'Some things age better than others': Steve Hogarth discusses how Marillion's set lists balance the old and new

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Back now with an impressive return-to-form record, Marillion is in the midst of a well-received tour. Exploring the fresh revelations found in Sounds That Can’t Be Made is the easy part, though.

The new album, their first since 2009’s acoustic project Less Is More, is just the latest release in a discography that stretches back into the early 1980s, when Marillion was fronted by Fish — and recording music with a much different feel. Marillion would issue 11 Top 40 UK hits, the biggest of which was the No. 2 smash “Kayleigh” in 1985.

Even the arrival, in 1989, of current frontman Steve Hogarth didn’t completely alter the band’s sound, at least not at first. Over time, the group eventually melded its pop instincts with long-form prog rock, and continued to find success. Marillion would score another 12 Top 40 singles with Hogarth, including the No. 7 hit “You’re Gone” from 2004. Sounds, the group’s 17th album, is now set for release on Tuesday through Eagle Rock.

[SOMETHING ELSE! REWIND: In 2004, Marillion’s released a brilliant concept album in ‘Marbles’ that boasted few of the prog-rock pretensions that we usually associate with The Concept Album.]

Meanwhile, today and Monday bring sold out shows in England — first in London and then at Cambridge. Marillion will hit the road again in October with dates in South America and Mexico.

All along the way, Hogarth and company must find a way to inhabit songs from those earlier eras once more.

Sometimes, it’s no easy task, Hogarth tells John A. Wilcox of Prog Sheet, but he’s developed a method of reconnecting.

“I can always go to those places. Sometimes it is like remembering the best moments of a holiday you had. You’re not gonna forget them. But maybe you can’t quite touch the essence of them the way you could have done a couple of years afterwards,” Hogarth says. “Going back to This Town and 100 Nights, I try to revisit where those songs came from and how I felt at the time. I remember quite specifically where they came from. So I can kinda go back and connect back into it, but they are old memories. The bigger problem really, is perhaps when you go back to Holidays In Eden and Season’s End – that stuff really sounds dated to my ear. It sounds like the Eighties – because it was! They’re children of their time, those records and you have to bear that in mind.”

Ultimately, Hogarth says, some of these tracks were simply a product of their time.

“You can’t despise them for sounding like Eighties songs because that’s when you wrote them,” he tells Wilcox. “That’s the pool you were fishing in at the time. Some things age better than others. Hooks In You, for example, with all of those kind of Van Halen synths – sort of epitome of Eighties sort of stuff — that hasn’t aged very well. Yet Splintering Heart from Holidays In Eden feels kind of timeless to me. We still go out and play that now — it doesn’t feel like it belongs to any age, really.”

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Here’s a look back at our recent thoughts on Marillion. Click through the titles for more …

MARILLION – SOUNDS THAT CAN’T BE MADE (2012): There’s a reason most prog albums leave the epic song for the end, as Marillion’s new album makes clear. They begin here with “Gaza,” a dramatic rumination on the senselessness of war, and then struggle for a while to regain momentum. It’s only with repeated listenings that the rest of this complex, deeply felt recording begins to coalesce. Given time, Sounds That Can’t Be Made ends up sounding like one of the best efforts yet for Marillion.

MARILLION – SOMEWHERE ELSE (2007): Marillion returned three years after their epic, widely lauded Marbles concept piece with another self-produced album. While no one seriously expected them to top such a feat, all ears were curious as to how they’d attempt to follow up what many now consider to be the unexpected peak of their 25-year career. Over the past two decades since Hogarth joined the band, Marillion has slowly shifted from a progressive band into what they are now: a pop-rock band doing very intelligent music now that happens to occasionally be conceptual in nature. This album, however, wasn’t — and I’m personally glad they opted for an album of songs rather than another big concept piece.

MARILLION – MARBLES (2004): An odd beast: a modern rock concept album with few of the pretentions of the prog-rock that is typically associated with the concept album. It wasn’t without flaws — the four, short title-track pieces serve virtually no purpose and, in spots, sound as if they were recorded on the fly with no time for corrections or overdubs, as is evidenced by Steve Hogarth’s struggling singing on the first installment. Overall, however, it was without a doubt among the best work Marillion has done.

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