A bunch of broad statements: this is a good album; this is one of the best albums of 1972; this is Genesis’ third best album; a lot of bands who were reportedly inspired by classical music to make multipartite suites could learn a thing or two from studying “Supper’s Ready” because it’s not just a bunch of movements stitched together (even though it probably was seeing as how “Willow Farm” was intended as its own song and then added to “Supper’s Ready” during the latter’s creation) since the band does the extra step of having recurring musical and lyrical motifs as classical suites were wont to do; I bet the band-members couldn’t explain why children were brought in to sing the last two lines of “The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man”; the sum is greater than its parts; though a few fans might rush to the defense of “Can-Utility and the Coastliners,” I doubt anyone will bother defending “How Dare I Be So Beautiful?” (where the only thing of note that happens is acoustic piano being treated into sounding nothing like an acoustic piano); in other words, neither “Supper’s Ready” or the album is perfect, though no Genesis album is. The following is a list of stuff that I like that happens in the album:
1. The cover. So many what the fuck’s need to be asked. I mostly just enjoy how the female fox (or maybe just Peter Gabriel in costume) seems absolutely nonchalant about the situation she’s in.
2. Tony Banks’ mellotron that opens “Watcher of the Skies.” Sure, it sounds like a cheesy 70s sci-fi flick but whereas other songs by other bands might be dated because of that, that’s how “Watcher of the Skies” is supposed to sound. In other words, if this album were to have been released today, I’m sure they’d have picked the same instrument and same tone.
3. Peter Gabriels’ vocals throughout “Watcher of the Skies,” which sounds like he’s genuinely trying to rally all the men into doing something about the apocalypse while more impressively still retaining a melody, each time bounding into full measures of rock music by the rest of the band, each of whom you can hear individually for once. Progressive rock bands have rarely rocked so convincingly.
4. Though reading the lyrics aloud might have you believe that it’s intended to be a serious social critique (“Creatures shaped this planet’s soil / Now their reign has come to an end / Has life again destroyed life?” retains its power today, considering the current “what the fuck do we do if the bees die” situation), Genesis differs because they always had a sense of humour – Tony Banks’ organ hooks throughout “Watcher of the Skies” adds just that, sounding like it came straight out of a baseball game. In a good way, oddly.
5. Tony Banks’ intro to “Time Table,” which isn’t impressive by any means, just a cute way of opening the song when they could’ve easily started it with Gabriel’s arrival at the scene. Equally cute is the electric piano song (though I think it was a bad move using it twice), and that’s twice I’ve used the adjective “cute” to describe a progressive rock song which I thought I would never do, let alone specifically to describe Tony Banks’ involvement in it, but here we are.
6. Peter Gabriel’s choruses on “Time Table,” and though he had already stepped out amongst any other progressive rock vocalist/lyricist onNursery Cryme, this is where he became the best one the genre had to offer.
7. Which brings me to “Get ‘Em Out By Friday,” a song that I don’t personally enjoy but happily admit that it’s worth listening to at least to hear Gabriel present a one-man, three-character play by himself. Mike Rutherford has said that these are Gabriel’s best lyrics, another social commentary, this time about businessmen increasing the price of rent until the tenants can’t afford to live there anymore, and, by the year 2012, Genetic Control has the brilliant idea of imposing “a four foot restriction on humanoid height” that’s revealed so “they can fit twice as many in the same building site.” Quite love how earnestly (and melodically) Gabriel sings as Mrs. Barrow (a Tenant) and how he rolls his r’s as The Winkler to really show what an asshole that guy is.
8. Hackett’s harmonics-filled ”Horizons,” which I’ve seen criticized as a throwaway, but I think it’s a good palette cleanser after the first side (and useless “Can-Utility and the Coastliners”) and a good way of introducing “Supper’s Ready.”
9. ”Lover’s Leap,” the first section of “Supper’s Ready” which frankly are so perfect that if the rest of the song were dead weight, it would be worth keeping around for those 3 minutes alone.
And though the song’s been famously described at length by a demonic experience between Gabriel, then-wife Jina and producer and friend John Anthony, wherein Jina became possessed, they exorcised her and figures in white cloaks did appear on the outside of the house that wasn’t supposed to be the outside of the house (though both Gabriel and Anthony assure us that they weren’t under the effects of drugs or drinking, I’m not so certain), I personally like it because of how romantically simplistic the lyrics are. The ominous “I saw your face change, it didn’t seem quite right” is cured by “Hello, babe, with your guardian eyes so blu-HU! / Hey my bay-BEE, don’t you know our love is tru-HU!” (another great melody).
Also, 12-string guitars sound beautiful when they sound like they’re cascading, but you probably already knew that. Great outro too (starting at the 3:35 mark), which nicely segues us into the next section.
10. Tony Banks gets out a bunch of hooks that makes “The Guaranteed Eternal Sanctuary Man” a good listen, but the best thing that happens in that song are the backing vocals under Peter Gabriel (starting at the 4:30 mark onwards), that sometimes sounds like a normal man and at others, sounds like a child crying for help.
11. The 6:27 mark onwards of “Ihknaton and Itsacon and their Band of Merry Men” where Tony Banks enters a climb before Gabriel shouts “WAITING FOR BATTLE!” that signals Phil Collins to give a galloping drum section while Tony Banks and later, Steve Hackett, deliver blistering solos over.
12. Peter Gabriel’s entire contribution on “Willow Farm,” where he drops some a ton of absurd rhymes, and makes you genuinely terrified that they’re going to change a bird (or was it an egg) “into a human being!” and at the same time, rejoice because your mum has changed to mud and mad has changed to dad.
13. The return of the “Lover’s Leap”‘s lyrics and vocal melody at the end of “Apocalypse in 9/8.”