Selling England By The Pound
Atlantic Records, 1973
REVIEW BY: Jeff Clutterbuck
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 01/05/2011
Believe me, I have tried my best over the years not to get upset with the lack of respect towards certain musical artists. Personal tastes are going to make anyone biased, but I'd like to think that admitting those leanings don't detract from enlightening and entertaining discussions/arguments.
Genesis has sold millions of records around the world, received praise for decades, and been inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame (for whatever that's worth). Odds are you mention the name, and someone can name at least one of their songs, though some may confuse '80s Genesis with Phil Collins and name one of those. That stylistic shift and the surge in popularity that accompanied it has led to the group's earlier work being comparatively ignored.
The epic "Supper's Ready" present on Foxtrot indicated to the world that Genesis had fully matured beyond some of the silliness that had populated the earlier albums. The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway became, depending on the opinion of the listener, their magnum opus, or progressive rock at its most bloated and overblown. Somewhere in between, the band delivered the most solid record from the Gabriel years in Selling England By The Pound.
While both of the incarnations of Genesis have their value, it is the Peter Gabriel-led efforts that are undoubtedly the more avant-garde and groundbreaking work. Nothing against what Collins, Banks, and Rutherford did as time went on, but from a pure, musical perspective, records like Selling England By The Pound are just more bloody interesting!
The band has expressed seemingly nothing but positive thoughts when discussions of Selling England have arisen. The tensions that would mark the following records were still somewhat in their infancy. The need to fill strong instrumental sections of music with tightly compacted lyrics is a sticking point that obviously still resonates between Gabriel and his band mates, but even that quibble only rears its head on the "The Battle Of Epping Forest."
The years Genesis had put in as a cohesive group really shows through the course of the record. Their early, Beatles-inspired pop leanings finally find a home in the "hit" single off the record ("I Know What I Like [In Your Wardrobe]"), while updated takeoffs on early classics such as "The Musical Box" pack just as much punch as their predecessors. By this point, each member of the group was secure in their place in the band, as well as their true talent levels.
Genesis has the record sales to back up their musical legacy, and the solo careers of Gabriel and Collins show just how talented the band was: they were just two pieces of an incredibly successful puzzle. Yet again, their acclamation in the public eye has been centered on their shift towards '80s pop music and not their progressive epics of the '70s. In this critic’s opinion, it should be the other way around.