For a debut album, Face Value
is truthful, and scented with departure and reminiscence. It is dark, yet also bright, complete with shades of grey, somewhat similar in contrast and tone to what the cover suggests. In comparison to this, Phil Collins’ face value it seems, is drastically polar to his progressive membership in the band, Genesis
as their percussionist and vocalist. If Genesis were to be anything radical, it was because Peter Gabriel made it so. It is then quite understandable why Collins and his solo effort are significantly different affairs from Gabriel’s almost infamous flower and bunny stage costumes.
While Collins made himself out to be a fairly competent drummer in Genesis (and here also), his piano skills whilst fairly simple and predictable were worthy (at least for him) to be something to explore further. They are in fact nothing to what you’d expect from a drummer, so as the joke seems to follow they have no sense of melody. But melody here takes on a different form, and even while a pop track and wonderful opener such as “In the Air Tonight”
may stink of cheesy early 80s soft rock, the clever progression that’s clearly been forged out of past influences is something to be appraised. Collins saw the potential to fuse synth-pop, soul, soft rock and world music at the same time, and still with enough weight to maintain a sense of balance to the musicality, even if that meant adhering to cliché instrumentation techniques such as awfully recorded brass sections. The problem is, this balance is very hard to maintain, and he certainly doesn’t master it, nor does he always show a sense of how to finalise a song properly, opting for the atypical fadeout a little too often, and in turn giving them an uncompleted feeling.
You yearn for more, and he does deliver unexpectedly in the album’s shorter entries. “Droned”
, is an elaborate instrumental soundscape, wonderfully positioned between the sparse “The Roof is Leaking”
and the more worldly “Hand in Hand”.
Somehow, Collins and his lack of formal training has divided the album’s sound between his influences, and hence creates an experience that’s both engaging, and occasionally unbearable. This is showcased throughout – really anywhere you can find these qualities, and inferiorities. In essence, this is what makes Face Value both an important record of the time, and for Collins himself. Whether he’s tip toeing between synthetic ballads, or stamping through layered poppy forests, Collins seems to make up for the album’s predicaments.