Fish didn't take long to make his first solo album after leaving Marillion. It was accused of sounding too much like his former band, but that's a misguided view. Mostly co-written with the otherwise unknown Mickey Simmonds, it might have the familiar pomp-rock spirit in places, starting confidently with the enormous title track. This 9 minute piece is packed with tunes, a rousing Queen-like chorus, and a spooky unexpected finish.
But Marillion fans had certainly never heard the likes of the tootling horns of the poppy "Big Wedge", a standard rant against American commercialism. And not even "Lavender" was as soppy as the ballad "A Gentleman's Excuse Me". Which has a pretty tune, attractively wordy lyrics, and is decorated with a slushy string arrangement. With "The Company" Fish was starting to find his own songwriting voice, a sincere Scots-flavoured soft rock. The most original inspiration here is "The Voyeur", twisting the tootling girly-chorus pop of "Big Wedge" into something more sinister.
The pleasingly podgy "View from the Hill" has a guest guitar and songwriting spot from Iron Maiden's Janick Gers. But Fish pulls out all the sentimental stops for the grand finale "Cliché". A plain old love song at heart, he whips up a haunting riff and simple lyrical idea into a gloopy symphonic whirl. Nothing to be ashamed of, just an honestly good song, and a strong start to Fish's solo career.
September 18, 2004