In the mid to late 1990s, Marillion were going through quite a tough period in their career.
The band had been dropped by EMI just after releasing one of their best albums (Afraid of
Sunlight) but fortunately manged to get a record deal signed with Castle Communications.
Radiation was therefore the second of just three recordings released on Castle before they
decided to take the independent route. As this is the band’s tenth album, it is sometimes
stylised as Radia10n, but I will be sticking to the normal spelling of Radiation. The album
was remixed in late 2012 by Michael Hunter and re-released in early 2013 so I shall be
reviewing the remix album.
Before I get onto the music, I feel it is important to have a look at the album package. Today
with mp3 downloads and Spotify, it is great that some bands still care about making a solid
item even when it is a re-release. It is a nice solid booklet with two compact discs on either
side containing the 2013 remix album by Michael Hunter on the first disc and the original
1998 mix by Stewart Every on the other. The reason for including the original disc is so
people can compare the two versions and that some people may prefer the 1998 mix. The
front cover is a new updated version of the 1998 cover but with a bolder and brighter cover.
It is a much higher resolution image (which is to be expected for fifteen years later) and there
are also a lot less clouds in the reshoot. Compared it to the original jewel case cover it is a
much nicer cover which I found to be both too dark and too reddish. The 12-page booklet
contains all the lyrics plus some interesting photos. The centre photo is of the whole band
looking up at the camera.
Onto the music on the 2013 remix disc and the album opens with a short 45 second acoustic
song called ‘Costa del Slough’. After that is ‘Under the Sun’. Both songs are about global
warming and how it would be nice and warm in Britain in the future but where the former is a
short acoustic ditty, ‘Under the Sun’ is a rocking guitar heavy anthem. When the band
played the entire album live, ‘Costa del Slough’ was pre-recorded before they came out on
stage to play Under the Sun (by the way the Friday night in Wolverhampton was recorded for
the Clocks Already Ticking blu-ray).
The third song ‘The Answering Machine’ features vocals sung through a megaphone. This
is not something the band have done before or since and though it makes h’s vocals sound
quite interesting, I am glad it is a one-off. Musically it is quite a heavy sound for Marillion
(this is certainly one of their heaviest guitar driven albums) and features a nice Minimoog
sounding synth solo towards the end.
When ‘Three Minute Boy’ was written twenty years ago it could have been about people
such as Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit but today it could be about any celebrity couple
and how we may be cynical about how in love they are. The Beatles are a major influence
on this song and it has a great sing-along coda with a piano sound which makes it very
similar to ‘Hey Jude.’
‘Now She’ll Never Know’ is one of those mellow acoustic songs that the band do so well. I
am not sure how personal the lyrics are meant to be about, but it does seem to be about a
marriage in trouble.
‘These Chains’ opens with what sounds like pizzicato strings but then leads into a wonderful
piano and acoustic guitar driven piece. Another Beatles influenced song, it is certainly one
of the highlights of the album with an excellent Steve Rothery guitar solo.
‘Born to Run’ is a blues song about people who either don’t want or can’t leave their
hometown and Steve Hogarth has dedicated it to the people of Doncaster.
‘Cathedral Wall’ is a nebulous, dark and moody song about insomnia driven by one of Mark
Kelly’s very powerful synth riffs. Another heavy song and a great live rocker especially
towards the end where Mark rocks out on the organ. I am not sure what a cathedral wall has
to do with insomnia, but this is another of my highlights along with ‘These Chains’ and the
next and final song.
‘A Few Words for the Dead’ closes the album. This is one of Marillion’s long songs and has
a Native American vibe in the intro. It is quite a psychedelic sounding song with quite a
hippy vibe to both the lyrics and the music. The line “Or you could love” seems to be more
and more apt these days.
In conclusion, the album sounds far more dynamic than the original. This really brings out
the best in the music and is the main reason for the remix. To give just one example, the
drums on Cathedral Wall are outstanding with lots more reverb. The song sounds immense
now whereas before it sounded quite weak. It has never been one of their best albums
either lyrically or musically, but the remix has been a vast improvement on the 1998 version.
After twenty years was certainly deserved and if you include the new production, mixing and
packaging, I would certainly now give the album 8 out of 10. Marillion have made albums
that are better than Radiation but there are not as many as you might think.