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Genesis - Invisible Touch CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.43 | 1177 ratings

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3 stars Invisible Touch is the most popular album the band ever did, at least if both album and singles chart positions are to be considered, but it's also a central lightning rod for people who hate this particular era of the band. IT came out the year after Collins made No Jacket Required (a winner of the Album of the Year Grammy), and it's hard to deny that this gave the band an impetus to let Phil's "non-Genesis" creative approach have a greater influence than it had before. I mean, the last three albums had undoubtedly been "pop" albums, but I'd be hardpressed to buy into the arguments put forth by many that Genesis had somehow become Phil's side-project. I just can't stress enough that those albums were just way too weird in too many ways to qualify as the same kind of (painfully) straightforward music Phil was making on his own, and they had (I insist) a strangely classy sheen in the production that served them well. On this album, though, the production bears a lot of the characteristics that Genesis had not yet had, but that had become trademarks of Phil's solo style and of production work that he'd done in other circumstances. In particular, no matter how many times I listen to this album, I can't help but think that the drums sound absolutely awful here, whereas on Abacab and Genesis they'd often sounded pretty great. I'm not really fond of how the other instruments sound either; there's a definite tacky, cheesy gloss on all of the instruments that make them jump out, yes, but not in a way that I want instruments to jump out. If 80's sounds and textures don't bother you in the slightest, then you'll probably be happy with how things turned out; me, I've got kind of an allergic reaction to the way this album turned out on the whole.

And yet, underneath all of the stuff that bothers me, this is still, for the most part, a full- fledged Genesis album, and not a glorified Phil Collins album. There are still bizarre (maybe not by traditional prog standards, but certainly by the standards of "mainstream" pop) extended keyboard-centered instrumental breaks, driving some of the song-lengths far past the bounds of a regular pop albums. There are still Rutherford-penned pop songs with decent guitar presence, and some unconventional lyric topics, and there's even a full- fledged instrumental at the end! Yes, this album has more of Phil's fingerprints on it than previous ones had had, but this was still just as much Tony and Mike's band as anybody's. Granted, that also means they should get about as much blame for the album's failings as does Phil, but acknowledging their presence helps make it easier to avoid getting blinded by those failings.

And, you know, the songs are far from universally sucking. The only track on here that clearly belongs more on a Phil solo album than on a proper Genesis album is the ballad "In Too Deep." It's just way too saccharine for my tastes, and moments like that sickly-sweet falsetto Phil does when he sings the "crying at the top of my lungs" line are just too much for any non-Phil-lover (that I know) to bear. Yes, I know that it (like pretty much all the singles here) was a huge hit, but it definitely was targetted more for fans of Phil than fans of Genesis.

The other song on this album that I seriously dislike is the opening title track, yet there's a major difference between this song and "In Too Deep": for all of its flaws, it's still clearly more of a Genesis song than a transplant from a Phil solo album, if only because it originated from Phil improvising lyrics over an early version of the second half of "Domino" (discussed more later). Plus, it's playfully up-tempo, has an okayish melody, has a light-but- decent guitar presence, and has very active work from Tony. Unfortunately, these positive elements are largely cancelled out, thanks to the song featuring one of the most awkwardly sung and written choruses (come on, do you really think that "She seems to have an in- vees-eee-bul touch" is on par with the typical pop song Phil had done in the band before?) I've ever heard in a hugely popular song. The song also has a lot of the production, um, tendencies that I mentioned previously, but as much as I could forgive a lot of the other material of these flaws, the weaknesses in the song make it so I can't here.

That leaves six tracks, which are all flawed but which are all basically good. "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," of course, shouldn't actually be a nine minute song: it's basically a five minute song, stretched out in a clear attempt to keep one foot in the band's past. Still, the percussion programming is decently clever, the keyboards do a good job of building and releasing tension when necessary, and the vocal melodies are memorable without being cheezy. Plus, as tacked on as I think the lengthy instrumental passage might be in principal, I enjoy it when it's on, and I never feel like I've had my time wasted or anything like that.

"Land of Confusion" is even better, though, as much as I hate to say it. The song has a lot of things going against it in terms of good taste: the overwhelmingly 80's nature of the drum track, the corny (while taking on an "epic" vibe in places) synths, the ridiculous lines about "my generation will put it right" that evoke images of The Walker Brigade from Saturday Night Live. And yet, I can't stop liking the song. The melody is incredible, creating an urgent feel in the verses while the intense synthesized bass drum pummels along underneath, and the pseduo-universalistic synths work better for me than reason says they should. Plus, I'd be hardpressed to name an 80's Genesis song I'd rather do in karaoke, were the opportunity to come up.

Of the four remaining tracks, I actually held a dislike for two of them at first, but not anymore. It's tempting to lump "Throwing it All Away" in with "In Too Deep," but that's a mistake; "Throwing it All Away" is much more Rutherford than Collins, and it stands up to any straight-forward pop ballads that he wrote before (excepting "Ripples," which is clearly in a separate class all together). Unlike "In Too Deep," there's no glop whatosever in the song (unless you count anything Phil sung during this era as gloppy, which you shouldn't), and the hooks don't come across as tacky at all. The other song I disliked before but could never bash now is "Anything She Does," kind of the band's answer to "Pictures of Lily." It's a bit chaotic and hurried in the arrangement, which took me some time to get used to, but there's something strangely addicting about it and the way Phil sings the line, "I won't ever, no I'll never get to know her." It's a minor track, but definitely not a bad one.

The remaining tracks, then, largely destroy the idea of considering this album just another 80's pop album. The album's centerpiece is the ten-minute "Domino," basically two pop songs duct-taped together and featuring Phil singing Tony's brand of prog lyrics. The lyrics, of course, are kind of silly (and supposedly, Phil disliked singing them, to the point that there were later quotes hinting that part of the reason he quit the band later was because he was tired of singing this song live), but they're silly in an addictive, non-preachy sort of way. Plus, while there are some pretty ridiculous moments in the arrangements (especially in the keyboards), they're ridiculous in a way that's grown on me rather than off me over the years. And, of course, the melodies are mostly very good, especially in the chorus of the "Glow of the Night" and in the "But you gotta go domino" groove in the second half. And finally, the album ends with "The Brazilian," a fine instrumental. It has a good set of riffs for Tony's keyboards, and the percussion underneath is very interesting. Even Mike's generic mid-80's guitar soloing works very well in this piece!

In the end, a *** rating is the best I can do for it. Still, compared to how I used to view this album (it would have been a ** once), and how bad it could have theoretically been, that's not bad at all.

tarkus1980 | 3/5 |


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