MARILLION – Crash Course – An Introduction to Marillion (2001 Racket Records, first edition)
Here is an interesting gimmick. Starting in 2001, Marillion began compiling “Crash Course” CDs, offering them for minimal cost on their website. The idea was that you could buy this CD for next to nothing, and send it off with to someone else with the intention of getting them into Marillion. After the original discs were gone, they revamped the tracklisting in 2002, and again in 2006, 2008 and 2017 with new songs. Let’s have a listen and see what Marillion thought their most immediately appealing material was 20 years ago!
Since their new album was the crowd-funded Anoraknophobia (a new idea at the time), one of those songs leads the pack. They chose “This is the 21st Century” which I recall them really pushing at the time. I still am not sure why that was one of the songs chosen to push. It’s 11 minutes long and not very commercial. It’s also quite slow and mellow and takes some time to absorb. You’d think they would have gone with one of the singles — “Map of the World” is the track I personally put on my mix tapes when trying to get someone into this band. That’s not to say “This is the 21st Century” is an inferior track. It’s complex and demonstrates Marillion’s recent fascination with loops. Instead of making them cheesy, Marillion made them trippy. This one song is a lot to digest and new fans might be baffled by lyrics like “A wise man once said a flower is only a sexual organ, beauty is cruelty and evolution.” And some macho dude in camo pants is absolutely going to be triggered by the line “He had denied his feminine side,” but I don’t think that guy was ever going to be into Marillion anyway.
The far more obvious song “Rich” from marillion.com is an underrated gem. “Dot Com” as they call it is an overlooked album. Marillion really dove into a commercial deep end with some songs, while going full acid trip on others. “Rich” is pure pop, with a bangin’ chorus. “No tears, no lies, no pain, no doubt, no darkness, no confusion!” That’s how modern Marillion makes me feel. “Rich” is an uplifting song. “So talk about failing, to fall is not to fail.” Get rich right now, says Marillion. Mark Kelly has a hefty keyboard hook that anchors the song, while the verses slowly sway with a 2000s groove.
The oldest track is “Afraid of Sunlight” from 1995. They were trying to stay away from things that sounded too dated. No worries of that with “Afraid of Sunlight”, a timeless song if Marillion ever had one. It is so basic, with one little melody that runs through, but then it absolutely explodes on the dramatic chorus. If this track doesn’t win ’em over, nothing will.
Back to Dot Com and “A Legacy”, the song that opened the album. Once you get past the slow opening, this song punches hard. The distorted vocals are so 90s, but that’s nothing…wait until you hear “Under the Sun” from 1998’s Radiation. That album was all about noise; everything banging and cranked up loud. It’s also my favourite song on this disc. From the haunting keys to the crashing chords, “Under the Sun” kicks all the asses.
Would this disc have appealed to newbies in 2001? Some, certainly. But like anyone, I think I could have done better! There is no point rating a CD like this so we’ll just call it: