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GENESIS

Genesis

 

Symphonic Prog

2.71 | 859 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
3 stars Genesis, s/t, 1983

The self-titled revival of Genesis in the 80s features something a bit surprising - Phil Collins as an assertive vocalist (well, 81's In The Air Tonight sort of had that, but here, it's on a whole new level). He's aggressive, biting, rounded and capable of a range of surprisingly vicious vocals. Complementing this is a lot of great writing, some kicking drum machine programming (I mean, Home By The Sea, Mama... it's great stuff if you're happy to drop the must-be-a-drummer-behind-the-kit attitude), Tony Banks taking a more tasteful, understated part on the synths, as well as more than adequate guitar and bass support from Mike Rutherford. Yes, you must admit, it's not a 70s Genesis record, but it's not meant to be - it's a damn good art rock/art pop album, and much more daring than it's given credit for.

Just take the opening Mama, a moody drum machine repeating the same manic line as some bleak, despondent keys from Banks bring out the atmosphere, then suddenly, the new Collins comes in with a desperate, pleading, and furious vocal and Mike (Rutherford seems too formal for the jaunting guitar coming along with this one) kicks in. Maddened, sickly laughs, the thunderous entrance of the gated drums, the slowly developed (well, one-sided) dialogue, are all done perfectly and Collins manages to bring out negativity in a sympathetic way with the force. Can you really call anything this dark, serious and visceral 'pop'? I wouldn't say so.

That's All features a catchy, clear piano part comparable to Time Table or Harold The Barrel, followed by a slightly funky bass and guitar and a killer vocal from Collins, with the characteristic edge on his voice, now, as well as some very rounded and memorable clean phrases. He seems to be back on the kit for lots of this one, pulling out some killer fills in all the right places, and the general vibe is just on. I really like this one, but hey... (and the lyrics are, in my opinion, some of the truest put to paper).

Home By The Sea (first part of a sneaky ten minute suite) opens with the low, sharp guitar thrum before the drums kick in and a mechanical 'home by the sea' opens the song, before Banks pulls out on a vibraphone-like keyboard sound some melodies as clear and pretty as anything off A Trick Of The Tail. It's well-structured, with the memorable vocal hooks coming up several times, includes some very curious drum sounds and a story which wouldn't have been out of place on England or Nursery Cryme, again bringing out the moral ambiguity which has been a characteristic and long-standing feature of Genesis lyrics, and, all-in-all, is a hugely successful merging of the progressive rock which Genesis were coming out of and the melodic pop they were going into.

Second Home By The Sea is more of an instrumental jam piece, reminiscent in some ways of the instrumental numbers off Wind And Wuthering, albeit a bit more structured, and with some fiendishly catchy guitar work and the general feel of story-telling, never losing my interest, and with one of my favourite ever bits of Banks playing (when he brings up the vocal melody again with that scrailing sound in the background), as well as a clean and suave guitar solo. Again, fantastic stuff.

Illegal Alien needs to be listened to with the right spirit. The social message of it is somewhat overshadowed by the generally hilarious 'gringo' vocals and what-political-correctness? attitude. Consequently, first time I heard it, I was filled with rage and hate, after that, I calmed down, listened to the music, and really¸ it's alright. Trite pop chorus, which I'm sure you'll all balk at, a curious-sounding string-synth, a fairly cool talky interlude thing under a descending brass-synth and a bit of cool Collins drumming as well as a sort of steel-drum-like (my intuition says that's a keyboard's effort at a tymp, maybe, or alternatively my keyboard's just crazy?) sound floating around in the mix somewhere, as well as the neat backing-less take of the chorus. Those are perhaps the best bits, and, I have to say, though it's not my favourite song ever, now I've given it a bit of time to listen properly, it's a well-constructed pop song and I like it a bit if I'm in the right mood.

Taking It All Too Hard is maybe the least distinctive thing on here, though it's not at all bad. A nice Collins vocal, a clean, effective drum part and some bleak, minimal keys, but it feels simply resentful and sad, and comes off as a bit light in comparison with the psychological trip of Mama or the I-AM-TRULY-PISSED fire of In The Air Tonight. The little sha-la-la thing at the end of the vocal lines is very nice. It's not a bad song at all, it's just not stunning.

Just A Job To Do is another surprise, upbeat, thumping and brimming with energy, taking on the perspective of a hitman in a fairly bland style. A killer riff from Rutherford fires the piece with general energy, and a combination of Collins yelling BANG BANG BANG (sounds really cheesy in theory, comes across alright, but my cheese sense is sketchy these days) with an accompanying thud-thud-thud on the drums works more or less right. The brass synth effect is maybe more a gimmick than a really necessary thing, but it does make the song distinctive, and it's very impressively played, and neatly follows the grooving bass build-up before the last verse. Except for the slightly bland guitar solo, great stuff.

The awkward sexual advances of Silver Rainbow, are somewhat matched by the not-quite-yet rhythm section (Mike is on especially good form, here), with the entertaining synth part, and another solid Collins vocal. It's generally a good song, though it goes on a bit longer than it needs to, but (and I get too excited about these) it ends with a bass solo, so I'm happy. It's Gonna Get Better is a calmer number, with a more quiet and yet neat Collins vocal (along the lines of the stuff on Peter Gabriel II or Face Value - their voices are quite similar when they're singing more softly), as well as a whirling atmosphere contributed by Banks, some carefully disguised melodies, a nice opportunity for Mike's bass-work to shine, and a calm conclusion to the album.

I have to admit, this is my first real venture into post-Hackett Genesis, and I like it. The first four numbers are fantastic, with a lot of the trademarks of 70s Genesis (morally ambiguous lyrics, both edgy and accessible music, great melodies) while being in an entirely new style, and the succeeding lot all have noticeable up points and are generally decent, listenable tunes, Collins sounds superb on this one, the drum programming is used in an interesting way, and it's possibly better structured and better produced than any of their classics. Maybe not something for the purists, but nonetheless, a great album. Four stars from me. Oh, and thanks to the excellent Spotify for indulging my curiosity when I wasn't quite ready to part with cash for an album - this the first review I've written solely from it. A hard copy should be coming up on my next amazon-binge.

Rating: Four Stars Favourite Song: probably Home By The Sea just clinching it over Mama

Edit: dropped to a three with harsher ratings... acknowledging really that the second side is a step down on the first, which'd be the sort of stuff I'd rate as comfortable 4-star material, by and large... so, 3 seemed more right.

TGM: Orb | 3/5 |

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