Classic Rock Review

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Genesis Trespass (1970)


After everybody in the whole wide world bashed FGTR into the ground, Genesis apparently decided that if they were going to be a successful group at all, they would have to revamp in a big, big way. So they picked up a new, slightly better drummer in John Mayhew, headed into the studio and reinvented themselves as a fledgling prog-rock group. Gone were the short pop songs and youthful faces on the cover, replaced by lengthy, complex compositions with endless instrumental breaks and an icy blue album cover depicting the temptation of Christ by Lucifer.

So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is that a huge number of these instrumental breaks are, at least on first few listens, dull to the extreme. A lot of them grew on me eventually, but for the first year or two that I owned this album, I couldn’t even vaguely remember a large chunk of them. Put another way – take the following year’s The Yes Album, preserve the quality of the songs from a melody perspective, but remove virtually all melodic and ‘epic’ hooks (not to mention energy) from the instrumental parts, and what you get is Trespass. But then, this was to be expected; Genesis never had the greatest chops in the world even in their hey-day, so what should one expect when they have neither of their major virtuosos, not to mention that it’s only been a year since an album that had some very sub-par instrumental performances? The band does a good job of creating a lot of interesting atmosphere, and a lot of the textures during the parts when Gabriel sings are very pretty, but when the vocals disappear for a long stretch, things often get hairy.

In this respect, the first side of the album is a real pain to sit through, even if there are enough strengths to compensate at least partially. The actual songs are very, very good, don’t get me wrong – even the somewhat ridiculous White Mountain, with lyrics by Rutherford, has a fabulous melody in the main portions. And the overwhelming vibe of desperation coming from Gabriel’s vocals in Looking For Someone (with another fascinating and extremely complex melody) and the pretty melody and chorus in Visions of Angels make both of these tracks extremely enjoyable at times. But ONLY when Gabriel’s singing – the rest of the time, my head inevitably starts drooping. I’ll admit that the ‘jam’ at the end of Looking For Someone makes some sense, with a pretty impressive build, but the rest? Bleh.

However, the second half is significantly better. Stagnation seemed a little unmemorable to me at first, but I’ve come to love it over the years. The first makes for a pretty, memorable and cold ballad, and the main instrumental passage, particularly in the bits with Tony having fun with the tuning properties of the mellotron, is incredibly lovely and atmospheric. And of course, there’s the fabulous return of Peter’s vocals near the end, as Gabriel pleads for water and a place to rest himself (“ah ah ah AH AH AH AH AH AH AH SAID I WANNA SIT DOOOOWWWWN” is something all Gabriel fans should hear at some point). To me, though, the quiet ballad Dusk is just as good. Have you ever had the chance to sit outside during a cold winter dusk? If not, you might not be able to fully appreciate the cold majestic mood created by this track, but if you have, you’ll probably agree with me in my fondness and love for this song. Not to mention that the melody is once again friggin’ beautiful, with gorgeous harmonies in the choruses and even more of the shaking tenderness than usual of Peter’s emoting (especially when he sings, “And if we draw some water, does the well run dry?”). And best of all, the instrumental jamming in the song is kept to an absolute minimum, only involving some pleasant acoustic lines and some flute chiming in once in a while.

So yeah, this is a good album, despite all of the problems with the instrumental passages, and …

Ha! Did you really think I was going to write a review of Trespass without gushing over The Knife? It’s crazy, like nothing I’ve ever heard before or since. For the first time ever, the Banksynths have found an awesome riff and melody to latch onto, and goodness knows I like it when Tony’s playing a pattern that’s interesting and makes sense. And the lyrics??!! “I’ll give you the names of those you must kill, all must die with their children. Carry their heads to the palace of old, hang them high, let the blood flow”!! “Tell me my life is about to begin, tell me that I am a hero, promise me all of your violent dreams, light up your body with anger.”!! And of course, “Some of you are going to die, martyrs of course to the freedom that I will provide.” And the most frightening thing is that, listening to Peter scream out these lines in the way only he can, you actually believe him if you’re not careful. Not to mention that there are some perfectly interesting guitar solos in the song (pretty much the only ones on the album, actually), interspersed with quiet flute lines, gloomy and majestic organ passages, Peter chanting “we are only wanting freedom” in a war-march style, all culminating in the band playing a menacing chord in a rhythm more frightening than all of the ‘evil’ passages of every heavy metal band ever (well, maybe except for the end of Metallica’s One). It’s not the absolute greatest number the band ever did, but it’s certainly up there (though I actually like the Live version more, believe it or not), and by itself makes the album worth hearing and owning.

In short, all of the traits that made Genesis such a great band are already in place – it just so happens that all the negatives are splashed over them in a greater amount than usual, and they’re just too much to not hurt the rating significantly. But it’s still quite a good album.


April 12, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Trespass |

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