Classic Rock Review

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Genesis Genesis (1983)


If you needed indisputable proof, here it is. Listen to Phil Collins sing in “Mama,” and try to convince yourself that he wasn’t a great singer. He might have eventually become a tiresome pop figure in the ’80s, but you’ve got to respect the man after hearing him belt it out for that song. Not only does he yell-sing in an incredibly soaring way, but he sounds to me like he’s genuinely hurting. (“It’s hot, too hot for me mama / But I can hardly wait / My eyes they’re burning mama / And I can feel my body shake / Don’t stop, don’t stop me mama / Oh make the pain, make it go away / No I won’t hurt you mama / But it’s getting so hard”) Ouch …And what’s with those devilish laughs he belts out in the refrains? That’s pretty freaky, man…

Of course that’s an excellent song besides the vocal performance and the lyrics. It proves once again how excellent these guys were at operating drum machines. They’re quiet and ominous in the first half of the song before they suddenly grow very loud and quite threatening, which positively sends shivers of electricity down my spine. Tony Banks comes up with some compelling synthesizers to play deeply in the background, which sets the menacing mood quite fittingly. Of course the whole thing is very ’80s, but as I’m listening to that song, it makes me want to redeem the entire decade. It’s that strong. (I’ll probably rescind that statement once I get around to reviewing Mike + The Mechanics albums!)

If “Mama” freaked you out too much, then don’t worry; they follow it up with a much more pleasant pop-song, “That’s All.” …I really just like that song because it’s catchy as hell, but of course they do a few delightful, ear-dazzling things there with the instrumentation. Banks plays a pleasant and bouncy piano riff, which is backed-up well with a mid-tempo and texturally evolving drum machine pattern. Rutherford earns some kudos for bringing in a bright and bubbly guitar solo right at the end. …Really, there’s a lot going on with the instrumentation, and it’s futile for me to try to describe everything! You’ll just have to listen to it, if you haven’t already.

If those songs weren’t enough for you, I also love “Illegal Alien.” It managed to cause some controversy over the years, because people apparently didn’t get that it’s supposed to be satirical. I’m quite pleased with them for coming out with lyrical matter this biting; it’s right up there with the sophistication of Randy Newman’s also oft-misunderstood bits of satire: “Yellow Man,” “Rednecks,” and “Short People.” …Oh, and did I mention that “Illegal Alien” is catchy as hell? Tony Banks deserves some special recognition for playing a few extremely memorable lines with that quirky, wobbly high-pitched synthesizer.

“Home By the Sea” might not have quite as much ear candy as the previous three songs I mentioned, particularly Banks’ synthesizers, which are appropriately atmospheric but kinda blank. However, it’s melody is very catchy and growlingly delivered by Collins once again. “Just a Job to Do” has a driving rhythm to it, and I particularly enjoy hearing Collins scream “With a bang bang bang!!!” and then hearing it immediately followed up with two loud raps from a drum machine. (Amusing!) “Silver Rainbow” has a really wonderful and strangely uplifting chorus. …I’m also not sure how he did it, but Tony Banks finds some really odd keyboard chords to play through it, and I’m surprised they got away with it. The drum machines there are also so rumbly that they’re epic.

Despite all the strong pop songs on here, there are a few numbers that don’t have as much of a liking for. “Home By the Sea” was great, but I can’t say the same thing for “Second Home By the Sea.” It’s mostly an instrumental and unfortunately it’s plagued with a hollow drum machine texture that gets rather tiresome to me. “Taking it All Too Hard” is a fitful Phil Collins ballad, but it doesn’t manage to strike my particular fancy. I like the closing song “It’s Gonna Get Better,” in particular some of Banks’ synthesizer textures, but it’s a relatively weak ending to a much stronger album.

But those are just nitpicks in the end, and they don’t matter. I’ll say that they are at least decent songs anyway, and they hardly detract from the overall experience of Genesis. Naturally, this isn’t quite as powerful or entrancing as their classic prog outings, but I think I made it abundantly clear by now that those days were long behind them. In my book, this pop album earns its place in Genesis’ discography as one of the highlights.

March 10, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Genesis |

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