This World and Body (1996) / Translucent Gold Vinyl (2020)
I first discovered the band Marion in 1996 with the re-release of the single Sleep, that year was also when this stand-out selection of sounds collided the peak of the music exploding around me, including the likes of Radiohead, The Divine Comedy, and Pulp. Their debut album, This World and Body, is one of those that still feels a little underrated for the era, packed with stirring tracks that hold an undoubted tone of melancholy but are balanced by a sense of reality and emotive insight.
While it could be noted that Marion are a band ‘of their time’, I have rediscovered this Al Clay produced album as a powerful debut, with echoes of the music around them – like Gene, Shed Seven and Mansun. While that was 1995 – 1997, it continues to fire on all cylinders and effortlessly draws you into their strange little world.
This new vinyl release from Demon Records is a welcome one, and it also comes with a signed Jaime Harding 12″ artwork that’s a fine bonus. Led by the haunting, yet distinct and specific vocals of Harding, the album opens with Fallen Through and immediately highlights the guitar combination that threw them into the limelight, albeit with a darker The Smiths comparison (they supported Morrissey on his ‘Boxers’ tour, so you can see he must have heard something he liked).
The big single Sleep is where the band first won me, it’s still a banger which builds from the opening riff, then the energy of the song fills your ears and room, you’d be a lost soul not to be dragged in by hearing it from anywhere. Next up is the surprisingly catchy Let’s All Go Together, which lifts the mood with another nifty guitar motif running through the break, something The Bluetones (the mighty ‘Tones) picked up on early and ran with throughout their career, it could be Marion‘s most uplifting tune.
I Stopped Dancing is a little oddly early 90s, Toys for Boys another single, Time is riff-central and a building, generating energy pulse of electricity waiting for the big stage. You can feel Anthony Grantham and Phil Cunningham‘s guitars firing up every moment, alongside Murad Mousa‘s modern drumming, a little early Pablo Honey in spirit (i.e. ahead of the standard), which means these boys were clearly under-appreciated in the musical sense.
I always remember Your Body Lies very clearly, it’s a beautifully mellow ballad and another in this vein would have worked perfectly on the album. However, it’s welcome enough on its own and gives Harding a real chance to show off that he could be restrained and touching. Marion have always been an interesting band that stuck firmly in my memory over the past (say it quietly) 25 years. This album is still timeless, it’s that fine balance between hearing something familiar but also original, and it’s clearly embedded forever in my teenage memory for now and beyond!
Order it now https://amzn.to/2XDcOjJ
The Program (1998) / Translucent Green Vinyl (2020)
This second part is dedicated to Demon Records releasing their second album, The Program, on vinyl for the very first time, pressed on 180g heavyweight translucent green vinyl. Like the above, it comes with a hand-signed print of the album artwork, and is also limited to 500 copies.
For this, the band returned to the studio to record The Program and released it in 1998, with ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr on production duties – therefore sharing the connections mentioned earlier even further.
While the second album didn’t chart at the time, it’s a much more cohesive album that still holds the energy but with a lot more focus and, with it, more musically expansive. It also allows Harding to mellow through his voice and they also journey through touches of electronic and a vision of big stage sounds.
Miyako Hideaway is very in the vein of Mansun, and at the moment this was released, you can see why the latter might have stolen Marion‘s thunder, especially as ‘Six‘ was a pure testing ground for all kinds of experimentation and that album was basically released at the same time, it doesn’t make this a lesser song though, just in that world with the Marr production on point.
Cunningham and Grantham are again on form, it’s been a while since I listened back to The Program if I’m honest, but in the likes of Sparkle, you forget how pure that guitar work is, again in the spirit of those previously mentioned, and this is a very mellow, melodic escape that’s quite timely.
What Are We Waiting For? excels in songwriting, it’s a beautiful journey with undertones of The Verve, expansive and exploratory and then title-track The Program gives us another example of their new-found Marr-induced vibes with a whole host of depth.
All of These Days sounds like classic Marion from the first album, and then Comeback closes with another much more balanced rhythm to it, another clear indication of the more mature production, and maybe the experience of the first album, that equally mellowed and expanded the band as a whole – as if they’re less eager to over-please but really delving into the song progression. The Program didn’t quite have that same impact of the debut but it nevertheless tried to develop and this is more than commendable.