Music Review – MARILLION: MISPLACED CHILDHOOD (1985)

Misplaced Childhood (2017 Remaster): Amazon.co.uk: MusicMISPLACED CHILDHOOD (LP, EMI, 17 June 1985, 41:17) – score 82%
 
Musicians: Fish – vocals; Steve Rothery – guitars, additional bass; Pete Trewavas – bass; Mark Kelly – keyboards; Ian Mosley – drums, percussion
Producer: Chris Kimsey; Engineer: Thomas Stiehler; Mixing Engineer: Mark Freegard; Recorded at Hansa Tonstudio, Berlin, Germany, March – May 1985; UK Album Chart: 1; BPI Cert: Platinum (300,000+).

Marillion found their musical voice with their third studio album. It effectively splits the music into two inter-linked side-long (old LP terms) suites. Here the band have dispensed with trying to re-create the sounds of their heroes and have unearthed a musical palette that has a fresh sound and is creatively progressive. Fish’s lyrics recall the growing pains of youth, both figuratively and emotionally. His vocal delivery is less abrasive and more in tune with the music here and the marriage is a vast improvement on the first two albums. Rothery’s guitar has the sublime grace of Dave Gilmore along with the creative colouring of Steve Hackett; Mosley and Trewavas have merged into a propulsive rhythm section and Kelly’s keyboard textures are less showy and serve the songs admirably. MISPLACED CHILDHOOD would catapult the band from a cult following to a mainstream one, albeit for what would prove to be one more album before change was forced upon them.

Side 1:
1. Pseudo Silk Kimono (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:15) ***
A sinister keyboard refrain from Kelly opens the album. The piece acts as an atmospheric entrée to the album.
2. Kayleigh (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:04) ****
A song of regret surrounding a broken relationship, which became the band’s biggest hit single. It is a slick song with a strong melody that maybe suffered from overplay on the radio and is the track every non-Marillion fan associates with the band. Rothery’s mid-song solo is graceful and fluid. Released as a single on 7 May 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
3. Lavender (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:28) ****
A boy dreams of walking in the park and meeting a girl and falling instantly in love. The song riffs on the nursery rhyme “Lavender’s Blue” with a delightful singalong melody and soaring Rothery solo. Again, it shows the band could write with restraint. Released as a single on 27 August 1985 peaking at #5 in the UK singles chart.
4. Bitter Suite (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (7:53) ****
A series of short song vignettes opens with moody atmospherics as Rothery’s guitar weeps over a droning synth. The piece also highlights Fish’s penchant for spoken lyrics. The vignettes skilfully link short musical themes with a reprise of Rothery’s guitar refrain from “Lavender”.  The suite’s subtitles: i) “Brief Encounter”; ii) “Lost Weekend”; iii) “Blue Angel”; iv) “Misplaced Rendezvous”; and v) “Windswept Thumb” are all titles of old films.
5. Heart of Lothian (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:08) ****
A song of connection with your roots. It has a triumphant, celebratory and uplifting guitar figure and is delivered by Fish with vocal panache. Subtitles: i) “Wide Boy; ii) “Curtain Call”. Released as a single on 18 November 1985 peaking at #2 in the UK singles chart.
Side 2:
6. Waterhole (Expresso Bongo) (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:13) ***
A fast syncopated drum pattern from Mosley drives the opener to the second side with Kelly’s urgent repeated keyboard riff. Rothery’s guitar colours in the background.
7. Lords of the Backstage (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (1:53) ****
The rhythm changes to 7/8 and the band is perfectly in tune as the urgency is heightened in this short connecting section of music that leads seamlessly into the side’s centre-piece.
8. Blind Curve (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (9:30) *****
The pace slows to mid-tempo and the band get to demonstrate their instrumental prowess through some gorgeous, lilting melodies. Fish’s vocal delivery is nicely restrained and allows the music to breathe. This is the band’s strongest work top date and shows how they could piece different musical sections and tempos together to make for a dynamic whole. The theme of disillusionment is perfectly captured in the final section of the song before the mood changes as we merge into the following track. Subtitles: i) “Vocal Under a Bloodlight”; ii) “Passing Strangers”; iii) “Mylo”; iv) “Perimeter Walk”; v) “Threshold”.
9. Childhood’s End (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (4:33) ****
Rothery’s plucked guitar figure softens the mood before it abruptly picks up again as we switch from a reflection to revelation. The song’s title is a reference to the Arthur C. Clarke novel, which itself was a source of inspiration for Genesis’ “Watcher of the Skies”.
10. White Feather (Fish, Kelly, Mosley, Rothery, Trewavas) (2:24) ****
The album closer puffs out its chest with pride with its exultant cries of defiance. A wonderful close to a remarkably consistent album. The title reference is grounded in superstition relating to a plucked white game cock feather, which if placed in the clothing of a person marks them as a coward.

Single B-sides
1. Lady Nina (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (5:50) **
Inspired by German brother houses. This is the only song in which a drum machine was used for the final recording (the song loosens up when Mosley’s real drums enter). The song harks back to FUGAZI in its awkward marriage of rhythm and melody and Kelly’s showy approach to keyboards. B-side to “Kayleigh” released as a single on 7 May 1985.
2. Freaks (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:08) ***
Kelly’s repeated riff gives the song its foundation, whilst Rothery offers crashing guitar chords in this rocking song that fails to build on its promising opening but does increase in intensity in its closing moments.  B-side to “Lavender” released as a single on 27 August 1985.
3. Lavender Blue (Fish, Kelly, Rothery, Trewavas, Mosley) (4:23) ***
A different mix and longer version of “Lavender” which effectively brings different instrumentation to the fore through exclusion and emphasis. As such it draws attention to the instrumental changes rather than the winning melody. Included on the 12-inch single release of “Lavender” on 27 August 1985.