Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fish - Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors (1990)

Fish is a somewhat eccentric Scotsman, who started singing in Marillion before leaving them to undertake a solo project. His influences lie in the 80s and there is a sound of Genesis, Pink Floyd and other rock bands of that era in his music, along with a small smattering of the Celtic. This is his first solo album.

It has an interesting, rather 80s rock cover - depicting a man and a woman wrapped in rather strange attire and standing atop a tower of televisions, on each screen is a face - possibly his. In the centre of the booklet, you get to see the entire painting - and it is surreal - a city in the background, a hill covered in crucifixes, nuclear waste, soldiers, men in biohazard suits. It's totally crazy, like a demented collage. The sky above is a black and blue streaked twilight affair, in which at one point sun rays split the clouds and a satelite appears against the black.

We start with the haunting melancholia of "Vigil". Fish's voice actually reminds me a little of Phil Collins, but his songs are more emotive.

The next track - "Big Wedge" - is a rockier number, catchy rhythms and an even catchier chorus. You know, I always thought he was saying "big wave". This is a song with a social message - an anti-America message from the sounds of things. It's all about consumerism.

A pop-py opening to "State of Mind" in which we hear more of Fish's political views:
"I don't trust the government, I don't trust alternatives. It's not that i'm paranoid, it's just that's the way it is..."
Again we've got the Phil Collins-slow rock vibe going on here. The music plays a twiddly and playful counterpoint to Fish's voice.

With a slightly folk-esque vibe, "The Company" is one of my favourite tracks. The music is gentle, an accompaniment to Fish's voice rather than telling a story of its own. It has a dreamy, moody feel with a somewhat Irish feeling chorus.

Gentle piano, and soft strings usher us into the finest song on the album - the haunting and beautiful "Gentleman's Excuse Me". The melodies and lyrics are sublime.
"Do you still keep flowers in the bottom drawer, with your Belgian lace, taking them out every year to watch the colours fade away..."
To me, this is a song of innocence and fragility, and its fleeting nature.

"The Voyeur" is another rockier number, with a vaguely amusing, vaguely sinister air to it.
"I like to watch..."
It seems to be about the voyeur inside us all when it comes to television - how we like to watch video nasties, natural disasters and all manner of terrible and dramatic things happening to other people. So much truer today than it was in the 80s, too.

Back into rather serious issues - "Family Business" is a moody song, with an element of the spirited and angry - the main theme being domestic abuse hidden behind the house doors.

Another moody and melancholic start, "A View from the Hill" quickly takes a turn for the rockier, as the guitars come crashing in for the chorus, then fade out again for the verses.

"Cliche" is another hurt and bittersweet piece. The guitars seem laden with confused misery, the vocals filled with inner fragility. It's almost as though he wants to write a love song, but cannot find the words because "...the best way, is with an old cliche..." And this turmoil, this inability to express how he feels, is driving him into sorrow. But finally, he comes up with the simplest, and the best.

Whilst there are some rockier numbers here, the general mood of this album seems to be melancholic (I know I've used that word a lot, but I'm really feeling it in the music) and moody. It is haunting, and beautiful, the songs centred around Fish's powerful and somewhat distinctive voice (which makes sense, since the album is named for him, after all). The lyrics are interesting, sometimes insightful and overall I rank this album a 7.5/10.

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