title itself is a bit of foreshadowing as well, once you know the story. Not the first time it happens on the album but it certainly pulled in.

The second track, “Living with the Big Lie” is well, very chorusy to say the least musically. Lyrically, I’m just guessing but the cause of the girl’s problems are explored in this song. While I’m not really a fan of over-chorused guitar, the musicianship is incredible, while the end section does go on for a bit, if you listen with headphones, during the end guitar solo, Mark Kelly plays a cool synth melody bit underneath the guitar which I didn’t notice until yesterday.

“Runaway” is one that’s not really talked about as much as the rest. One of the more underrated songs, it starts off quiet with Marillion’s signature guitar sound and then builds up towards the end. Some of the sections contain a crescendo and then an anti-climax which I had no problems with. Like “Bridge”, “Runaway” also has a haunting vibe to it, as it features a kinda church organ, when I hear it, I always think of death so that’s maybe what got me. Nevertheless, “Runaway” despite being under five minutes long, short for your average Marillion song. I consider it to be very underrated.

Then we come to “Goodbye To All That”. Once again we get a bit of foreshadowing, technically the bit where it’s just Hogarth with the piano, that is the “Goodbye To All That” part as there’s five other parts. “Wave”, “Mad”, “The Opium Den”, “Slide” and “Standing In The Swing”, clocking up about twelve and a half minutes. Some of Marillion’s best music came from this six-parter, the slow, dramatic climax on “Slide” is intense but one bit that stands out is the bit on “Standing In The Swing” before “Hard Is Love”, Rothery and Mosley produce some of their best work on that track, I just love that guitar tone as you don’t hear it as much on the album.

Speaking of “Hard Is Love”, the first bit of it is promising, Hogarth and Rothery are again on top form here, it features a quiet section but dramatically builds up and is one of the most enjoyable songs on the album, musically, it’s not as dark compared to the other songs but I feel it fits in.

“The Hollow Man” is almost the musical polar-opposite of the preceding track, essentially a ballad, Every musical has a ballad, and if Brave, Marillion’s Brave were a musical, “Hollow Man” would be it’s signature ballad. It’s a very sad song. Lyrics match the music. Don’t really know what bit of the story this is about but it doesn’t really matter as it’s poignant enough.

“Alone Again In The Lap of Luxury”, quite the mouthful, but nevertheless a brilliant track, the guitar improv at the beginning lifts the mood of “Hollow Man” and bursts into an insane riff from Steve Rothery. The chorus is pretty catchy and features a bit of vocal interplay and the end section is brilliant though I don’t quite know what the “Now Wash Your Hands” bit adds to it, but I don’t mind that at all. One of the standout tracks from Brave in my opinion.

Then we come to “Paper Lies”, now, this would’ve been an amazing track, had it been on any other album. To be perfectly honest, it’s definitely the weakest track on the album as it lacks the intensity of all the other tracks and it don’t really know where it fits in in all of this. While it might be seen as one of the easier tracks to listen to, out of all 11 tracks and 19 parts, this one is the most forgettable. I don’t know, maybe they should’ve saved it for marillion.com.

But then we have the title track. Holy s**t! I found this really difficult to listen to at first. Not because I didn’t like it but because it was tense, I got tense listening to it. The bagpipes bit at the beginning is something else. Almost a drone effect at the beginning. The end section I felt kinda made it easier to listen but the music in the song is nothing short of beautiful.

We then have “The Great Escape” which is seen as the album climax. Good god. That flute bit. Holy shit! It almost had me in tears when I first heard it, so beautiful. I love the sound of a flute. I think the “Falling From The Moon” bit is incredible. It reached it’s climax, I just love Hogarth’s heartfelt singing in this bit, Rothery’s ending guitar solo adds to this as well, it signals the end of the album’s intensity though ironically, lyrically it’s about suicide I think. I’m not sure but I just love it. Along with Lap of Luxury, I consider Great Escape to be a standout song too.

“Made Again” raps up the album, with the so many different version of “The Great Escape”, I’m glad that this song even exists. It gives an impression of a rebirth, a fresh start, a new day. I know there’s a lot of competition but “Made Again” in my opinion has to be Marillion’s most beautiful song. From the classical acoustic at the beginning to the piano and percussion at the end. I find it really hard not to cry during this song because of how amazing it is. Despite it being an incredibly dark story. The story (well the album version) does have a happy ending. I don’t know if the album would’ve fared any different if it had just ended with The Great Escape (Spiral Remake), while it does have a Tierce de Picardie (ending on a happy chord), ocean sound effects mean give the clear impression of a suicide, just as well as I thought it would’ve been criminal to leave out a song like “Made Again”.

To conclude, Brave is one of the best concept albums I’ve listened to. The music and lyrics are incredible. The concept itself certainly grabbed me. All 11 tracks (although I’m not sure about Paper Lies), are amazing. Okay, enough ripping on Paper Lies, it’s catchy and has a more of a positive feel but it can’t compare to The Great Escape or Hard As Love.

It was this album (and not anything by Pink Floyd) made we want to right a concept album of my own. It’ll take me a while but I’ll think of something.

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