The One After the Big One, Genesis, GENESIS
1981’s ABACAB put Genesis into the Top 10 of the U.S. album chart for the first time, cementing the trio of Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks as arena-packing mainstream artists. As little as six years prior, this was a virtually unthinkable circumstance for a band that at that time was known chiefly as faerie-chasing purveyors of prog rock at its most wonky (and this is a compliment -- think “The Carpet Crawlers,” "Firth of Fifth,” “Squonk,” and the seven-part “Supper’s Ready”). Collins’ solo album FACE VALUE, released seven months before ABACAB, doubtless helped stoke listener interest in new Genesis music; having a handful of Top 40 singles (the title track, “No Reply at All” and “Man on the Corner”) spin from the album didn’t hurt, either.
ABACAB’s success, coupled with another hit record from Collins (HELLO, I MUST BE GOING), put Genesis in the enviable but still strange position of recording a follow-up record with commercial expectations. The resulting album, 1983’s GENESIS, showed the band more than equal to that task, as they created a deep and varied collection of songs that perfectly melded progressive structures and instrumentation with their newfound mainstream tendencies.
The hit is “That’s All,” a sprightly, Beatlesque mid-tempo number about a couple on opposite ends of a perpetual argument who are, nevertheless, unable to call it a day. It became Genesis’ first Top 10 pop single in the U.S. (the first of several they’d rack up in the coming years), and doubtless helped the band sell four million copies of the album from whence it came. Along with the ballad “Taking It All Too Hard,” the driving hard rock assassin’s tale “Just a Job to Do” and their allegedly satirical (read, unfortunate/what-were-they-thinking) almost-hit “Illegal Alien,” “That’s All” typified the most commercial aspects of Collins, Rutherford and Banks’ partnership in the early ‘80s.
The rest of the record shows how sleek and streamlined their collective progressive muse had become. “Mama,” the intense lead-off track, finds Collins half-cackling maniacally while Banks employs his collection of keyboards to drop recurring figures and noises here and there, sprinkling them into the minimalist sonic space. Then Collins sets his drum kit to “muzzle blast” and lets loose in the song’s crescendo, and you can feel it in your chest. Do yourself a favor -- listen to it on headphones, as loudly as you can stand; if you’re not moved, you’re probably not breathing.
“Home by the Sea” and “Second Home by the Sea” form a single progressive centerpiece on GENESIS, a ghost story in multiple parts that builds, then separates, then comes back together again in a stunning, fluid fashion. And “Silver Rainbow” is a moody piece of radio rock that’s a shade or two darker in tone than most other such songs of the time.
GENESIS shows the range of the band and extends that range into commercial spaces they had previously been unable to reach. The next time they got together (after Collins’ massive NO JACKET REQUIRED album and Live Aid appearances), they made INVISIBLE TOUCH, and would emerge as bona fide hitmakers.
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