Atlantic Records, 1983

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


In hindsight it's quite appropriate that, fourteen years and two lead singers into the band's career, Genesis chose to leave this 1983 album self-titled. While there were no personnel changes, in its own way this disc represented a new beginning for the band. With this disc, the group's long transition from arty prog-rockers to mainstream prog-poppers was complete. The two studio albums that followed -- Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance -- were both essentially remakes of this disc, using a similar template to increasingly diminished artistic returns.

By 1983 the remaining Genesis trio -- Tony Banks on keyboards, Mike Rutherford on guitars and bass, and Phil Collins on drums and lead vocals -- had long since resolved to pursue a more commercial, singles-oriented sound. That sound is at its peak here, as one strong melodic hook after another is grafted onto the band's keyboard-heavy, still somewhat progressive instrumental base. The weak link here is definitely not the music, which is often strong and memorable.

No, the problem -- as would become increasingly evident over the two albums that followed -- was that burgeoning solo artist Collins seemed to have little left to say as a lyricist in the Genesis context. Indeed, the lyrics on my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Genesis range from the insipid ("Taking It All Too Hard") to the silly ("Silver Rainbow") to the downright cringe-worthy ("Illegal Alien," where Phil "Artful Dodger" Collins actually tries to sing with a Mexican accent… good lord, I realize it was 1983, but what were they *thinking*??). Collins also essays, in the closing "It's Gonna Get Better," part two of his egregious incredibly-rich-person-feeling-kinda-bad-about-the-homeless trilogy, which started on Abacab with "Man On The Corner" and concluded on his solo hit "Another Day In Paradise." As for that little Satan-chuckle Collins lets out between choruses on the more-than-mildly-disturbing "Mama," all I can say is yikes.

Thankfully, the music redeems this album. Latter-day Genesis was all about syncopation, whether you're talking about Collins' dynamic drumming, or Tony Banks' flowing, layered synth work, or even Mike Rutherford's underappreciated bass lines. From the almost country-rock cadence of "That's All" to the propulsive rhythms of "Just A Job To Do" (which could have been the theme song to the movie Collateral), this band invests every cut with carefully arranged, often intense rhythmic flow.

The highlight of the disc for me, though, is the most proggy tune on it, the terrifically entertaining two-part "Home By The Sea" suite. Part one is a nifty little ghost story that Collins delivers with great conviction over a bounding rhythm. Part two is one of latter-day Genesis' best (mostly) instrumental pieces, a shifting, building, multi-faceted mini-opus that gives each player his moment to shine and holds together nicely all the way through to a brief chorus reprise at the end.

The only place the musical part of the equation falls down its on "Illegal Alien," where Banks goes with one of the cheesiest synth tones ever committed to vinyl and repeats the both catchy and incredibly annoying melody enough times to make me want to throw things at my speakers.

I've been tough enough on this album that you might expect a lower grade, but honestly, I put it in the category of a guilty pleasure. Collins was on the downslope of his career as a lyricist by this time, and I could do without ever hearing "Illegal Alien" again. But overall it's quite a strong disc musically, and "Home By The Sea" is one of my favorite Genesis tunes ever. Thus:

Rating: B

User Rating: A


I agree completely with your review, but I wanted to clarify one point. The laughter in "Mama" was inspired by Grandmaster Flash's rap song "The Message," where the title character laughs between lines in the chorus. Collins mentioned this in a Genesis documentary that I have on VHS somewhere. Not that this makes it any better, but that song came out in 1982 when Genesis was recording this, hence the reference.

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