Friday, November 25, 2016

In the Election Fallout: Marillion's F.E.A.R.

In my very first post for this year, I described what I saw as a disturbing undercurrent of our culture, one that thinks that flags flying at half mast mean nothing and that guns can solve the problem of people being shot. The perceived solution to this problem at the time was tighter gun controls, but I argued, and still do, that this only treats the symptom. Instead, I suggested the perhaps idealistic and radical idea of voluntarily surrendering firearms in solidarity with all the innocents that were shot and killed by people who saw the solution to their insecurities in a gun’s trigger. Predictably, this idea did not gain any footing. Months later in October, however, it was gratifying to find that F.E.A.R., Marillion’s most recent release, featured a song espousing a similar viewpoint.

As the year has progressed, however, it seems like the attitude towards guns and their use have become the least of our country’s issues. The devastating results of the election has given strength to what was once an undercurrent.

I was one of many that struggled with my vote during this cycle. I was a staunch advocate of Bernie Sanders, and I was distraught when he did not get the nomination. I looked very hard at Jill Stein. I connected with the Green platform, the even though I had reservations about her capacity to govern as president.  Given that Texas electoral votes have traditionally gone to the Republican party, I was convinced that I should cast my vote for Stein. Then a rumor emerged that Texas could turn blue. I could not, in all good conscience, sleep well at night knowing that I could have had any sway at all in a swing vote, so I decided to vote for Hillary.

Once I got used to the idea, it became clear to me that, despite having some blemishes in her career, Hillary was clearly the best available candidate. Her respectable experience and tenacity made it easier to get over my own feelings about Bernie’s treatments in the primaries, and in the end I was satisfied that I made the best decision for the country.

Clearly, however, things did not go my way. Not even close. Now, like many people I know, I have to wrestle with whether or not the America that my kids are pledging allegiance to every day reflects the values that I and my family hold dear.

Despite having an indelible impact on my teenage years, I have repeatedly described Marillion’s output as “spotty.” I tread warily when I hear they have a new release, but early reviews of F.E.A.R. hailed the album as a defining album of the Marillion’s later years. Although F.E.A.R. does not quite reach the consistent heights of Brave or Marbles, it contains many musically outstanding moments. Steve Rothery’s solos are crafted from simple motifs that blossom into expansive melodies that recall the slowhanded guitar work of David Gilmour while Mark Kelly’s ever-increasing proficiency with keyboard sound and patch design plays a key role. Ian Mosely and Peter Trawabas are more transparent in their contributions, but they are absolutely necessary to Marillion’s continued musical evolution.

The album shines, however, in its message and relevance, particularly in light of current events. It is a 21st century protest album that addresses contemporary power imbalances and the social symptoms we face as a result of living with them.  This is a heavy endeavor, and Fish’s legacy inevitably (and perhaps unfairly) draws attention to Marillion’s lyrics.  Hogarth, in concept and delivery, rises to the occasion.  F.E.A.R. carries the anger that recalls the countercultural mission statement of the band at their inception.  Although there is a tendency towards redundancy in the lyric structures, there is a possibility that this is intended to drive home the album's overall message.

Despite this imperfection, the album’s relevance is compelling. Its interesting that Marillion, a U.K. based band, began writing the album over a year ago and that it could be so meaningful today. I strongly relate to F.E.A.R. as a US citizen dealing with the fallout of Trump’s election, but the conditions that we are experiencing are global. I am not happy about the results, but I have lived through other administrations whose policies did not reflect my own. In those times, I have been able to shake my head, disagree, and move on. This time it is different because of the hateful closed-mindedness that it has empowered, and I am anxious about the impact that it will have on my kids.

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