Posts Tagged ‘concept album’

They’re all resting down in Springfield

Friday, March 20th, 2009

I recently saw The Simpsons episode Girls Just Wanna Have SumsIn it, Lisa realises that the girls aren’t being taught very much in the newly sex segregated Springfield Elementary, and masquerades as a boy so she can attend the boys’ school and actually learn something important (ie. doing a “Yentl“).

At the end of the episode the buffoonish and fey Martin Prince appears, in typically daft Rennaissance Fayre garb, playing a flute and singing Jethro Tull’s Thick as a Brick. The song then plays out over the end credits.

This is not just a Family Guy style non sequiter. An episode about a bogus educational system failing a generation of schoolchildren seems an ideal venue to reference what Wikipedia describes as “a poem by an intelligent English boy about the trials of growing up”.

Maybe I am reading far too much into this, but of all the Simpsons characters, Martin does resemble none other than Brick ”co writer” Gerald Bostock himself.

Martin & Gerald

Martin & Gerald

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Twenty Years Of Getting Used To It

Friday, February 28th, 2014

Twenty years ago, Marillion released a double concept album about child abuse, incest, mental illness and suicide. SUPER FUN GOOD TIMES! As someone who still refers to the 90s as “recently”, I am having difficulty accepting the fact that it was that long ago. Almost as much as my housemates at the time had difficulty with the fact that I listened to Brave at a ridiculously high volume, every single day.

The band had decided to ditch their unsuccessful attempt to produce a radio friendly record, and go the whole prog hog. Recorded at a chateau in France, for a whopping nine months, it’s considered by many fans to be their masterpiece. Whilst invoking such serious themes for the purposes of entertainment is a cheap trick, it’s a very nineties trope (in fact pretty much every comic that Vertigo produced at the time seemed to have at least one character that had been the victim of child abuse).

One of my favourite things about Brave is its alternate ending. On the main version of the album, (spoiler alert) the girl on the bridge is rescued at the last moment by some dude, or possibly another aspect of her personality (hedging your bets ambiguity is another good concept album trope), and the song The Great Escape flourishes into an almost Broadway style emotional crescendo, followed by the “new, brighter dawn” payoff of the epilogue Made Again.

If you bought the vinyl album, however, the final side of the album was double grooved, so half the time you got the standard happy ending, but the other half of the time, The Great Escape would not reach its climax, and the music would drop down into an altogether more hopeless, defeated tone, signifying that the girl does in fact throw herself off the bridge, and falls to her death.

That would have been the best idea ever, had people been buying vinyl in 1994. Of course, in 1994, no one was buying prog albums, so it hardly mattered. The music industry was riding the Britpop train, and EMI, fresh from the success of Blur in particular, dropped Marillion like a shitty stick. Blur’s Parklife, was a we’re cleverer than you romp through British musical heritage (they had a “punk” song called Bank Holiday, what wags, eh?), although they never touched on at the time desperately unfashionable 70s rock. Pink Floyd’s bleak interrogations of modern life were just as much a part of the pop continuum as poncing around pretending to be The Kinks, and I’m convinced Brave is the best album that The Floyd never recorded. Marillion were always slated by the press as Genesis copyists, although they never much sounded like the Supper’s Ready hitmakers, even when they were trying to (“Grendel!”). Steve Rothery’s guitar technique always lent  more towards David Gilmour, and here, along with the more subtle keyboard work and “atmospheres”, the band basically produced The Wall, with better tunes but without the misogyny.

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