John Mitchell held a launch party Lonely Robot’s Please Come Home on Monday 23rd Feb at The Lexington in London. It was a star-studded event, with attendees including Steven Wilson, as well as the many musicians who’s guested on the album, such as Heather Findlay and Marillion’s Steve Hogarth (above)
Although the event was laregly a meet-and-greet, John Mitchell did play a short acoustic set accompanied by Liam Holmes on piano, and joined by two of the guest singers who’s appeared on the album. Here’s John and Heather duetting on “Why Do We Stay”, one of the album’s highlights.
Touchstone’s Kim Seviour was the other guest on stage, for the song “Oublette”. The album, perhaps the first essential progressive rock album of 2015, was released on the day of the event, and you can read my review here.
45 years ago today, on Friday 13th Feburary 1970, Black Sabbath released their eponymous debut album. Just like King Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King” a few months earlier, it was an album that sounded quite unlike anything that had come before, and launched a whole new genre of music. Has any album remotely as groundbreaking as those two been released in the past decade?
It’s only a couple of months until the UK Marillion Conventional in Wolverhampton. As has become the established format for these events, two of the three nights will centre on an album played in full. One will be the near-universally loved “Marbles”. The other will be 2001′s “Anoraknophobia”, an album that still divides opinion more than a decade after its release. As with “Holidays in Eden” at the 2011 event and “Radiation” in 2013, it gives an opportunity to reassess an often overlooked album from their back catalogue.
It’s no “Brave” or “Season’s End”, but Anoraknophobia is still a personal favourite for me. It was the album that bought me back on board and made me a Marillion fan again. I’d been slowly drifting away as a fan for several years. I hadn’t actually seen them live since the Holidays in Eden tour, where I witnessed a rather lacklustre gig at Hammersmith Odeon that seemed to lack the old magic. I’d kept on buying the albums, and loved “Brave”, but a few albums later they were losing their magic for me on record too. “Dotcom”, the album before Anorak was and still is my least favourite Marillion album.
In retrospect Anoraknophobia feels part of a trilogy along with Radiation and Dotcom; those three records represented the period where the band were looking for a new direction and trying to adopt a more contemporary sound. DotCom didn’t work for me; much of the album sounded too much like generic rock/pop which diluted Marillion’s strengths.
Anoraknophobia too was as much a departure from the classic sound with its elements of trip-hop, dub and indie-rock, but somehow the album seemed much more in the spirit of Marillion. Songs like “Separated Out” and “Between You And Me” rocked out. The ambitious “Quartz” merged a dub bass riff with some archetypal Steve Rothery guitar textures. The sprawling album highlight “This is the 21st Century” with it’s hypnotic rhythms and extended dreamy solo is miles away from the neo-prog of their 1980s heyday, but is still one of the finest songs.
The tour was also the first time I’d seen them live in a decade. I’d just moved to Manchester, and saw them on the tour at Manchester Academy. What I experienced seemed a completely different band from the one I’d seen a dozen years earlier; the same self-confident and coherent band that we’re familiar with today.
Anorak isn’t flawless by any means, and was eclipsed by “Marbles” when the band finally found the magic formula, but Anoraknophobia remains a personal favourite, and still seems to represent the moment when the band turned the corner.