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The Program

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Album Review

Shuddering in with a roiling solo guitar and a slow, doomy rhythm before amping up the energy and activity in the rest of "Smile," The Program makes for a strong second effort from Marion. Arguably it's a much more successful record than This World and Body, keeping the immediate, sudden joys of that album with a much more nuanced performance from Jaime Harding in particular. His higher registers aren't as overwhelming, and his singing in general sounds far more natural, knowing when to breathe and relax as much as when to shoot forth. The Tony Grantham/Phil Cunningham guitar team still sounds great; there are more than enough moments to show that they might be among Britpop's least appreciated fretbenders. If not quite on the same level of Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood in terms of tweaking with their chosen instruments, their performances throw in a wide array of sudden surprises, building on their earlier efforts with attractive results. Johnny Marr's production work likely helped on these and other fronts; the sound is generally warmer than Al Clay's earlier work without sacrificing visceral impact. "Miyako Hideaway," the lead single, is a fair effort with a slightly dreamy midsection highlighted by a gentle echo for Harding's singing, but the best songs are elsewhere on the disc. "What Are We Waiting For?" in particular is a treasure. With an opening guitar figure that could be from a Cocteau Twins song and a fine vocal from Harding, it leads into a repetition of the title at the end over a soft but propulsive arrangement from the band as a whole. It's true subtlety from the band at last, and it works wonders. Other winners include the brisk acoustic/electric guitar combination on "Sparkle," which unsurprisingly was released as a single later (admittedly only in Japan), and the low-key energy of the title track.

Customer Reviews

Keane's godfather

Without Marion there would be no Keane. Listen to the anthemic Sparkle and Comeback and you realise that you missed out on one of the truly great bands of Britpop. If defy you to listen to Sparkle and not say what a hit this would be now. Athlete, Keane et el. Marion where there first. Truly fantastic.

marion's last album?

Could this be the last chance to hear Jaime's outstanding voice? This is without doubt his best work to date (2007) and my favourite Marion album. The songwriting and performances show a growing maturity. But from being London Records hottest property they sunk without trace. Why? Because Jaime couldn't be relied upon to turn up to meetings, rehearsals, soundchecks, even gigs (Sorry Leeds!) so the record company quietly dropped them and this album was released with virtually no publicity. Whatever the press releases say Jaime had and still has drug issues (and unlike certain other very famous musical drug users had/has a unique talent). And the rest? Nick has MS, Murad spent some time in prison after alcohol related crimes, Phil has a new home with New Order, Tony left the band, so you won't see this definitive line up again. Shame.

The Lost Band

When I talk about Marion with praise people say to me "Marion, who!" What a shame I say. Many of the best bands never seem to be noticed enough when they are around and then they are easily forgotten. The Program, in my view, is one of the best albums of the 90s indie era. It is far deeper and more intelligent than any of the offerings put forward from Marion's overrated 90s peers such as Shed 7 and Gene. Furthermore it sounds so much more intelligent than so many of the dreary bands of the current carbon copy music climate. Alas Marion are a sorry example of a wasted band that the press unjustly hated, were blighted by misfortune and were quashed by music industry politics. So many great bands never get the credit they deserve. Buy this album, you would be mad not to love it.


Formed: Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s

One of the might-have-beens of the mid-'90s Britpop explosion, Marion made for a slightly inconsistent but often quite striking band. Based out of Manchester, the five-piece took declared inspiration from earlier musical giants of the city such as Joy Division and the Smiths (in the case of the latter, to the extent where they recruited that band's old manager Joe Moss to handle their affairs). Strong hints of older rock & roll crept in as well, from the Beatles to the Buzzcocks, making for a sometimes...
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The Program, Marion
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Customer Ratings