Marillion surprised the European market by earning Top Ten placings in the U.K. and Holland for its single "You're Gone" in the spring of 2004, but the comeback wasn't hard to figure if you listened to the record, which found the band making like U2, with a martial beat, a sustained, repetitive guitar figure, and Steve Hogarth keening, "You are the light," in his best impression of Bono. Elsewhere, Marbles, the band's 13th studio album in 21 years, for the most part recalled not so much U2 as a more long-standing influence, Pink Floyd. From the album cover and graphics in the CD booklet, which revealed the influence of Hipgnosis, the firm that did the same work for Pink Floyd, to the lengthy closing track, "Neverland," with its echoing vocals, Marillion, a group formed in the shadow of progressive rock progenitors like Genesis and Pink Floyd demonstrated that they had no trouble continuing the tradition. Indeed, leading things off with the slow, moody 13-plus-minutes of "The Invisible Man," Hogarth showed an interest in melancholy introspection to rival anything on Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. The song set the album's tone, as Hogarth lamented his deterioration not so much into an invisible man as, perhaps, a ghost whose former romantic partner cannot hear or feel him. "When you stumble," he wailed, "you will stumble through me." "You're Gone," despite that heroic Edge-like guitar work, continued the moping about romantic disappointment, while "Angelina" found Hogarth praising either a late-night disc jockey or a phone-sex worker, it was hard to tell which. By the time of "Fantastic Place," he seemed to be getting over his depression, however, and in the playful "Drilling Holes," he was even telling jokes ("A girl came to help out in the kitchen/And by the evening/We found we were all washed up"). "Neverland" suggested that the old love had returned or been replaced (maybe by that girl who came to help out) as Hogarth celebrated "Wendy/Darling/In the kitchen/With your dreams." Meanwhile, the band churned out patterned rock music that rose and fell in forcefulness, with only slight regard to the singer's emotional ups and downs. If the result didn't seem to quite live up to the evident seriousness with which it was presented, this was nevertheless a band that knew how to play together cohesively and work up to some rousing climaxes.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann