Review: Fish – 13th Star

Fish - 13th Star

What excitement! On Friday a package arrived for me: it was a limited edition (one of only 10,000) CD/DVD package of Fish‘s new album 13th Star.

Five listens — and one watch of the DVD — later and I am delighted to report that I absolutely love this album.

I’d already heard a few snippets/demos on Fish’s Friday night show on Planet Rock a few months back, and then these last couple of weeks I’d heard the opening track Circle Line and (I think) Square Go on Nick Abbot’s evening show and I wasn’t convinced. But I really wanted to reserve judgement until I’d heard the whole thing, from start to finish.

My first listen to the album was at work on Friday afternoon. I was working on the HTML/CSS for a couple of web pages, earphones on, in my own little coding world.

As the final few notes of the last track 13th Star faded I realised that I felt uncomfortable. It felt like I had intruded clumsily into Fish’s personal life. I felt like a voyeur (“I like to watch!”), eavesdropping on something both intimate and personal.

Relationships

13th Star is a concept album about relationships; he began writing in January with bass player Steve Vantsis. In late May, two days after his wedding invitations were sent out, Fish’s fiancée Heather walked out on him, announcing that she no longer wished to marry him. You can read about it on Fish’s blog: And then it was over.

You can hear the pain, the tragic beauty and the poignancy in songs like Arc of the Curve:

The days are long the nights are longer,
In every minute there’s a thought of you,
I can’t forget the magic of the moments,
I stare into the mirror to pretend I’m not alone,
It takes everything I have not to call you on the phone,
You to tell you that I couldn’t love you more.

That I’m lost on the arc of the curve,
Careering on the arc of the curve,
Crashing on the arc of the curve.

I could never contemplate that you would ever walk away.

Where in the world?

There is a raw honesty to Where in the World:

This time last year I was in love, this time last year there was a dream

that moves the song beyond simply that of a romantic lyricist, eloquently putting into words what thousands of others feel every day. There is a recognition that this is real (“oh so real”), that it hurts and that the chorus

Where in the world do I go from here?
Where do I go from here?

is not just poetic verse, it’s a genuine question to which there is no immediate or easy answer; certainly not within the framework of a six minute song.

Following the thirteenth star

The album follows a journey, like the arc of a curve, perhaps. It opens with Circle Line a song about someone’s life going round in circles, looking for a direction. Despite the searching, the uncertainty, and the obvious pain of the songs in between it closes with 13th Star, a ponderous song which has a hopeful air to it.

There’s a point in your life, you got to reach and when you do, you know it, and now I’m here. If I held out my heart and offered my hand would you take it, if I show you the way, so will you follow?
To the end of your days, will you follow? let me take you away, would you follow the thirteenth star?

Conclusion

This album is still growing on me, but I love it already. The now almost obligatory “making of…” bonus DVD (just over 60 minutes long) really helped me get inside the album, hear the stories and reasons behind the themes, the lyrics and the music. This album will certainly be on my MP3 player for quite a few months to come.

The stand-out track for me is Zoe 25, which is as beautiful as A Gentleman’s Excuse Me from Vigil in a Wilderness of Mirrors (1990). Check it out a snippet of it — and a couple of other tracks — on Fish’s MySpace.

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Gareth Saunders

I’m Gareth J M Saunders, 47 years old, 6′ 4″, father of 3 boys (including twins). Latterly, web architect and agile project manager at the University of St Andrews and warden at Agnes Blackadder Hall. Currently on sabbatical. I am a priest in the Scottish Episcopal Church, and I sing with the NYCGB alumni choir.

4 thoughts on “Review: Fish – 13th Star”

  1. I was a bit disappointed at his “Field of Crows”, but I am convinced that 13th star is the most honest, best and beautiful album he has made. I simply can not stop listening to it. This album is a real diamond, it’s beauty is within every song on its own and as a total it is just perfect. It is hard to wish the man luck and happiness when something like this comes from his misery 🙂

  2. It felt like I had intruded clumsily into Fish’s personal life. I felt like a voyeur (”I like to watch!”), eavesdropping on something both intimate and personal.

    That’s the one thing about the album that makes me uncomfortable as well; it’s not just the intimate and personal parts of his life, but also hers. And she’s a very private person.

  3. Have followed and listened to Fish/Marillion since it all began in 82/83. I have to say that this is probably Fish’s finest CD to date. Vigil was always the favourite until Raingods With Zippo’s blew me away..(Plague of Ghosts) section. However 13th Star has just become my all time favourite Fish contribution..the superb opening of Circle Line, the fighting talk in Square Go and the charming Miles de Besos and Zoe 25 makes this a great start to the CD. Arc Of The Curve gives us an insight to Fish’s intimacy “the breathless rush of romance” (such a good track). Manchmal’s theme of learning to trust before drifting out to Openwater bounces into action. Love the quality of Dark Star too, to me it shows Fish at his lowest ebb “inhabiting a silent void, moving in the darkness”, then the reality of it all in Where In The World, Fish laid bare emotionally..a moving track..you just wanna hug the big guy..and then the 13th Star.. Stunning, Awesome, Amazing, Brilliant…totally SUPERB track..what more can you say about it..this has to be his finest EVER song..written from the heart and emphasising just what a genius Fish is lyrically.

    GREAT STUFF..like a good wine, Fish gets better with age!!

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