Classic Rock Review

The home of old record and bootleg reviews…

Genesis Wind And Wuthering (1977)


Oops, I blew it. I said something good about Tony Banks in that last review, haven’t I? Well, screw it. Forget it. From the opening notes of this album and down to the last second, it’s a nauseating synthfest. These electronic sounds seem to infiltrate you, spoil the very air you’re breathing, poison the cup of tea you’re sipping at while trying to get through to the melodies. And remember: I’m not against synthesizers as long as they’re used in the correct way. You can put out a killer synth riff, something like Gentle Giant’s ‘Alucard’. You can use the synth to create outstanding fantasy-world or just outstanding spiritual musical textures, like Brian Eno.

You can at least demonstrate your vast instrumental prowess by playing a technically immaculate, warp-speed solo – something in the style of Keith Emerson; I admit that some would hate that last style, calling it self-indulgent etc., but it’s at least motivated. But when you engage in series of pointless, draggy instrumental passages that do neither of these three things, the reasonable question is: why? Why did Tony Banks clutter this huge, fifty-minute album with loads of these routine, boring, monotonous synth passages that do nothing besides just sit there and fart around? Okay, the tone he gets on this album and the general ‘atmospherics’ of his playing is basically not the worst thing in the world. But it’s absolutely the same tone and absolutely the same atmospherics he used on the previous album, and he doesn’t change at all throughout all of these fifty minutes! Just noodle noodle noodle noodle… until I really can’t tell one song from another, apart from a couple relative highlights I’ll be mentioning shortly.

My guess is that Tony desperately wanted a serious album, plus he wanted to establish a clear monopoly on the new Genesis sound. But in doing so, he managed to successfully forget about everything that made earlier Genesis so great – awesome melodies, light-hearted lyrics, diverse instrumentation and stylistics, and above all, the irresistable playfulness of Gabriel’s style which made the music complex and serious, on one side, and easily accessible and delightful, on the other one. This is still Genesis, for sure, but it’s a formal, lifeless, clumsy Genesis that completely misses the Genesis essence of old. Where such bands as Kansas were once faithfully copying Genesis in form, but not essence, Genesis now seem to be copying Kansas themselves. Yyyyuck.

As for Steve Hackett, he must have played a total of two or three notes on this album (speaking figuratively, of course), which explains why he left shortly after recording the album – the contradictions with Banks were getting irresolvable. Rutherford holds out, though, contributing yet another in a series of his beautiful, classic-influenced ballads (‘Your Own Special Way’), and Collins certainly does him a huge favour by stretching himself on it totally. Perversely enough, this is usually the fans’ least favourite number on the record, because it’s – go figure – too much pop for them. Well, it’s not the greatest song ever written, for sure, but at the least, it has a memorable and idiosyncratic chorus, and that’s far more than I could say about the rest of the album.

Two more songs manage to garner my attention in the long run. The album opens on a high note – ‘Eleventh Earl Of Mar’, dedicated to a metaphoric description of an old Scottish upraisal, buzzes along at a suitable pace and does include a couple of those long-lamented synth riffs that make it listenable. I can even disregard the ‘deconstructing’ of the melody (initiated on tunes like ‘Squonk’, where, if you remember, the verses got stretched out, twisted and disstructured in the most brutal way imaginable), as well as the fact that a large part of the vocal melody was shamelessly taken over from ‘Battle Of Epping Forest’ (and some – from ‘Squonk’ itself); the upbeat tone and the presence of real melodies make it tolerable and even enjoyable. And the Hackett/Collins collaboration ‘Blood On The Rooftops’ is a nice breather in between all the muck, opening with a pretty acoustic intro and accompanied with a Mellotron rather than a synthesizer all the way through. It’s not as well-constructed as ‘Entangled’ on the previous album, but if anything on this record feels sincere or moving, it is ‘Blood On The Rooftops’.

But the album is also cluttered with pointless, meaningless and deadly boring instrumentals (‘Wot Gorilla?’; ‘Unquiet Slumbers’) which make any instrumental passage on a 1970-74 Genesis album sound inspired and brilliant in comparison. “Self-indulgence” is the keyword here: either you make an instrumental memorable by basing it on a good melody, or you just drive the listener breathless with the energy and technical level of the performance, but if you fall somewhere in between, how can you stand the competition? Awful, awful compositions…

…yet not as awful as that ten-minute abomination on the first side. There, Banks reaches an all-time low with a brooding and raving ‘epic’ (‘One For The Vine’) which is just such a horrible load of pseudo-intelligent bullshit that I refuse to acknowledge it as a Genesis song. The lyrics are super-pretentious but mean nothing, with overbearing cliches and idiotic preachiness strewn all over the song, and the melody could have been written by Elton John at the age of 10. And this is supposed to be going on for ten minutes? Holy crap! Needless to say, no humour, no playfulness, and not even the percussion-heavy mid-section helps to bring the song out of its grotesque, overbearing, nauseating atmosphere. ‘One For The Vibe’, it should be called, and ‘Zero For The Effort’.

Oh geez, I must have been very offensive here – and I’ve just remembered that Wind And Wuthering seems to be a fan favourite! Where are we living, Eldorado? Nah, shucks. Were we living in Eldorado, Tony Banks would have been expulsed long ago. All I can say is that if this is a fan favourite, I suggest all you average boozers avoid hardcore Genesis fans. They might bite you.

So overall, this is a rather sad picture the band has drawn of itself. All these instrumentals, ten-minute Banks compositions… sad, very sad. Exhaustion? Stagnation? Overproductivity? Touring excesses? Yes, all that, plus somebody’s huge ambitions and vast ego. Nah, no way. Stick to Trick Of The Tail, where the band was still at least partially following in Gabriel’s footsteps, with lightweightness preserved in ‘A Trick Of The Tail’, Britishness preserved in ‘Robbery, Assault And Battery’, pure beauty preserved in ‘Ripples’, good riffs preserved in ‘Squonk’, shimmering guitar work preserved in ‘Entangled’, and rocking energy preserved in ‘Dance On A Volcano’. How many categories did I mention? Six? Wind & Wuthering doesn’t have a quarter of that.

April 12, 2013 - Posted by | Genesis Wind And Wuthering |

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