HOW DID IT ALL COME down to this? Stadium rock gods in waiting, ‘the new Joy Division’, even, Marion were a band who promised something beyond the drudgery of minor indie star ambitions.
But a tumultuous past two years, partly due to singer Jaime Harding’s well-documented personal problems, means their second album has been a long time coming. ‘The Program’ has squeezed into the shelves with little fanfare, and it’s a frustrating experience, reflecting its painful creation. For a band who sought the dark heart of pop, they’ve failed to fulfil their romaticised vision.
As with their debut album, ‘This World And Body’, ‘The Program’ finds Marion seeking an escape from the evils of the world, but equally from the brain-numbing normality of consensus indie rock. The ties that bind them, though, are often of their own making. They are too content to ape their heroes rather than take their shared ideals and create something new. So on ‘What Are We Waiting For?’ and ‘Strangers’ Marion pick the bones from Radiohead’s table when they should be laying claim to the throne.
And if this seems unfair, Marion have only themselves to blame. They prove they are capable of better things with the epic opening sweep of ‘The Smile’ and the ragged, tumbling blast of ‘All Of These Days’, but half this album marks them out as a band whose goal seems to be to support Mansun one day. Maybe.
The ultimate frustration of ‘The Program’ is that it neither scoops you up to a higher plane, nor leaves you confused and unsettled. Instead, it’s a reasonable album from a better-than-average indie band. Somehow, that’s not quite as special as they wanted it to be.