Sounds That Can’t Be Made


Ear Music, 2012

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


It can be understood and appreciated that, after over 30 years of making music, Marillion has eschewed the concept of landing singles on the pop charts. The music they write now—and, frankly, have written for most of their career—is created on their own terms, at their own lengths, and if something actually happens to chart, then that’s just icing on the cake.

Their 2012 release, Sounds That Can’t Be Made, captures an interesting dichotomy with the band. When they hit the target, they are absolutely on fire… but when they miss—usually with an epic song—they miss in spectacular fashion.

The centerpieces of this disc, at least to my ears, were two songs well past the ten-minute mark, “Gaza” and “Montreal.” The former is supposed to paint a picture of what a second or third-generation resident of the Gaza Strip deals with on a daily basis in the only place they’ve known as home, without taking any political sides. A grand idea, to be sure—and the first five minutes or so capture that vividly. However, stretching this tale out over 17 minutes in effect weakens the musical blow this song could have had.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for “Montreal,” clocking in at just over 14 minutes, this tale is one I found it difficult to wrap my head around. Was this simply the tale of weary travelers returning to a place they had been many times before, but discovering sights they had yet to see? If so, that message occasionally comes through, but not as strongly as vocalist Steve Hogarth and crew might have wanted it to.

Look, I know how this all comes across: This guy thinks Marillion should just write short, poppy songs. Uh, no… that’s not the case. Marillion has been known to write long songs throughout their career, and when they hit the bullseye with these works, 10 or 11 minutes passes by in a heartbeat; see “The Invisible Man” off Marbles as a prime example. There are plenty of moments in these two songs to suggest they could have been absolute powerhouses; they are simply weighed down by an excess of musical ambition.

And it’s not that Sounds That Can’t Be Made is a disc made up otherwise of three or four-minute slabs of radio candy—hell, the shortest song clocks in at just under six minutes. But it’s these “shorter” songs that carry the disc and make the experience one to remember. Tracks like “Lucky Man,” “Pour My Love” and “Invisible Ink” all demonstrate that, even after over 30 years, Marillion still is a musical force to be reckoned with.

It is the disc’s closing number, “The Sky Above The Rain,” featuring a simple but beautiful keyboard run from Mark Kelly, that absolutely seals the deal—and is a prime example of how Marillion can take a 10-plus minute song and make it seem much shorter. Indeed, this is a track that the listener will find themselves wishing lasted even longer—yes, kids, that’s how powerful it is.

Sounds That Can’t Be Made is the kind of album where Marillion is captured reaching for the stars, and occasionally finding they slip out of their grasp—but they are able to hang on in the firmament with the remainder of the album. Like many of their albums, this isn’t the easiest first listen, and will require multiple sessions to truly appreciate the nuances hidden therein. Even with a bit of musical bloat, this turns out to be a pleasant enough experience.

Rating: C+

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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