1986 Was a Bad Year for Music (Part 3 of ?) – Elton John / Genesis

This is the third installment of a “series” where I’ll be reviewing two bad apples from 1986 per installment, none of which deserve more than one or two paragraphs each. For part 2 of this masochistic series, click here.

A quick note, in case a lot of you think I’ve been too much of a Negative Nancy (in which case, yer a Sensitive Susan!): I’m taking a break from this series for now; it’s too heartbreaking and exhausting listening to these albums, often for a second time; I’m thinking I might do “XXXX Was a Great Year for Music” series instead.

But I’ll plug here that the best album of 1986 is the Smiths’ The Queen is Dead. That’s a record that doesn’t need me to sing its praises, but it bothers me that so many people think “Frankly Mr. Shankly” and “Some Girls Are Bigger Than Others” are filler. Folks, these were playful nuggets and showcase a humourous side of a band often derided as “too depressing”; the fade-out/fade-back intro to “Some Girls”, in particular, is a wonder. And to sing some praises, the title track (with drums reminiscent of Lol Tolhurt’s work on Pornography) and the crushing “I Know It’s Over” are better than the over-rated “How Soon Is Now?”, and the high-speed and wonderfully tuneful acoustic jangle of “Cemetry Gates” is better than anything on the Feelies’ acoustic jangle album of that year.

Anyway, this installment looks at one of the worst albums I’ve ever heard by anyone in Elton John’s Leather Jackets and what psychopath Patrick Bateman considers the “undisputed masterpiece” by Genesis:

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Elton John – Leather Jackets

This is – well, actually, I don’t know for certain if this is Elton John’s worst album; I jumped ship after 1975 and stole some glances at the sinking vessel while I paddled myself to safety. But this one’s pretty dire, and I’m left wondering just how much worse The Big Picture is if both Elton John and Bernie Taupin consider that one worse (that one has “The Way You Look Tonight,” whose choruses at least have, you know, a distinct fucking melody, which isn’t the case for anything here). Sonically, this has that roller-skater kitsch (the title track; “Heartache All Over the World”) but combined with the antiseptic-ness of a dentist office (“I Fall Apart”) that was the craze in 1986. And, as mentioned, not a single tune to distinguish (by all accounts, Elton John was coked out of his mind and this album was completed to get out of a contract with Geffen). “Angeline” predates fun. and that sort of “Woah-oh” hook by some decades; “Don’t Trust That Woman” (replete with lines like “You can beat her but don’t mistreat her” is interesting because Cher replaces Bernie Taupin on writing duties and it turns out Taupin might not have been responsible for the slut-shaming stuff of Goodbye Yellow Brick Road. Surprisingly, the public who ate up Invisible Touch turned their backs on this one – his first album to not generate a single hit since Tumbleweed Connection.

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Genesis – Invisible Touch

This sucks. As does the knowledge that this outsold Peter Gabriel’s So (according to Wikipedia), which took the same soon-to-be-dated technology of 1986 and made something palatable out of it, if sometimes cheesy. This one’s not cheesy in that parmeshian way, it’s cheesy in that parmezan way, you know? The parmesan cheese you can buy at Costco that comes in a tub that’s not actually cheese but is cheaper and you don’t have to grate yourself? That cheese. And thinking about it, I wonder what would’ve happened if Peter Gabriel remained with Genesis – both had clueless output in the late-70s, but Peter Gabriel might’ve led Genesis through the 80s with smarter (and better) art rock than the pap/rock of Invisible Touch.

And you know what the worst part is? The lip service. Genesis haven’t been a progressive rock band since 1978’s “Follow Me Follow You” (despite Duke’s vague reach to a gestalt) and they haven’t been a good progressive rock band since even before that. But knowing that they’ve been selling out for a while, they throw the old fans a bone: have two non-entities? Fuse them together into one 11-minute pieceashit; watch them eat it up. Too many “coercive hooks” (thanks Xgau)? Have an instrumental that features a synthesized orchestra screaming for help for 5 minutes. And on the “coercive hooks”, the only one that I find tuneful is the title track; Phil Collins – a powerful singer – at least belts the lyrics with the fervor of a man in love (though probably more with money than an actual person). There’s something about the way the “Yeah” completes the main hook that’s endearing. And there’s something frightening about the alien lights in the synths of “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight” that gets buried and then forgotten as the song goes through its 9-minute lifespan.

Anyway, I’ve given this album too much thought already. So I’ll just end on a note: the people who think that “dated” shouldn’t be used as a criticism (with “boring” and “sell-out” and “filler” and “pretentious” and shit, let’s just veto the whole language), put it this way: Elvis Presley’s “Don’t Be Cruel” dates itself to the 50s, but it’s timeless. Prince’s best dates themselves to the 80s, or the 90s, sometimes, but they’re also timeless. Hundreds of other examples. “Dated” doesn’t necessarily mean something dates itself to a specific time and place, though it often does; it means the thing has aged like unrefrigerated milk.

Disputed non-masterpiece.

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One response to “1986 Was a Bad Year for Music (Part 3 of ?) – Elton John / Genesis

  1. Never much cared for the Smiths, though I know many people who do. It might hit my own 1986 Was A Bad Year series! Ah well, chaçun a son goût, non? 😉

    Didn’t even know that Elton album existed. But wow, it definitely sounds avoidable.

    But I do have to step up and defend Invisible Touch, if only from the nostalgia angle. When we were kids, we loved this tape. Being kids, we may not have known better, but they were catchy tunes and it had many hits. I still have a copy on CD, so when I get to it, I wouldn’t be sirprised if I liked it more than you. Genesis definitely grew and changed (for better or worse), which is what every band should do. But I do like your question of ‘what would have happened if Gabriel had stayed with Genesis?’ That’s a great one to ponder…

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