It was always going to be a challenge to follow Sunsets On Empire and Raingods With Zippos.
Fish’s last two studio albums of the century heralded a revival in his fortunes after the water-treading covers collection Songs From The Mirror (1993) and the frustratingly patchy Suits (’94). His increase in momentum could be attributed, at least in part, to his teaming up with one Steven Wilson. But with Wilson becoming otherwise engaged with Porcupine Tree, that songwriting partnership was broken, which only added to the pressure. Yet 2001’s Fellini Days is a confident, reassuringly complex record – both lyrically and in the wonderfully layered music – that plays to many of Fish greatest strengths. Granted, there have been fleeting career moments when the music hasn’t matched his poetic, contemplative musings, but here it certainly does. A certain element of groove seeps in here, notably on the driving Dancing In Fog, and although this may seem somewhat incongruous, that groove is never distracting and augments the track well. Political cynicism is something that’s been a frequent fuel for his lyrical inspiration, and that resurfaces here on The Pilgrims Address. A Big Wedge for the 21st century, it’s a sincere plea for truth about war motivations and actions, and some 15 years later it remains disturbingly relevant. Elsewhere are reflections on his marriage breakdown (the furious and exasperated Long Cold Day), extended moments of progressive grandeur (3D), while the elegant Tiki 4 harks back to earlier works. It’s an album where lyrical bleakness could have been suffocating, but these are perceptively counteracted by the optimistic Obligatory Ballad and lovingly executed, classy pop song Our Smile. A disc of demos provides an enlightening insight into the writing/thought process, a third disc compiles hefty live renditions and Fish’s war stories, and period recollections fill 50 intriguing pages of liner notes. An often overlooked album, Fellini Days has aged gracefully.