Fish – Internal Exile

1991 (Polydor Ltd.)

1: Shadowplay (6:23)
2: Credo (6:40)
3: Just Good Friends (Close) (6:00)
4: Favourite Stranger (5:58)
5: Lucky (4:50)
6: Dear Friend (4:08)
7: Tongues (6:22)
8: Internal Exile (4:45)
9: Something In The Air (5:07)

Preliminary to this review, I have often asked myself whether I am the right person to write this. I have a special connection with “Internal Exile” (1991), Fish’s second solo album after he left Marillion. The feeling those nine songs evoke in me is something unparalleled. I received the CD as a gift when I was transferred from the hospital to a rehabilitation center 200 km away, five months after my cerebral infarction. Fortunately, I had a great time there. It was a lively and bussy children’s rehabilitation center where at least a hundred children were treated and where the staff was extremely nice. A toddler often called me grandpa and when the older kids were at school I shared the attention of the medical staff with her. That was the setting in which I listened to “Internal Exile” almost daily. Excuse me for seeing things a bit more emotional. For me, the CD is the soundtrack of the start to a new life, but I’m not here to reminisce. Let’s talk about music lads.

According to many “Internal Exile” is a hit and miss album with some good, a bunch of reasonable and a few weak songs. Obviously I am a bit more positive. “Internal Exile” is varied to my opinion.

In contradiction to the past I had no clue whatsoever of the meaning of the album title nor the lyrics. In my “vital” years I would have sorted those things out to the max. Then I would probably have read somewhere that the title refers to Fish’s feeling of being an outcast in his own Scotland. Fish is a supporter of an independent Scotland and therefor he is depicted as a Scotsman on the cover. Also I would have discovered then that the lyrics of Credo deal with his concern about globalization. In Tongues Fish sings quite bitingly, only later on I understood that he is angry with his former record company EMI. The great thing about Fish is that he always knows how to write great lyrics.

During the seven months stay at the center, I had to make do exclusively with the musical offering of the album and that was much to my liking. On “Internal Exile” Fish brings a passionate mixture of prog rock and Celtic music which emerges in a raw guitar-oriented sound that at times resembles the Marillion albums “Misplaced Childhood” and “Clutching At Straws”. Also there are ballads and even pop songs to be heard. The songs are composed in a song-like thought and it is precisely the overload of catchy hooks that gives the album its strength.

Convincing opener Shadowplay lights up my fire the same way as Assassing of “Fugazi” did. Especially the swirling part with the thunderous Celtic drums is a real assault on your taste buds. My rehabilitation doctor even observed unexplained contractions in my muscular system, but enough about me. The subsequent Credo also has such an infectious vibe. It is a slightly more accessible song that, partly due to the starring role that Fish himself performs, has become a crowd favorite during live performances.

That Fish always knows how to put down a sparkling ballad with his expressive voice can be called a blessing. On “Internal Exile” he presents no less than three ballads, two great and one questionable. Just Good Friends (Close) is a nicely compelling song with a haunting vocal line and a delicious guitar solo, while Dear Friend also reaches the tops of bliss, but Favourite Stranger can only be described as functionally meaningless. Let me explain. The languid song is caught between a cool ballad and a smooth pop song with a funny set of words, a nice piece of accent and a killer chorus. In order for both neighbors to come out well, it is wise that the intermediate track is not too spectacular. Voilà Favourite Stranger.

I think the absolute best song on the album is Tongues. In my mind I participated in the wolf sounds of Fish many times. An entertaining song with a groove that drags and steams. The title track Internal Exile is a special one. We hear pretty smooth folk in a style where violin, accordion and whistles predominate. Especially the fast violin runs stand out. On LP this is the last track. On CD  there is an additional song, With Something In The Air, a cover of Thunderclap Newman. Honestly I must say that I have never  been bothered by this skinny track with its disco drums.

All in all, “Internal Exile” is an album that has kept my tempers excessively busy. It helped me a lot with accepting my fate.

He could have been you
He could have been me
He could have been anybody
But he was born lucky

Derek Dick “Fish”: vocals
Frank Usher: guitar
Robin Boult: guitar, backing vocals
Mickey Simmonds: keyboards
Charlie McKerron: violin (8)
Marc Duff: whistles (8)
Donald Shaw: accordion (8)
David Paton: bass, backing vocals
Ethan Johns: drums, percussion
Ted Mckenna: drums, percussion (7,8)
Maryen Cairns: backing vocals
Chris Kimsey: backing vocals

© Dick van der Heijde 2022