Marillion - Script for a Jester's Tear

The band’s debut, Script for a Jester’s Tear, is excellent proof of this recognizable sound, and other than that, an often overlooked prog classic. The bands that had so inspired Marillion were all past their prime; Floyd had released their last classic The Wall on the doorstep to the 80’s, Genesis was now steadily turning into a Collins-led pop rock band, and while King Crimson remained one of the most enduring and innovative acts of their era, even in the new decade, their dabbling into electronic guitaring with new front figure Adrian Belew was nothing like the sound that made a classic such as In The Court of the Crimson King possible. Enter Marillion: a band determined to revive the characteristic 70’s style of prog rock.

The main selling point of the group remains Fish. His vocals are not at all unlike Peter Gabriel’s. The main difference is that Gabriel’s voice is raspier and more controlled, while Fish’s takes more pleasure in creating sudden expressions, as well as displaying a slight sense of paranoia. The title track that tilts things off is introduced excellently by the singer, who, accompanied by a simple keyboard arrangement, builds up his vocals from a soft crooning until an explosive climax:

‘So here I am once more in the playground of the broken hearts

One more experience, one more entry in a diary, self-penned

Yet another emotional suicide overdosed on sentiment and pride

Too late to say I love you, too late to re-stage the play

Abandoning the relics in my playground of yesterday

I'm losing on the swings, I'm losing on the roundabouts

I'm losing on the swings, I'm losing on the roundabouts

Too much, too soon, too far to go, too late to play, the game is over

The game is over

So HERE I AM once more in the playground of the BROKEN heart

I'm LOSING on the swings, losing on the roundabouts, the game is OVER, OVER…’

The band perfectly accompanies him, especially Mark Kelly’s dramatic and calculated keys and Steve Rothery’s emotion-packed guitar playing standing out. Unlike many other (both old and new) progressive acts, Marillion does not at all let itself go into overly technical parts, just to show off their virtuosity (which they very definitely possess). All the six lengthy tracks on Script for a Jester’s Tear are carefully arranged, and as such, the band is not as overly bombastic or explosive as some of their counterparts, which some may seem as a negative, but actually only adds to the group’s originality. Drawing the comparisons to their 70’s foregoers is unavoidable, but Marillion shows a restraint and carefulness in their music that only strengthens them, and one that really no other prog band had managed to achieve before. This is one of the features that makes them special next to what has already been done.

The rest of the record is very consistent, although never quite reaching the height of the title track. The Web (a superb showcase for Rothery’s talents) and closer Forgotten Sons are two other very worthy epics, and the necessary break is provided by the 5-minute He Knows You Know, highlighted by the almost vicious snarls Fish puts out. Chelsea Monday is perhaps the only moment on the album that drags in parts. As a whole, it definitely takes time to grow, especially the middle part sinking in a bit later, and aside from the hard job one will have deciphering the lyrical content, negatives are scarce.

Noticing the artsy cover, it is already before listening that you’ll be able to see Script for a Jester’s Tear is something quite special. A grand achievement for such a young band, who managed to bend the laws of prog just enough to keep things interesting. It is no surprise the jester pictured on the cover is still iconic for the group. Marillion favours songwriting rather than showing off, and that makes this record unique in the genre. Nevertheless, you will be amazed by the virtuosity of especially the charismatic Fish, Rothery and Kelly. The title and art make this look like another of those over-the-top epic affairs. Rather, I would refer to Script as a restrained epic.

Tracklist for Script for a Jester's Tear:

1. Script for a Jester's Tear

2. He Knows You Know

3. The Web

4. Garden Party

5. Chelsea Monday

6. Forgotten Sons

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