Written and conceived during a period of inner-band turmoil, Clutching at Straws would prove to be Fish's swan song, and perhaps Marillion's most unheralded masterpiece. Teaming up once again with producer Chris Kimsey, Clutching at Straws showcases some of the band's most satisfying compositions, including the magnificent "Warm Wet Circles" and "That Time of the Night (The Short Straw)." Bookended by Fish's disgust with not only himself, "Torch Song," but also with the burgeoning neo-Nazi uprising in Europe, "White Russian," the great Scot delivers an inspired condemnation. The commercial pomp and circumstance of "Incommunicado" also gives way to a self-parodying confessional inspired by Fish's inability to see himself as a bona fide rock star and celebrity ("I want to do adverts for American Express cards, talk shows on prime time T.V."). Tour opener "Slainte Mhath" is simple and elegant, building to its dramatic crescendo only to be upstaged by "Sugar Mice" -- quite simply, one of Marillion's best commercial singles ever. The album's stunning closer, "The Last Straw," is Fish's self-realization that yes, the band is not only over, but that in his mind, it's null and void ("and if you ever come across us, don't give us your sympathy"). Steve Rothery's blinding guitar solo brings the whole thing down to a crashing finish (prophetically, announcing his arrival as the band's true musical instigator on subsequent Fish-less records).
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AllMusic Review by John Franck