Not the Pazz and Jop 1972 – #10

Genesis – Foxtrot

What did they put in the water in England in the late 1940s and 1950s that led to the rise of so many progressive rock bands filled with clever lads in the late 1960s and early 1970s? Was it their public healthcare, making children healthy for once (maybe the first time) in the country’s history and thus allowing their minds to reach greater fulfilment? And if this is true, why did they choose this particular avenue of expression? Were they just not ambitious enough to get that novel out of their systems and then settle into writing pop music, instead of trying to write musical novels?

I only ever owned one Genesis album, “Invisible Touch”, which I played a ton when it was popular and have never once thought worthy of a listen in the last 30+ years. I also liked a lot of solo Phil Collins hits, but the only one I ever play on purpose now is “In the Air Tonight” (though I’m always especially happy to encounter “Against All Odds”). The reverence for Peter Gabriel-era Genesis made me resist it (my historic stubbornness is becoming a recurring theme on this journey – ah, the idiocy of youth), as I quite liked Collins as a personality (Ex-wives and occasionally his children excepted, who didn’t? He’s the patron saint of short chubby guys, with the land mines of our own ex-wives and children to navigate through.) and wasn’t happy seeing him being slagged for, basically, not being the guy who quit.

Having endured a fair bit of prog rock lately, it clearly isn’t my bag, which isn’t to say I didn’t find much to enjoy here. Throughout, there is a wonderful balance in the music, heavy on the keyboard, with timely guitars and a strong drum backbeat. “Time Table” is gentle and delicate, with the lovely “why, whyyyyyyyyy” in the chorus. And a note to Jethro Tull: “Supper’s Ready” is how you make a 23-minute song. It meanders at times over the course of its seven mostly distinct sections, but it’s never boring, and the final two sections neatly tie it together with a callback to the first two. Romantic, soaring, whimsical, goofy, aggressive, angry, frightening – there are so many mood changes here, it can feel like an hour in the life of a 13-year-old set to music. Overall, a pleasing-enough experience, but not a record that will likely come to mind when looking for something to play on a lazy afternoon. That is absolutely not the case with the next record I’ll be writing about.

(Originally posted on Facebook, July 10, 2021)

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