Last year it was thirty years ago that Fish changed from being Marillion’s frontman to a career of his own . Though in recent years Fish may have brought his former band’s legacy back to life, through touring both Misplaced Childhood and most recently touring Clutching At Straws, it is his very own music that fits him like a glove, quite rightfully so. His previous album, A Feast Of Consequences, recorded in 2013, was a musical highlight and now Fish is looking forward to finishing and releasing his upcoming double album Weltschmerz. He launches three songs from that double album by means of this EP.
With the EP, Fish sees to the need of sharing music in the run-up to the new double album’s release. As he chooses to offer the back catalogue of his music to a wider audience by streaming the music as well, he now chooses to do so with the new tracks on the EP; both streaming and as an actual EP. For sure, there may still be people coming to his concerts, expecting the likes of Kayleigh, Lavender and perhaps even Incommunicado, but there is much more to Fish’s oeuvre than the songs he wrote and sang all these years ago. There are ten albums under the Fish banner and another one is in the making, with the EP now giving us first signs of what that double album is to sound like.
So how does Fish’s music sound now? On the EP we meet up with Robin Boult on guitar, Steve Vantsis on bass and Foss Paterson on keys: all of them having worked previously with Fish, most recently on the previous album A Feast Of Consequences and before. Dave Stewart plays the drums and he as well has previously played with Fish. He has also worked with Deacon Blue, KT Tunstall, Camel and the Simple Minds. Doris Brendel is the singer taking care of the background vocals. Liam Bradley is the man for the percussion.
The EP features three new songs that will also feature on Weltschmerz. The opening number is Man With A Stick. The lyrics are a fine example of Fish’s lyrical approach: weaving together personal experience with more general societal observations. There are different images of men with sticks (the teacher holding a stick, or the pencil with which he taps, the rod with which you can fish, the sergeant-major’s stick in the army) that we get to meet throughout the different stages of our lives, brought together with the awareness of growing older, ultimately depending on a stick to lean on when we are no longer able to walk on our own.
While taken from seeing his father in that more dependant role with all emotion attached to that, Fish wrote a set of lyrics we all can relate to. It is beautiful with subtle percussion and with beautiful pieces by Foss Paterson on the keys, Doris in the background on vocals and subtle bass lines by Steve Vantsis: it makes for an impressive opening song.
Next up is the superb Waverley Steps. This is a song in which Fish describes the initially successful life of someone, looking for answers in his life and at the same time dealing with darker thoughts and doubts: a depression lurking, characterized in the form of ‘black dog’ in the song. The imagery Fish uses, is spot on. A derailed marriage brings the protagonist even further into darkness and uncertainties. A paradox ultimately, as the depression finally seems to have become close to the leading character as the final part of the lyrics sees him, living solitary, with no perspective, seemingly so, at the steps of Waverley Station in Edinburgh.
Written on the basis of a true story and the fact that the suicide rate among young men in the United Kingdom is high. This song is among the most beautiful Fish has ever made in his career so far. With a beautiful horn section (in an arrangement by Dave Milligan), various tempo changes and a beautiful string arrangement by Egbert Derix, who knows how to weave violins and cello into music: they underline the mood of the song and sound ever so tasteful. Mikey Owers is the man who plays all the song’s wind instruments, Alina-Lin Merx-Jong and Lara Meuleman play the violin, Linda Custers the viola and Tanja Derwahl plays the cello. Ever so subtly woven into: Doris’s voice. The number is not only very beautiful, it is very moving as well: it deals with a suffering that is not always visible, that we sometimes simply ignore and that we often treat as a taboo, here in the Netherlands as well.
Little Man What Now? its title inspired by Hans Fallada, is a beautiful contemplative song about a man who wants to escape his situation, while at the same wrestling with everything he finds himself in. A man who knows his shortcomings, his doubts, his weaknesses and who desparately wants to escape from that all at the same time. If he only ever knew how. A continuous struggle against the background of another fine arrangement by Egbert Derix. Fine saxophone playing by David Jackson, of Van der Graaf Generator fame. Impressive and atmospheric the song is. It features a beautiful solo by Robin Boult. As a taster of the double album, this calls for Weltschmerz to arrive soon. Yet, it will only be released when it ticks all the right boxes for Fish to release it.
Fish does not leave it at that. On the EP we also get four live songs that were played during the tour last year and which are not to be featured in the current tour. They are songs from various albums that show that Fish solo songs stand the test of time: both State Of Mind and Voyeur are from his solo debut, Emperors Song is from Suits released in1994 and Circle Line is from his penultimate studio album, 13 th Star (released in 2007). A nice mix of older and newer songs. That is the very least we can say about the EP. Yet with a track like Waverley Steps it is much more than a mere teaser.
With the nucleus of Steve Vantsis, Foss Paterson and Robin Boult Fish offers an impressive taster of the double album that he himself looks forward to with great enthusiasm: Weltschmerz. In a world like this where fake news is the order of the day, critical viewers of the world around are more than an asset. Especially when they bring their reflections with atmospheric, high-quality music and with lyrics that lead you to think, while bringing aspects of everyday life to your attention. There is a great prospect for 2019: we will be rewarded with a new double album by Derek William Dick, also known as Fish! The EP will do more than nicely for the time being; it is great stuff!