The Genesis Project:
A grandiose title for essentially relenting and listening to a band I have long since derided (despite having never listened to a single album) as being self indulgent, noodley, prog-rock pap.
Following a conversation with someone on Twitter (and by conversation I mean my making a snidey remark about Genesis) I realised that maybe I was allowing my (admittedly inane but nonetheless very real and very potent) hatred of all things Phil Collins to prevent me from potentially discovering something wonderful.
I mean, after all. What had Mr Collins done to really deserve this level of vitriol from me?
Well there was “Buster” that was fairly tortuous viewing and then there’s his stupid; pudgy, ‘lovable’, ‘cheeky chappy’, would love to jump up and down upon repeatedly whilst wearing rusty cramp-ons and a beatific smile face.
A face that; whenever it enters my field of vision makes my hands instinctively clench into white knuckled death fists and my eyes – of their own volition – try to disappear around the back of my head to escape gazing upon his wacky, gurning, wonk eyed visage crudely drawn on to a withered sweet-potato fizzogg.
*AHEM* Sorry…. I digress.
So a rubbish film, an even rubbisher face and he sound tracked that sodding drumming Gorilla farrago … Oh and Sussudio which is as close to experiencing herpes of the ears as you’re likely to get… Oh and that fucking ‘I can’t dance’ video AND that weird topless Schweppes advert that I always think was him and then it turns out it was actually John Cleese but I still detest Phil Collins for even after I’ve been reminded of that fact.
So, ok there are in fact lots of reasons to hate The Collins and his solo oeuvre, but that shouldn’t prevent me from liking a band he was part of and from whom millions of people derive pleasure from… surely?
Well, we’ll see won’t we? I agreed to listen to one Genesis album all the way through and without prejudice and report back, so that’s what I’m doing:
The album recommended to me was: “The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway” which I was informed was a double album, this initially filled me with trepidation; I then had a quick shufty on Wikipedia only with horror to discover it was a ‘Concept Album’. This was to be a baptism of fire and no mistake.
Concept Albums in my experience are almost entirely navel gazing, onanistic affairs born out of prolonged cocaine abuse. They seem to be the equivalent of a band going through a mid-life crisis, desperately trying to display their long departed virility by donning a leather blazer and skinny fit jeans and getting a choppy contemporary hair-do; but instead of exuding the edgy cool they are aiming for they simply come across as, at best: massively self involved and at worst (and more often than not): bloody ludicrous and a little bit sad.
Anyway, I was determined not to let preconceptions cloud my judgement.
So, deep breath and with a dull sense of foreboding hanging heavy in my gut I press play.
It immediately kicks in with very familiar sounding but not unpleasant twinkly-twonkly synths and the ‘protagonist’ of the piece (The album tells the story of a young Puerto Rican chap called Rael who lives in New York; who may or may not be schizophrenic, the internet is unsure on that matter)is introduced in the title track which has big (funnily enough) Broadway musical style choruses intermingled with strange sinister voice overs and would make the ideal theme music to an early 90’s sitcom about theatre life, probably starring Scott Baio. Definitely wearing a torn off muscle vest/headband combo.
So far so pleasant and like all ‘good’ concept albums there are no gaps, we’re straight into ‘Fly on a Windshield’ whose opening line makes my stomach skip:’ Something solid forming in the air’ but it’s ok, it’s not the Gorilla song (which is what I hope that song is referred to until the end of time) and it’s actually quite agreeably melancholic and highlights how talented – but perhaps not imaginative – a bunch of musicians Genesis were.
I won’t describe each track individually as there weren’t enough stand out ones and there’s probably only so many times I can say: “well it wasn’t too offensive” or “it’s a bit Tommy, isn’t it” before we both get bored and wander off to do something more interesting instead.
As previously mentioned, ‘The Lamb’ (as I believe it’s affectionately known) very much fits the Concept Album/Rock Opera mould, with all the songs sort of blending into one another like a thick prog-rock mulch and there are the arduously protracted drum and synthesiser solo’s that I’d been dreading; one of which enraged the pet budgie so much I simply had to skip it for fear he’d pecked himself to death in a bid to escape a world with that sound in it (which – incidentally – is exactly how I feel about ‘Easy Lover’)
But among the frequent noodling passages there are some gems, Back In NYC being one, this was a particularly pleasant surprise as it is one of my favourite Jeff Buckley songs and I was hitherto blissfully unaware of the source.
Thankfully the Genesis (begrudgingly calls it the ‘Original’ version) wasn’t bad enough to spoil it, in fact I quite enjoyed it.
Back In NYC is a song filled to the brim with disarming imagery (“my fuzzy heart is ready for rape”) and the stark, jagged synths puncturing Gabriel’s shrieks, yelps and eerie spoken word sections give the song a real musical and emotional depth not present on the rest of the album.
But that’s the xenith, from that point onwards it doesn’t really get going again and seems quite content to simply ramble on repetitively until the close, like a daffy uncle with one good anecdote he can no longer quite remember, but that doesn’t stop him trying to tell it.
Comparisons to The Who and Floyd persist, but if you’re going to attempt such a niche genre you are always going to be held up to your peers (betters?) and in their defence, they stand up to them quite well.
So overall… Is it any good?
Well, it’s not bad. It’s not really my cup of tea and (as I may have mentioned) my problems with Phil Collins held me back from fully enjoying it.
But I can see the appeal in Genesis, with their huge swooping synths and taught, occasionally visceral drumming; The Lamb is a good album musicianshipwise and as good a Concept Album you are likely to hear, but that only serves to damn it with faint praise.
In short. The highest praise I can give it is: It wasn’t as bad as I’d feared.
I still hate Phil Collins though.