Mar­il­lion: Clutch­ing At Straws

Fish looks back at his swan­song al­bum with Mar­il­lion:

Classic Rock - - Contents -

Mar­il­lion were never sup­posed to be pop stars. But then along came Clutch­ing At Straws…

Mar­il­lion were never sup­posed to be pop stars. But that was the un­likely sit­u­a­tion they found them­selves in when they started record­ing their fourth al­bum, Clutch­ing At Straws. “Kayleigh had been a huge hit,” their for­mer singer Fish says of the band’s mas­sive 1985 sin­gle. “But that put un­fore­seen pres­sure on us all. We were out on the road all the time – and I mean all the time. Drugs were com­ing into the pic­ture. We weren’t get­ting on. And that’s what drove us apart.”

Where 1985’s Mis­placed Child­hood al­bum had been Mar­il­lion’s com­mer­cial break­through al­bum, Clutch­ing At Straws was the sound of a band try­ing to deal with the af­ter­math. Mis­placed Child­hood had come to­gether smoothly; this time around, writ­ing ses­sions were tense and un­pro­duc­tive. “It was just aw­ful,” says Fish. “Peo­ple were get­ting tetchy.”

These ten­sions man­i­fested them­selves in the mu­sic, whether that was the down­beat melan­cho­lia of Warm Wet Cir­cles or the anti-fas­cist an­them

White Rus­sians. Al­co­hol and drugs were prom­i­nent lyri­cally, fre­quently viewed through the eyes of the cen­tral char­ac­ter, Torch, a dis­il­lu­sioned, dis­so­lute writer – and a barely dis­guised sur­ro­gate for Fish him­self.

The rem­nants of Mar­il­lion’s prog rock beginnings had all but van­ished by Clutch­ing At Straws. This was a grown-up rock record, one that dealt with the eter­nal top­ics of ro­mance, angst, death and the fleet­ing na­ture of youth. Even the seem­ingly up­beat sin­gle In­com­mu­ni­cado curled a sneer­ing lip at the shal­low­ness of fame, some­thing Mar­il­lion had be­come in­creas­ingly fa­mil­iar with. This was the sound of a band who hated what they had be­come.

Ul­ti­mately, Clutch­ing At Straws proved to be a self-ful­fill­ing prophecy, and Fish quit the band the fol­low­ing year. De­spite the ac­ri­mony that sur­rounded his de­par­ture, he re­tains fond mem­o­ries of the al­bum.

“Clutch­ing At Straws is a bril­liant al­bum,” Fish says. “I pre­fer it to

Mis­placed Child­hood. It’s very hon­est, very open, to the point where you go: ‘Fuck­ing hell…’” DE

Mar­il­lion: com­ing apart by the time of ar­guably

their finest al­bum.

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