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Mike Rutherford - Acting Very Strange CD (album) cover


Mike Rutherford


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1.70 | 93 ratings

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4 stars I briefly considered giving this album a 5 stars simply for shock value. However, I don't think that would be quite honest because this album is, frankly, not a masterpiece. Mike's vocals are an acquired taste. It's funny to know that every member of Genesis has sang on at least one album. Peter's vocal talents are, obviously, unquestioned. Phil's voice, while less respected, is still very powerful and expressive. Steve Hackett has developed into a respectably pleasant singer, and Anthony Phillips has a similar type of voice: pleasant, if not incredibly powerful. Tony has a voice reminiscent of the Pet Shop Boys (a comparassion he himself made, that I actually find to be true). Mike...oh Mike. Mike doesn't go out of tune on here. At least not often. It's simply that the texture and timbre of his voice is more than slightly unpleasant. It's funny to watch old footage of the band and see him singing back up vocals. He does good there. I guess when it came time to do his own album, and sing lead, he needed to do the "powerful" lead singing thing that Peter and Phil do so convincingly. Mike can't do that. His voice is raspy and deep. I don't know if he was still smoking around this time, but it sounds like he smoked at least a pack before each song.

Now that I've delved onto that often harped point, I'm going to go to the positives. Okay, for many Genesis (and even Mechanics fans) this album is an abberation. It doesn't sound ANYTHING like any Genesis album from any period. It doesn't sound ANYTHING like the smooth pop of the Mechanics. It doesn't sound ANYTHING like any solo album by any Genesis member, including Mike. The synthesizer tones are shril and sometimes noisy. The introductory synth riff to "A Day to Remember" is no doubt one of the most dissonant things on any Genesis album. As is the chorus synthesizer to "Acting Very Strange." The guitars here are distorted, sometimes repetitive, sometimes heavy, and sometimes fast. It's a loud screeching album that befits Mike's voice, to be quite honest. To the Genesis fan expecting "Mama" let alone anything Genesis did before or after, it's quite a shock. It definitely was to me.

However, to me it was a pleasant shock. I've always expected that, out of the "three" Mike was the strongest songwriter. Note that I don't say composer. Tony can write heads and tails above Mike per complexity of melody and harmonic complexity. But Tony, as good as he is, has a hard time writing a straight up pop tune. It seems forced to him to do so, and although he has some good ones, I don't think it's his forte. Likewise, with Phil, I think Phil is unable to get really complex, in general. He is a good songwriter, but limited and simplistic. This is why I think Mike is stronger: his songs are simpler than Tony's but more complex than Phil's. This is why his solo albums hold up artistically after all these years. Even though Phil was more succesful commercial than the Mechanics, to many critics and fans his solo career was a joke (I don't quite agree, but do understand). The Mechanics, however, are not as ridiculed. Their soft rocking style has been more succesful artistically, because their songs are more complex and diverse than Phil's. And Mike's songwriting was key to the success of the Mechanics.

This is why this album works for me. The melodies to these songs are incredibly strong, creative, diverse, and even meaningful. Try getting "Acting Very Strange" out of your head or even "Maxine." To some people, this is a bad thing, but I appreciate these melodies. I even appreciate the general approach. While Mike would have made an awful lead singer for Genesis or even on any other solo album, here it works. It works because the music is weird, dissonant, and even aggressive, as are his vocals. Mike's album tries to approach punk aggression with an early new wave style and it is an incredibly odd attempt. For me, the mix of melody and strangeness works. For others, it doesn't. I'll put it this way; no other album I've ever heard, including Genesis solo albums, sounds like this.

SonicDeath10 | 4/5 |


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