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Marillion: Fugazi - Album Of The Week Club review

Marillion's follow-up to their Script For A Jester's Tear took Fish & Co. on a journey into the darkness on Fugazi

Marillion - Fugazi
(Image: © EMI)
Marillion: Fugazi

(Image credit: EMI)

Assassing
Punch & Judy
Jigsaw
Emerald Lies
She Chameleon
Incubus
Fugazi

Named after slang used by American troops in Vietnam and meaning “all fucked up”, Fugazi – and its title track in particular – illustrated the progress the band had made since their rather fragile sounding debut album. 

Prophets, visionaries and poets everywhere heard Fish’s rallying call as Marillion’s gold-certified second album found a way to bring fresh 80s attack to classic prog complexity, drama and wordplay. Music hadn’t witnessed melodrama like this since Peter Gabriel was wearing fox heads. Impeccably indulgent, and at the vanguard of prog’s second coming. 

And yet. Looking back, Fish thinks that Fugazi – and the band's debut, Script For A Jester's Tear – show a band still finding their feet. "I hear the youth, the naivety and the aspiration in it all," he says. "You can hear us trying to find our own style. Don’t get me wrong, those are two wonderful albums. But I think Misplaced Childhood [the following album] was the marker for us, not just because it was a hit, but also because we found ourselves.

"We were still trying to make a name for ourselves and bust out of the divisions as far as success was concerned, and I was dibbling and dabbling with various things at that time too, so that’s why Fugazi was a far darker album than Script.”

Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute. 

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Other albums released in March 1984

  • This Is Spinal Tap - Spinal Tap
  • Rising Force - Yngwie Malmsteen
  • Psalm 9 - Trouble
  • Heartbeat City - The Cars
  • Alchemy Live - Dire Straits
  • About Face - David Gilmour
  • Love at First Sting - Scorpions
  • Out of the Cellar - Ratt
  • Three of a Perfect Pair - King Crimson
  • All Those Wasted Years - Hanoi Rocks
  • Burning the Witches - Warlock
  • Deià...Vu - Kevin Ayers
  • Great White - Great White
  • My War - Black Flag
  • N.E.W.S. - Golden Earring

What they said...

"Fugazi proved to be a somewhat disjointed follow-up to the classic Script for a Jester's Tear. Despite its superlative arrangements, the album lacked its predecessor's cohesion and focus, but all was not lost: Buried in the album's murky mix are three Marillion classics. Assassing, Incubus, and especially the album's title track showcase the band at its melodramatic best." (AllMusic

"Swinging between layers delivered by Kelly's chromatic keyboards and Rothery's beautiful guitar lines, the songwriting is well structured and meticulously balanced, with everything in its right place. From stylish rock moments such as Assassing, Punch and Judy or Jigsaw, to more delicate and crescendo compositions like Emerald Lies, She Chameleon, Incubus or Fugazi, this album is full of life and offers the listener an extremely diverse listening experience. (Sputnik Music)

"Marillion‘s greatest achievement on Fugazi is the ability to place these complex lyrics on a song-based musical structure, avoiding the long compositions of their progressive counterparts. Swinging between layers delivered by Kelly‘s chromatic keyboards and Rothery‘s beautiful guitar lines, the songwriting is well structured and meticulously balanced, with everything in its right place." (Prog Sphere)

What you said...

Jonathan Novajosky: I actually had no idea of this band's existence until about a year ago. I was on my Spotify Discover Weekly and it gave me Vigil by Fish. I thought it was a pretty cool song so I did a quick dive into this Fish guy. Then I listened to a few of their popular songs like Kayleigh and really enjoyed it, so I decided to give Misplaced Childhood a go. I couldn't believe it – this was one of the greatest albums I had ever heard. 

It felt like it was made for me, filled with emotional, mysterious lyrics, catchy and soaring hooks, wailing guitar solos, and a seamless flow of songs from one to the next. Clutching at Straws is another masterpiece, and it includes what is now one of my all time favourite songs, Sugar Mice. Maybe I was too enthralled by those two albums that I remember not loving Fugazi too much at the time.

After four straight listens this morning, I'm glad to say that I actually do love this album. Fugazi is only seven songs (most of which are pretty long), but I think it as more of a traditional 80s sound than the two following albums. This is largely in part to the heavy, foot stomping drum beat in songs like Fugazi and Assassing. Not that that's a bad thing at all, as this album is still heavily rooted in prog rock. 

I like to think that Marillion is how 70s-era Genesis would sound if they transitioned to the 80s (rather than the more pop oriented sound they went for after Duke). Fugazi is a perfect mix of prog rock that comes off as super accessible to someone who may get bored with Brain Salad Surgery.

Assassing and Punch And Judy are strong rockers to start the album, packed with catchy guitar, synth, and snarling Fish vocals. My favourite is probably Jigsaw, which feels like a precursor to Lavender from Misplaced Childhood. I'm such a sucker for the simple synth melody at the beginning matched with a gentler performance by Fish. Incubus is another awesome track here that has a really urgent, passionate feel to it. Overall, I think Fugazi is the effort of a band that has nearly perfected their sound and is a huge step up from the debut album.

I've listened to a lot of Marillion's albums with Hogarth, and while there are some songs here and there that I enjoy, the band is just not the same to me. I love the snarl and near anger in Fish's voice that brings such a passionate sound to their first four albums. The songwriting is impeccable too – I would put Fish up their with the likes of Bruce Springsteen as far as all time great lyricists go. I would give Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws a 10, and I like Fugazi a little less than those two, so a 9/10 seems right.

Marike Elzinga: I love love loooooove this album. It contains my favourite Marillion track ever: Jigsaw. But all the songs (music and lyrics) are very strong on Fugazi: Incubus, Punch And Judy, Assassing, and the title track Fugazi... great stuff! The only issue is the sound quality – the mix really isn't great. The remaster is a bit better but I am eagerly awaiting the deluxe reissue in 2021, which will also contain some awesome bonus mixes.

Mike Knoop: After multiple listens in two days, Fugazi makes me think that instead of leaving Genesis, Peter Gabriel turned to his mates and said, "Hey, let's rock!"

Fish's vocal delivery reminds a lot of Peter Gabriel's on his solo albums [Melt] and Security, two of my favourite albums of the 80s. That's not to say Marillion's music is derivative of of solo Gabriel or Gabriel-era Genesis, at least not to me. This music surges, pulses, and rocks. It's one of those albums where it's hard to spotlight one musician or song without feeling the need to talk about all of them. The musicianship is sterling throughout. My favourite song is basically whichever one is playing at the moment.

Marillion are another band virtually unknown in the U.S. If Fugazi is considered a misstep in the band's catalog, the rest of it must be pretty damn outstanding. I read about the album's difficult birth but that's not reflected in the album I've listened to six times already since seeing the pick yesterday. This is an easy A for me.

Bill Griffin: Never in a million (marillion? Sorry, I'll let myself out) years did I think that, if I had an issue with a Marillion album, it would be with Fish's voice. But here we are. To be fair, it's only two small parts of two songs so not a big deal. He doesn't seem to have a great range though.

This is a pretty good album, not great but definitely good. The production, however, is outstanding. My favourite track is Incubus, even though it has arguably the simplest arrangement. Kind of reminiscent of Squonk by Genesis.

Paul Hutchings: Four plays of this has taken me back to a 14-year-old, struggling to grasp what the hell these songs were on about. The singles gave the band some airtime, but like many, it's the darkness of the album that still resonates. Fugazi has to be one of the best songs the band wrote in the Fish era. It remains applicable today. A part of my teenage years, I'll be giving this a 9/10.

Paul Goldsmith: A great album. Assassing on Top Of The Pops was my rather late intro to Marrillion, but I went back to earlier stuff and found what id been missing! Misplaced Childhood was good and Clutching At Straws was good as well, but they not as good! Unfortunately, without Fish I lost interest.

Iain Macaulay: Right, here goes.

I love Marillion. At least, I love the ‘Fish’ era of Marillion. Which, it has to be said, has no bearing on the current incarnation of the band. They should have changed their name when Steve Hogarth took over vocals, in my opinion, but that’s beside the point. Anyway.

I listen to those first four ‘Fish’ albums quite often. Although, I have to say, I probably listen to live versions of the songs more. Marillion were very much a live band. None of those four albums entirely captured what they could do on stage and if you ever saw them live you know what I mean.

Each of those albums is very different from the preceding one, lyrically, musically, conceptually and sonically and there is a song, for all of life’s trials and tribulations in their catalogue. However, that said, Fugazi, their second album, is maybe the one that’s not so well crafted in production as the rest. But does that make it the worst of the four? Sonically... maybe, but lyrically and musically? Definitely not. It’s darker and more twisted than the debut, Script For A Jester's Tear, which I like, but it’s also more modern, especially in contrast to Script which was very much a throwback to the 70’s prog monsters.

Fugazi is the point where Marillion finally got their groove on, thanks to the addition of Ian Mosley on the drums. It’s also the point where they started to soar musically, where before they had been just floating high on their own individual neo-prog plane. Even the work done prior to Mr Mosley’s arrival took on a new life and meaning with him on the drum stool.

Whereas Script is a very English, pastoral affair, with an almost early ‘Genesis’ vibe to it (the irony being it was sung by a big larger than life Scotsman rather than an English public school boy) they took a sharp left turn with Fugazi down a more Roger Waters style, down a dark and dirty alley of social commentary, creating an album with a pervading air of menace and suppressed violence with a soupçon of deviant sexual encounters.

The lyrics, as with all their albums with Fish, are wonderfully poetic, emotive, and colourful. They form vivid stories and pictures that remain after the songs are finished. The music is sublimely constructed, the arrangements intricate yet so full of space, with time changes that flow rather than jar, and both Steve Rothery’s guitar and Mark Kelly’s keyboard solos are immensely memorable, and hummable. And it’s all held together by a tight, imaginative and rhythmical bass player in Pete Trewavas. Every instrument and musical passage stands out on its own and shows off the skill of each member of the band without them ever intruding over each other.

It could be said that Fish made the band. But that is a short sighted view. Yes he became the commercial focal point and his lyrics really connected with audiences but if it wasn’t for the other musicians the bands career would not have lasted so long or shone so bright.

Assassing was the first song I ever heard by the band and is still one of my favourite tracks. Punch And Judy is pure domestic anger with a touch of black comedy. Jigsaw I have a love hate relationship with depending on my mood. I sometimes think the B-side Cinderella Search would have been better placed on the album instead. Emerald Lies is pure aggression. She Chameleon has a wonderfully eerie gothic atmosphere. Incubus is pure sleaze and Fugazi a powerful gut punch.

Then, there is Mark Wilkinson’s artwork which really sets an image for the sound within, as he did with all those four albums.

Marillion were a small out of fashion prog rock band that grew to became a massive commercial phenomenon in the U.K. and Europe, yet still not many people know that much about them, which is a great shame. They created so much amazing music to be found in those four albums, and in the single b-sides, that are well worth investigating for the uninitiated. So please do.

Alex Hayes: Although I've always enjoyed listening to Marillion's music on and off down the years, I would never describe myself as a hardcore fan of the band. I'm pretty much ignorant of anything that they've recorded post-Brave. I also don't have strong opinions either way on the Fish/Steve Hogarth divide. With that in mind, I had no idea that Fugazi was regarded as the 'black sheep' of the group's early output. It's a very strong album for me that easily stands up alongside Misplaced Childhood and Clutching At Straws. Great songs, finely balanced production and, blimey, Fish does a good Peter Gabriel impression doesn't he! High quality progressive rock from a band that were the standard bearers for the genre at that particular time. I'm delighted to give this an 8/10.

Roland Bearne: It's rather serendipitous that Fish's last album is called Weltschmertz because this sensibility goes full circle back to Script and even more so to Fugazi. Lyrics full of raw resentment, regret, expressing how you fail the world and the world fails you. The masks we wear, how we peel them away ourselves to no avail. What an album. I read an interview with Fish in Kerrang! and went straight out to buy this. Some made comparisons to Genesis. Ok, whatever. Fish's lyrics spear, spike and shred zeitgeist. And it all hits now. Not because of any political duffness, but, just raw human emotion. Weltschmertz? Always. Thank you, Fish.

John Davidson: Although I had seen posters that intrigued me, funds for buying new albums were pretty damned short in 1984 so it wasn't until after seeing them live (on TV) via the BBC Sight and Sound In Concert set that I realised how damned good they were. I picked up Garden Party on single (it was in a remainders rack) and as soon after that as funds permitted, Fugazi was my first taste of Marillion albums and holds a very special place.

Although often labelled as Neo Prog /Genesis clones this is less apparent in hindsight. Fish’s use of theatrical language and props is about as close as they get.

While the songs routinely have multiple segments and last more than five minutes, they rarely step out of standard time signatures and the lyrics – though full of wordplay – are firmly focussed on contemporary issues and social commentary rather than fauns and fountains.

If I had to label this now it would be keyboard driven heavy prog. There are a few guitar riffs but for the most part this role is played more by bass and keyboard.

Mark Kelly does an excellent job of carrying the melody on the keyboards on most songs, but Pete Trewavas is outstanding on bass and so far forward in the mix that you have to think of it as a lead instrument. On top of that we have excellent singable lyrics and of course a fine array of Steve Rothery guitar solos. The addition of Ian Mosley to the permanent crew - after a period of Spinal Tap level drummer ablation - give the songs added punch and precision.

The production is pretty simple  – with good separation between the instruments but nothing 'extra'. It sounds like they are playing it live in the studio and there’s no obvious attempt to fill out the sound with studio trickery.

The songs themselves have aged pretty well.

Assassing kicks off with a tribal beat and faux eastern keyboards before reverting to a straight up pop rock number. Punch and Judy sets out the misery of the unhappily married middle age as viewed from the perspective of a 20-something. It’s not badly observed for all that and bops along with plenty of pep and punch. Jigsaw is one of the album highlights – a slow burn keyboard led song about lost love that bursts into life for the chorus and contains one of the albums best guitar solos. Emerald Lies finishes off side one in vinyl money – and is another song that starts light, this time more guitar led, before blossoming into a full-on hard rock song.

She Chameleon is a lament for poor heart-broken rock stars who mistakenly thought that groupies really loved them or vice versa – Fish is a slippery old lyricist. Musically this is top notch with a funereal, portentous intro that develops into excellent keyboard and guitar solos. Incubus is another song about heartbreak but lyrically a more nasty bit of work –featuring a very 80s version of revenge porn – it is musically powerful though with another of Steve Rothery’s excellent guitar solos. Fugazi is an epic polemic about the terrible state of the world. It applies just as easily today as it did in 1984 and has lost none of its relevance.

This world is totally Fugazi, and it is ours.

Fugazi shows the band developing musically from their first album (Script) and while it didn’t produce the same level of breakthrough singles like its successor (Misplaced Childhood) it is overall a tighter affair. With the benefit of hindsight, the final album of this ‘Fish period' (Clutching At Straws) is arguably the best of the four – marrying the heaviness and energy of the first two with the less conventional song structures of Misplaced Childhood, but ‘Fugazi’ was my favourite for a very long time. 9/10.

Chris Downie: Given the restoration of (albeit moderate) respectability of prog-rock since the late 90s, as overseen by the likes of Tool, Anathema, Porcupine Tree, Pineapple Thief and many others, it's difficult to look back at the early 80s with anything other than a sense of wonder at how the much-maligned genre was considered on its last legs and a source of much derision. This of course wasn't helped by the fact most 70s mainstays had either disappeared, or morphed into chart-bothering pop-rock hipsters.

Along with Pallas, Pendragon and IQ, among others, Marillion spearheaded a revival which, although ultimately as short-lived as the NWOBHM a few years earlier, breathed new life into the genre. Their debut successfully melded the theatrics of Gabriel-era Genesis with the atmospherics of Pink Floyd and the classic rock of Deep Purple to great effect, but Fugazi was a different proposition altogether. If the debut was, quite literally, A New Hope, then it's follow-up is their Empire Strikes Back.

While it didn't make the great commercial breakthrough hoped for (something which the next two albums would achieve admirably) this sophomore effort takes things in a somewhat darker direction. While some have criticised the production, it only enhances the more brooding vibe throughout. Besides the songwriting vibe, the main difference in the compositional sense is the addition of Ian Mosely on drums. While his predecessor Mick Pointer would resurface a decade later to success with the excellent Arena, few would dispute that Mosely fit the band like a glove and added another dimension to their sound.

While the hits Assassing and Punch And Judy gain the majority of plaudits, the album's centrepiece is the epic, sinister and eerily prophetic closer and title track. Weaving together some of Fish's most cynical yet incisive poetry with the band's keen sense of dynamics, it is a climax befitting any album and rounds out perhaps the most underrated album of the Fish era. 9/10

Marco LG: I am not new to Marillion but I am also not that familiar with their music. The only albums of theirs I ever listened to are their biggest: Misplaced Childhood and Clutching at Straws. I bought those two back in the 90s, when discovering new music involved buying it first, and both of them are still standing proud in my collection. But as much as I liked them, I never felt the need to explore more so the choice of Fugazi this week was a good excuse to do just that.

The first thing I noticed was the sound of the keyboards, which is so typical of the 80s it took me a while to get over. The second thing I noticed was the influence of Genesis and early solo Peter Gabriel, not only in Fish’s vocal delivery but also in much of the music. But the third thing I noticed was the one that surprised me the most: this album is heavy! Don’t take me wrong, I don’t mean to imply Fugazi is even remotely heavy metal, but the darkness of the lyrics and certain aspects of the music remind me of prog metal, especially what Queensryche and Fates Warning evolved into a few years later, circa 1990 with Empire and Parallels respectively.

In my opinion, Fugazi delivers its best in the first two and the last two tracks. I am in awe of Punch And Judy, a tale of domestic violence so vivid it conjures up images from The Shining – in my head Judy becomes Wendy, every time! But my favourite has to be the title track, eight minutes of pure magic concluding the album with a rather uplifting marching time, but not before declaring “this world is totally Fugazi”. Apparently Fugazi was an acronym coined by US soldiers in the Vietnam war. It stands for “Fucked-Up, Gone Awol, Zipped In” (to a body bag). A quite apt description of the state of things during this COVID times.

In conclusion, Fugazi might just be my favourite Marillion album: 9 out of 10 from me.

Final Score: 7.81⁄10 (135 votes cast, with a total score of 1055)

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