Genesis – Genesis

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The album title is a lie: whereas self-titled albums released in the middle of an artist’s career can be taken as statements (think: The Beatles) or reinventions (think: Blur), Genesis is just the logical progression after their preceding albums.

It’s poppier than before: whereas the band who worked up a mean groove and jammed over it on Abacab seems almost afraid to do the same on “Second Home by the Sea,” despite the fact that there’s space to do so. Or maybe Phil Collins finally smacked Tony Banks with a drumstick to stop him from meandering from the melodies (see, for example, Banks’ solo on “That’s All”); he also broke his drumstick while doing so which explains why all the drumming on the album sounds like they came from drum machines. 

But: at the same time, you can still hear the remnants of the band they used to be: “That’s All” evolves, not musically, but emotionally, and I think that’s a really neat trick; “Home by the Sea” – about ghosts – opens with these flat-outweird noises; It’s Gonna Get Better” is two different parts smushed together (and doesn’t seem that way!). Even on clear filler such as “Second Home by the Sea,” they can’t help but round it out with a minute to link it to “Home by the Sea” (Saves them on having to think up a title. Personally, I would’ve gone with “Home at the Empty Disco” since that’s what it sounds like). 

I’m not saying it’s perfect, and though it is Genesis’ last good album, it earns that accolade from the first three songs alone. Broadly speaking, Phil Collins’American Idol-type singing – he channels everything that’s never happened in his life into his voice – will either fit perfectly into these songs (“Mama”) or work against them (the second half “It’s Gonna Get Better”; turns out his shouting’s a lot better than his falsetto). His Mexican – erm – on “Illegal Alien” is a love it or hate it affair accent (the best part is when he sings “Cigarettes” at the 0:32 mark), and can easily be taken as making fun of immigrants though the song as a whole seems to want to help them. Me? I love the choruses because of the accent and hate the verses for the same reason. And regrettably, though the band had used Earth, Wind & Fire’s horn section to great effect on “No Reply At All,” the synthesized ones in the song’s bridge to impersonate a mariachi band are about as realistic as Collins’ accent. And while I’m on the back half of the album: “Silver Rainbow” has much better verses than “Taking It All Too Hard” thanks to the drum groove, and it has a much better chorus too (“Taking It All Too Hard” would be absolutely nothing without its backing vocals) but the synths are really, really, unnecessarily loud. Honestly, the best song off the back half of the album is the only one that didn’t appear as the a-side or b-side on any single lifted from the album: “Just a Job To Do.” The funny thing is, it definitely deserved to be: it’s the fastest-paced with a funky guitar line driving, a horn hook for good measure, Phil Collins’ style fitting well with what’s happening lyrically and musically (“BANG BANG BANG!”). Oh well. I’m guessing since Mike Rutherford wrote the lyrics, Phil Collins decided it wasn’t worth anything.

But those first three songs! Unlike “Silver Rainbow,” Tony Banks’ synth line is doing a lot more than just harmonizing with Phil Collins’ melody on “Home by the Sea” and unlike “Taking It All Too Hard” and “It’s Gonna Get Better,” Phil Collins is actually singing a melody. A memorable one, too, made even more so by the performance. Opener “Mama” might earn comparisons to Face Value’s “In the Air Tonight” in that it manages the impressive thing of being grand and atmospheric at the same time (though this one is even more grand and evenmore atmospheric; grandiose too, from the Oedipal-inspired lyrics), there’s a sense of danger that Genesis hasn’t had since, what, 1976? Then there’s “That’s All.” As mentioned, the song moves from one emotion to the next: anger, sadness, acceptance and everything all over again, but not in a way that feels stitched as likeminded songs are wont to do. And though I wrote earlier that Tony Banks’ solo just mostly plays on the main melody, I’m happy about that fact because a) the main melody is that good (the album’s best), b) there was a good chance he would’ve fucked it up if he deviated and c) there’s a guitar solo that wraps things up if you really wanted a solo. The best song on the album, but even more importantly, the best song from the band in the 80s.

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