When listening to any music, especially by artists with larger, more demanding catalogues, experience is a dangerously potent repellent (or attraction). Transitions of a band’s style can jar older listeners into a state of disgust – likewise can a previous, more obscure album take a newer fan aback. To summarise, as a band changes their way many fans can be removed, whilst a different set of followers are found. This, while not entirely true of every single fan, is part of the change commercially; not everyone can be pleased.
, supporters of Genesis had observed hints of the pop direction the newer line-up were set to take, despite the pseudo pieces of ‘progressive’ rock that were blended into the mix. Duke
, the previous album, was essentially the last attempt to include some involvement of the ‘vintage Genesis’ approach to it. If by now, like so many other Genesis fans of the 70s, you had not embraced the poppy, minimalist efforts, it was most understandable that the eleventh record of Genesis, Abacab
, was missing from your collection.
Instantly, there is a feeling of an easier-going, comfortable band, altering their sound for better or worse. The title track and opener shows the synth-based results the band would concentrate on from here in, taking away orchestral epics. The beginner of the album is loud and spaced, and undoubtedly the most aggressive song on the album, Phil Collins close to screeching lyrics that are in themselves not so angry (Do you want it?/You got it/Now you know
). More instrumentally pushed than other songs on the album, the beginning song - which illustrates the fine collaboration and musicianship the band were evidently striving for – is the high point of this album, proving the skill the band can possess for simplicity.
However, very little of this brilliance is seen throughout the rest of the album – overall, quality is inconsistent, and the album struggles to find a balance between upbeat and solemn ballads. “Another Record” is sadly forgettable, failing to distinguish itself between quiet and loud. “Like It Or Not” fails for similar reasons, and as the album progresses further, it becomes apparent that the band have made tracks too straightforward for their own good – there is nothing to remember due to the messy moments – drum beats that often drown out other instruments and overshadow vocal work.
Indeed, the feeling of dragging out songs is all too evident within this album. “Keep It Dark”, whilst initially a clear idea, fails to develop into something more worthwhile. Considering the relaxed sound aimed for, songs needed beaming choruses, in keeping with the ‘verse-chorus’ pop standard. Other tracks, however, go too far in the other direction while receiving the same soporific results; “Dodo/Lurker” trying to be as ambitious as possible, yet coming across unimpressive and disregarded as it reaches its seven and a half minute mark.
Striking the middle-ground between simple and innovative is a problem Genesis struggle with on this album, whilst “No Reply At All” may at times be one of the only saving-graces in this aspect. Whilst a clear-cut song lyrically, portraying a longing emotion (Listen to me, you never listen to me/And it seems there’s no way out
), the positive contrast in melody invites a pleasurable idea to the song – horns played by American band ‘Earth, Wind & Fire’ and complex bass lines via Mike Rutherford creating an example of the mainstream direction taken – however the song itself is an idea unprecedented by any other song on the record.
One of the major and foremost reasons for a general failure, however, is the lyrical work - coming across as brainless, lazy and above all showing no signs of emotiveness. The clichéd “Another Record” painfully recites lyrics such as Put another record on/Round and round and round/Ah – I see him smile
. Other examples, such as “Dodo/Lurker” are equally disastrous; showing up spontaneous writing as the song progresses from Fish he got problems/Where does he go, what does he do?
onto references to Darth Vader, Davy Jones, and, oddly enough, pimps. This array of randomness fails to produce any emphatic feeling with its actual song, and thus just appears embarrassing.
So while Abacab
illustrates the way forward for Genesis, it is overall one of their most disappointing pieces. The inconsistency of the album instigates a failure in rescuing some of the excellent songs that contain a catchy intent, whilst it also hosts sluggish songs that suffer from being excessively light. This album may already have older progressive fans of the group writing off the new adapted techniques, yet it does not supply enough to the newcomer without a bias experience either, and thus falls flat.