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Genesis Genesis (1983)


Drum machine sound greets you from the very beginning of the album on ‘Mama’, and you immediately get the uncomfy feeling that this is going to be Abacab vol. 2 – synth/drum machine experimentation over clumsy melodies and not less clumsy singing. Well then, wrong you are (actually, I was wrong too, so that’s a self-insult rather than anything else). The album is a huge step up from Abacab. Well, not exactly huge if we judge by the actual song quality, but huge, I’d say, in the mental sphere. This album has no progressive ambitions at all. Sure, the lyrics are still cleverer and more entertaining than Fleetwood Mac, but apart from that, it’s all fast, enjoyable, hummable pop.

And you know what? They’ve finally matured into writing catchy numbers – it took them about fifteen years to do so, but you can’t get away from the fact! Oh, I know this ain’t serious, but this ain’t banal, either, and at least they’re not repeating themselves – the melodies are pretty original, and the hooks are there, polished and shining like little gold doorhands. Just a good pop album. Loads of bands were working in the same style by the time, but Genesis were certainly ahead of everybody else simply because they were more experienced. As lifeless as some of these arrangements are in theory, there’s enough conviction and energy to convince you that this should work despite all odds; and it does.

Yup, there’s practically no audible guitar on this album, and I doubt whether Phil ever really took up a drumstick, but Tony has been tamed enough to refrain from overlong, pointless synth noodlings a la Wind And Wuthering and mostly sticks to playing amusing little passages (except for the nearly-instrumental ‘Second Home By The Sea’ where the band takes a foolish decision to, er, ‘jam’ – I guess I should call it a ‘jam’, even though it certainly ain’t one in the real sense of the word); the drum machines aren’t annoying (in comparison, the murky sequence on ‘Keep It Dark’ has always spoiled my feelings towards that song), and the atmosphere is pleasant and inviting, with a slight touch of humour and intelligence.

Out of the songs you probably know the hit ‘That’s All’, and it is indeed the damn funniest and most memorable tune on the album, with one of my favourite Tony Banks organ solos of all time (and that’s because he actually follows the insanely endearing catchy rhythmic pattern of the song instead of sprawling all over the place). But I could also name ‘Mama’, a brilliant love-and-hate song that Phil pulls off in his best, ‘screaming’ manner, with some frightening ‘ha-ha’s on the way; the dark, grimy atmosphere of the number swoops you inside, and if there IS a place to truly appreciate Phil’s vocal stylizations, it’s here. It is somewhat similar to ‘In The Air Tonight’, one of Phil’s best solo compositions, but it’s far more piercing and frightening.

Minor highlights include the anti-anti-immigration song ‘Illegal Alien’ with its almost nursery refrain (and rather biting lyrics, I’d say); the consolative ‘Taking It All Too Hard’ where they manage to hit those incredible notes (in the refrain) that, combined with Phil’s tone, give the song a unique feeling of gentleness and passion (if you’re wondering what the hell I’m talking about, compare this with the refrain to ‘No Reply At All’: it’s the same impression); the rambunctious Killer Anthem ‘Just A Job To Do’; and the gorgeous ballad ‘Silver Rainbow’ (if you’re not able to appreciate the lines where Phil sings ‘you won’t know where you’re coming or you’re going…’, the only thing I can say is you have a way too hard alergy on synth-pop).

All of these have solid melodies in them, and, like I said, you can’t deny the lyrics: even the love songs are really deep and psychological. Maybe it had something to do with Phil’s personal traumas and experience (his recent divorce, etc.), but I really don’t know much about that period in their lives, so forgive me beforehand.

It has a few downsides, of course: a couple songs are below average, like the closing boggy ‘It’s Gonna Get Better’, typical optimistic filler to close the album with; and the lengthy ‘Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea’ has never managed to fascinate me. Also, if you suddenly take a foolish decision to put this record on right after (or before) Foxtrot, you’ll get a nervous breakdown which is certainly bad for your health and even worse for the development of your musical taste. It’s like listening to Bridges To Babylon right after Sticky Fingers. Something like that.

Still, I insist that if you listen to all of Genesis albums in chronological order, you won’t even notice the smooth transgression from the 1971-72 level onto what they had metamorphosed into in a decade – all of the changes were occurring so slowly and gradually that each album starting from Selling England and ending with Genesis (and further, too) sounds just a wee bit different from its predecessor, but cannot be said to not possess any tight links with it. And if you try to follow that development, be sure not to get guided entirely by the genre trappings (like, ‘this is prog and I like it’, ‘oh no, this is pop and I hate it’, or vice versa, you know), and you might come to regard these early Eighties albums as high as I do.

Good work, boys! This is certainly their best since Trick Of The Tail, and it shows how Phil’s songwriting skills have matured at this point.

February 28, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Genesis |

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