This new album, this much fanfared “last” album by Fish… Weltschmerz, the title apparently a word coined by German writer Jean Paul in the 1830s means literally world (welt) pain (schmerz) but is used colloquially to mean world weariness.
Fish writes on his website:
“This is my defining statement. I knew that I couldn’t do anything more in music … It’s time to walk away. I don’t even really care how it sells or what reviewers might say. It’s a punctuation mark.”
Alarm bells rang when I looked at buying the album, there was a “standard” edition at £19.99 and a “deluxe” edition (with DVD) at £49.99 which left me thinking; where’s the “bog standard” edition at £9.99? There isn’t one.
I was sent, quite unsolicited, a digital copy of the album in something called FLAC file format, FLAC is high end digital stuff apparently, higher end than your run of the mill MP3 files anyway but you need a computer to play them. You can’t slide them into your CD player and there’s no gatefold album art to marvel at but hey-ho, that’s progress. It’s naughty, I know, and I don’t condone sharing digital files of music that people have worked hard to produce but I thought I may as well listen and if liked what I heard I’d buy the album, no question, all £19.99 of it because I like Fish and anyway, he wouldn’t be that bothered by all accounts, judging by the copy on his website.
I fired-up the trusty DELL and listened to the album. I listened because I like Fish, I like his music, his lyrics, his world view. In Marillion and as a solo artist, the guy wrote part of the soundtrack to my twenties and thirties and beyond.
I’d already heard a few songs off of the album, “Man with a Stick” which cropped up two years ago on an EP, and just lately “Garden of Remembrance” and the title track “Weltschmerz.” Production and the accompanying video offerings were good, the actual songs though left something to be desired I thought, but that was only my opinion. I was not put-off though; I was thinking that for his self-avowed last album Fish would keep his powder dry when it came to pre-album release, releases.
I like a good sad song, a heart-searching, questioning, navel-gazing, wondering what it’s all about, even downright depressing song. You can identify with a sad song.
There was the lyrical genius I’d come to associate with Fish, the production values, the “sound…”
But in the end my final impression was of a joyless, dirge fest. Not one uplifting song on the album.
And yes, this is only my opinion, of which I am well aware, doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world but in a time of pandemic when we all have probably had more than enough of things not being what they should, not being what they were, this album does nothing to redress the balance.
I’m well aware that an initial listening can be a tricky thing, so I gave it another listen-to, but my opinion remained the same. The musical mood picks up a bit on the penultimate song “Waverly Steps” but even that has “End of the Line” appended to its title in parentheses. “He hid in his heart, alone in the darkness and fought back the tears from his eyes…”
Don’t get me wrong, there are good songs on this album, I’m not going to review all the songs, this is just my impression of the album. The best song is probably the last one, Weltschmerz, this is Old-School Fish, railing against the odds.
“I’ve formed the opinion that things can’t stay as they are
My anger and my fury trapped like a wasp in a jar
It’s never too late to make a brave new start
When the revolution is called, I will play my part”
“Garden of Remembrance” is beautiful in its own melancholic way. “Rose of Damascus” is a 15+ minute epic, musically interesting, dealing with religious intolerance, migration, escaping from a war zone… It’s not a happy song, maybe, the end is left to conjecture, but it is a good song.
This is just my impression of the album and as an album, it’s not something that I want in my collection, as an album it’s just too depressing and that’s my opinion and Fish doesn’t care.
And Fish? He wants to “escape from the confines of music”, he wants to write “screenplays or whatever” and I wish him well but listening to Weltschmerz, I was overcome with an overpowering sense of… weltschmerz.