Sunday, July 15, 2007

Unlisted: Invisible Touch

I know this album isn't on the list, but it's one I've been thinking about recently and it gives me a place to put one of my favorite pet topics. I'm hoping to get some unranked albums here in on the weekends when I should be ignoring this confounded project. So, here's the debut of unlisted weekend albums...

Band: Genesis
Album: Invisible Touch
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Being that it's not on the list, I'd imagine their reasoning goes as such: This record is pure bubblegum rock nonsense. Much of the album can be characterized that way.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: It's not all bubblegum rock and, more importantly, it's great bubblegum
Best song: "Let's Stay Together" is a classic among classics.
Worst song: "L-O-V-E" isn't all that good.
Is it awesome?: Sure.

I've mentioned before that I love progressive rock. It formed a lot of the basis of the type of music I like (Tortoise, specifically) and I enjoy the pretentiousness of it all. I'm not going to lie.

I had a period in college where I discovered -- and thus, listened to almost exclusively -- progressive rock. I picked up some Gentle Giant records, I listened to "Meddle" over and over, I dug through the non-"I've Seen All Good People" Yes records and got into King Crimson. I bought a Rush t-shirt (I still have said Rush t-shirt).

All this was spurred by a single night in Chicago during a summer weekend home whilst I was spending the off-months in my college's town of Columbia, Mo. I was drving back to my parents' house from my friend Jake's and listening to the radio. I had WXRT (a station at which I later interned) going and the title track from Genesis' "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" started playing. I was absolutely transfixed. I remember loving it and wanting nothing more than to hear more music like that.

Those who have spent a summer in a college town can understand why I jumped headfirst into buying all these records as soon as I got back into town. I went out and bought most of the Gabriel-led Genesis records. I bought the aforementioned Rush shirt on eBay. I remembered a friend (Ryan Woodsmall, who I can guarantee doesn't read this blog) mentioning King Crimson in regards to Tortoise (specifically) and post-rock (in general). So, that started my love for Crimson.

But, because of that night with "The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway," Gabriel-era Genesis has been my favorite prog-rock band (non-Pink Floyd divison).

With all of that self infulgence said, I also enjoy the '80s Genesis. I see it as a fundamentally different band (it is), but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it.


Also, I have the indefensible position: Phil Collins is a good songwriter and a decent singer.

I know it's hard to agree with. He's easy to mock. He is probably the ugliest man ever to have a no. 1 hit. His voice gets nasally at times. His pop sensibilities are so gross that he even covered "You Can't Hurry Love" in what appears to be a grab at an easy chart hit. There have been charges of his being a general goon (I think my sister said he's an anti-semite or something), too.

And certainly, it's easy to blame the new guy when a band goes from almost exclusively making records about insane medieval English stuff, Greek mythology and science fiction to a band that does "Invisible Touch." Talk about divergent.

But, if you can appreciate good songwriting, it's there. There are great songs totally masked by Collins' whine (I like it, but I understand why people don't like it) and the silliness that is music production of the '80s. Reverbed drums! Compression! Atmospheric synthesized strings! Horns (possibly also synthesized)! All unnecessary elements of production!

But, when other bands cover Collins' music and/or it is stripped of its '80s nonsense, it's good stuff and the songs are mostly really bitter. One of my favorite Genesis tracks, "Misunderstanding" is particularly good in this YouTube clip. Moreover, the multiple covers of "In The Air Tonight" (GodheadSilo's is my favorite) show how dark it is. Certainly, the Postal Service's version of "Against All Odds" is fun and Mariah Carey's version of the same song is nothing to sneeze at. Notably, recently, though has been metal band Disturbed's cover of "Land of Confusion." I'm not big Disturbed fan, but I'll say that it's a good cover and the video is the ideological sequel to the Genesis song.


Speaking of which... I want, specifically, to write about my love for "Land of Confusion." Protest music in the '80s was mostly reserved for Prince' "Sign 'O The Times," punk rock that only resonated in stoners' basements and later, in NWA. I suspect Neil Young put out a protest song in the '80s, but considering he hasn't done much of worth since 1975 and he farts out a record a week, I can't imagine it was any good.

Anyway, "Land of Confusion" is a fantastic song and a fantastic protest song, augmented by the greatness that is the video.

For one, the song keeps with the hippy idea of love and the modern idea of enviornmentalism in the pre-chorus and chorus. "And not much love to go around" fits in with the boomer ideals of the '60s (all we need is love, right, you old bastards?) while "This is the world we live in" has the underlying "don't destroy the Earth" theme to it.

The video, of course, is the best part of the song. In addition to the hilarious-looking cariacture latex puppets of Peter Townsend, Mick Jagger and a cast of others, the "Reagan-as-Superman" riding on a dinosaur is just brilliant in its biting criticism at U.S. foreign policy. Not only is Raygun going trying to cowboy up the world, he's an old idiot who has to subsitute a dinosaur for a white horse as he rides to the rescue. I love that imagery.

(Also, I think it's important to remember that Reagan's acting is famous for starring opposite a chimp, hence his being in bed with the ape at the beginning of the video.)

My only issue with the song is the Rolling Stone/Forrest Gump-eque bit "I wont be coming home tonight/My generation will put it right/Were not just making promises/That we know, well never keep." That is, of course, coming from the mouth of a boomer with theidea that boomers are going to fix everything in this "Land of Confusion."

Of course, hindsight is 20/20, but Phil, Mike and Tony: You didn't fix shit. Your generation was in power since the early '90s (in the U.S.) and the mid-'90s (in the U.K.). I'm not particularly familiar with the politics of Britain, but I know the current U.S. Boomer in Chief has done a crap job of just about everything. Certainly Tony Blair hasn't been a popular guy in Britain lately.


There are other great songs on the album, considering the album had five (!) top five hits in the title track, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," "In Too Deep," "Throwing It All Away" and the aforementioned "Land of Confusion." "Domino" wasn't a huge single, but it dealt with drug nuclear war any other Genesis song. "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" is all about getting drugs (not in the good, T. Rex way).

It's easy to pile on the title track as nonsense. Those ridiculous drums at the beginning are incredibly mockable and the lyrics aren't exactly great.

But, go and listen to it. It's incredibly catchy. You'll be humming it later, I'm sure. Yes, it's remarkably dated, but it's catchy and a lot of fun.


Do I think it should be ranked? On some level, yeah. The definition of this list is hard to wrap your brain around. Does it mean influence on other records? Does it mean originality? Does it mean best (and how the hell do you define "best?")? Does it mean best-selling?

I guess it's a combination of all those things. Certainly, the list has multiple platinum selling "Hotel California," the incredibly influential "Forever Changes" and the just plain oddball (though both great and influential, it never sold anything) "Trout Mask Replica."

The problem is that there are tons of stuff in the 350-500 range that just doesn't deserve to be there. Certainly, it could replace "Music" by Madonna or James Brown's greatest hits package (especially since the box set is on there). It's a great record that is cloaked in bad production and the general silliness that was that decade.

1 comment:

fft said...

Wow you are brave for professing your love for these guys. Most out-of-the-closet Genesis fans at least embrace the Peter Gabriel age but trash the Phil Collins era. I am old enough to have seen these guys in the 80s several times including this tour. I used to love these guys. That said, in my view this stuff does not hold up that well. I have a lot of this stuff on vinyl but I never re-upped and bought the CDs.

Still, way to defend what you like.