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Genesis - Abacab CD (album) cover




Symphonic Prog

2.61 | 1474 ratings

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Mr. Gone
4 stars I'm probably overrating this a bit because it seems to me this album is being really unfairly excoriated on here. Is it a classic? No. Is it still enjoyable and far better than many on here seem to think? It is for me.

Look - I realize not much on here would fall into the "Symphonic Prog" category. Tony Banks himself acknowledged that many of the songs have a single mood ("Keep It Dark" probably best illustrating that idea). And the idea that Banks apparently held at the time that "Who Dunnit?" was anything more than a novelty song probably deserves some ridicule. But for all that, there's still some good stuff on here.

The title track, with its heavy cymbal crash at its opener and its overamped, churning bass, gives an immediate indicator that this is not your father's Genesis. It's a new wave album, really. I'll admit to having a weakness for that genre (I own several early Simple Minds albums, for instance), so this does not particularly trouble me. The song itself is energetic, slightly savage sounding at times and all-around good fun. The ending instrumental may be a bit overlong, but hearing the band improvise more over its themes than probably any other song when performing it live (save for "I Know What I Like") is always highly enjoyable.

"No Reply at All" - I recall hearing Banks mention that the cross-hand keyboard technique employed here was reminiscent of some songs on "The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" (title track, "The Carpet Crawlers" I would guess). That's where the similarity ends, though. It's not a bad song, though the lyrics are at times a bit pedestrian. And the horns are a nice jazz-up even if it broke the band's informal rule of doing everything in-house.

"Me and Sarah Jane" is a pleasant though slightly ominous-sounding ballad, which actually progresses through several moods. The real payoff comes at the end with the some great guitar work from Mike Rutherford. Very enjoyable song.

"Keep It Dark" has a repetitive guitar riff, with Banks supposedly playing bass on the keyboards with his left hand. It's an okay song, with an interesting theme about benevolent alien abduction showing the protagonist how much better life on earth could be, but the lack of melodic variety stifles it somewhat.

The most "proggy" tracks are the side two openers, "Dodo/Lurker". These were originally going to be part of a larger suite on a double album, but the other two songs (the jazzy "Naminanu", which has a similar melody in parts to the intro in "Dodo", and "Submarine", the answer to the "Lurker" riddle) were left off due to time constraints in reducing this to a single LP. Put it all together and it sounds pretty awesome; as presented on the album, the two blended tracks still sound very good. Banks claims he did not really have a specific idea in mind when writing the lyrics, but it would seem overriding themes are nuclear holocaust and the generally animalistic behavior of many humans. This is a song that could have fit on "The Lamb", at least in sound.

"Who Dunnit?" Eh, okay if I'm in the right mood. It's a novelty piece and nothing more. Certainly nowhere near up to snuff with "You Might Recall" or "Naminanu", which could have been included instead.

"Man on the Corner" is a benign Collins R&B-oriented song about homelessness and its frequent causes, with a pleasant-enough melody; however, there is one issue on this song which would plague future releases - the bass being played in step with the drums as opposed to a counterpoint (such as on the excellent "You Might Recall"). This would pop up again in "Mama" and "Second Home by the Sea". Overall, Rutherford seemed to lose some interest in playing the bass over the next few albums, and that, to me, almost as much as the drum machine overuse, tended to make that later material sound more sterile and less imaginative. This would perhaps be the starting point of that trend.

"Like It or Not" is actually a tune I like a lot. Yeah, it's just a song about failed romance, but it has a great melody and the payoff at the end with Collins' excellent backing vocals and Banks' synthesized harmonica still give me chills.

"Another Record" - nothing all that special. Good drumming, though.

Is this a flawed album? Sure. But it's fun. Compositionally it's stronger than anything the band would do going forward overall. And to me it's certainly more distinctive-sounding as well. Add in the venom that some seem to direct toward it, and I have to give it four stars to equalize things somewhat.

Mr. Gone | 4/5 |


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