12 April, 2004
Review of Marillion 'Marbles' artwork, pt.2
Continued from here, this is the other half of my review of the artwork on the deluxe campaign edition of 'Marbles':
I initially thought page 67 showed a near-sphere of liquid, but on closer examination, it's a shattered marble (which supports the lyrics of 'Marbles III' on the facing page), exhibiting a characteristic glass fracture pattern, not ripples. Unfortunately, I don't think the colour and graininess of the marble itself quite match those of the cityscape behind, so the composite image isn't entirely convincing. This is compounded by the opacity of a glass shard at the lower right and the shadow of the marble on nearby cars, which seem unnatural.
I mentioned Rorschach earlier: p. 68-69 couldn't be a more overt reference to the psychiatric test. So what do you see in the inkblot?
Pages 70-75 (the 'The Damage' lyrics pages) employ a similar technique to that on p.24: certain people have been removed from each scene, leaving their shadows and silhouettes. Whereas on p.24 the silhouette was empty white, this time the silhouettes act as a window to a different, complementary image. On pages 70-71, three people in the foreground of a deep blue railway platform scene have been cut out to show close-ups of yellowish-green marbles against a bright white background (light box?). Could these be the people who have been 'enlightened' by hearing the album? One carried a shoulder bag displaying the Marbles logo - a nice touch. Oddly, five people in the background at the left of the image have featureless faces, like the businessman in the Pink Floyd 'Wish You Were Here' album booklet.
On pages 72-73, the main image is crowded coastal promenade, whereas the view through the silhouettes in a deserted airport concourse - perhaps the route the people took to reach the seaside resort?
Page 74 is a city street, looking up at tall buildings. The colouring is strongly blue again, and also like p.70-71 the 'Marbles' logo appears in red, this time in a street sign/light. In contrast to the tall buildings in the background, the view through the silhouettes (again yellow-green) shows a pedestrian subway (underpass), itself reminiscent of the 'Shot In The Dark' cover.
Finally, p.75 is the portrait of a person sitting at an outdoor café table in bright sunlight. However the person him/herself has been removed, and the view is through to a lamp post at dusk (again tinted yellowish-green).
If there's a relevance to the image on p.76-77, of poppy seed pods against a pure while background, I don't really see it, unless it's an in-joke reference to 'The Opium Den' from 'Brave'.
I don't have much to say about the next eighteen pages, though since eight of them are a list of names and a further three have no images, that's not quite so much of a jump as it initially sounds. The images on the remaining seven pages supplement the lyrics in establishing the atmosphere of the songs, but that's for the listener to discover.
The sheet-metal dome on pages 96-97, could be a partial image of a sphere, and hence another variety of marble, but my immediate thought is of another Pink Floyd cover: the huge metal faces on the cover of 'The Division Bell'.
Having spotted an apparent trend, one might regard the repeating rainbow motif in the 'Angelina' pages (98-103) as yet another Pink Floyd homage, to the famous cover of 'Dark Side Of The Moon'. However, the resemblance isn't otherwise particularly great, so that might be over-interpreting.
Pages 108-109 may be my favourite image: an unmodified photo of marbles lying amongst heavily frosted grass, the glass also frosted to near-opacity by moisture.
Page 111 has the final giant marble, framed within a bandstand. And it's not another iteration of that same marble photo!
The 'Neverland' sequence on pages 120-125 is particularly effective: three very dark pre-dawn scenes linked by a band of artificial greenish-blue stars. The reference to Peter Pan is clear, as Neverland was found via "the second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning". Pages 120-121 show Whitehall from Westminster Bridge, London, UK (not 'England'), black silhouettes against a dark sky. On the left is the Palace of Westminster (aka Houses of Parliament), its turrets again reminding one of the 'Piston Broke' cover. Dominating the image is St. Stephen's Tower, home of Big Ben (which most people now know is the name of the bell, not the clock or tower!). The clock shows the time to be 04:04 - the light level is that of a summer early morning, not a winter dusk, so I'm fairly sure it's not 16:04. I'm afraid I can't specifically identify the building on the right.
The subject of the image on p.122-123 puzzled me for a while, until I recognised the partially lit objects in the foreground as taps (faucets) - it's a view of a large building on a hill/island, seen though the condensation on a kitchen window. Then I read the accompanying lyrics, which mention 'Wendy' standing in the kitchen, dreaming - it might have saved time if I'd read that first!
The final image is a beautiful, though odd, view of sunlight breaking through abnormally dense cloud - in context, this could be a few minutes after dawn.The band of artificial stars has been reduced to a single star at the lower right - an excellent closing image. I'm a bit reluctant to spoil the illusion, but note that the star appears on the cloud, not clear sky.....
The band photos at the end of the book use the same effect as the slipcase cover - marbles held in front of the eyes of mirrored, perfectly symmetrical faces. However, in two cases, symmetry is broken: h's pendent is deliberately off-centre, and Pete's nose is naturally crooked (sorry, mate, but it is!), which has to be reproduced as-is or make him less recognisable.
So; 2723 words to review the packaging without mentioning the music itself. That's a first.
What about the music?