Review Summary: An epic meditation on intangibility.
As Genesis marched through the 1980’s with a multitude of hits but a number of uneven records, Phil Collins’ tenure as a solo artist came to a point where it had overtaken the popularity of the group. After the success of No Jacket Required
, his pop career became so intertwined with the band’s output that the two could barely kept separate. This eventually led to Invisible Touch
, by far Genesis' best-selling album. Firing up the kind of catchy pop anthems and tender love ballads that others would have killed for around the time, it has also been dismissed by fans of their older work for its ultimate commercial viability. Michael, Philip and Anthony had steered right into the loving arms of the masses, and there was no going back.
Now, perhaps the above may be something of an exaggerated bit of history, but Invisible Touch
did not become a landmark of its era by chance; all necessary trademarks are in place. The tracks are laden with keyboards and synthesizers, and seem paired with programmed drums more often than they are not. No room exists for any real guitar parts, which are pushed back to a minimum presence. The sound is outdated and the album arguably makes very little use of the band’s proven talents. True, when comparing it to the brilliance of many of their past works, it’s a poor accomplishment at best. But Genesis were, almost literally, only half the group they had once been. They had evolved under the influence of the decade, and ended up making one of its defining records. With that in mind, worse things could have happened.
Since it more closely resembled the sound of his own work, this has been called an unofficial Phil Collins album, and during many songs it does feel as such. Collins was the one responsible for those vocal hooks, after all, having made these love songs so damn catchy. Whether he’s singing of women with an Invisible Touch
, messing around with your feelings, or about being In Too Deep
a relationship, or how you might simply be Throwing It All Away
for them; he sells it and sells it well. But in the end, of course, it is the brilliant ensemble playing of Banks, Collins and Rutherford that makes these tunes into something that’s more moving than your average pop song.
Indeed it is still a Genesis record at its core, and so there are tracks capable of challenging the one-dimensional pop formula. Land of Confusion
was one of the record’s biggest hits, thanks to its infectious rhythm, simple message, and memorable video, which featured puppet caricatures of the band, various world leaders and other celebrities. Notably, both Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
pass the 8-minute mark, keeping at least a hint of prog intact. The former succeeds particularly well in combining lengthier instrumental sections with yet another appealing chorus, which backs in and out again as the songs plods along at a pleasant slower pace. The latter is the closest thing to a traditional progressive song that can be found here, coming in no less than two parts. It may be of small comfort to those that love classic Genesis, needing to be accessible for a broader audience like everything else, but that does make it a better fit on the album.
Like it or not, Invisible Touch
is a classic of the 1980’s. It’s a product of its time above all else, created by a band that realized playing by the new rules was a better idea than stubbornly sticking to the old ones. In this regard, Genesis handled things far better than any of their former peers, no longer operating under a compromise that has, in most cases, only resulted in inconsistent, unconvincing records that failed to express which side of the crowd they wanted to please. This was the exact opposite, maybe a nightmare to some, but a glorious thing for those who just enjoy a great pop album.
Genesis Mark V:
Tony Banks – Keyboards, Sythesizers
Phil Collins – Vocals, Drums, Percussion
Mike Rutherford – Guitar, Bass
Tonight, Tonight, Tonight
Land of Confusion
Throwing It All Away