Review Summary: The best Genesis pop album along with Duke, Invisible Touch is one of the group's most underrated efforts.
By the time the mid-80s came around, Genesis and their singer/drummer Phil Collins essentially became synonymous with each other in the public eye, especially when it came to the band's big hits. Who once was a musically and lyrically complex progressive rock outfit was slowly transforming into a pop/rock band once original vocalist Peter Gabriel left and Collins took over the mic. Soon, Steve Hackett left as well and the remaining trio pressed onward; once Collins started his own very profitable solo career in soft rock music, elements of his work started creeping into Genesis' sound until their progressive roots disappeared completely (this happened around the Abacab era). Once 1986's Invisible Touch came around, the sound of Collins' solo work almost completely overtook the band's work (with a few notable exceptions); so why, after all of this, would it actually end up being such a solid listen?
On the surface, Invisible Touch is probably a 70s Genesis fan's worst nightmare; there's barely a touch of progressive rock to be found, and a good handful of the songs would fit very nicely in adult contemporary radio stations. Furthermore, the four biggest smash hits were crammed into the front of the album; it's obviously a popular choice for pop artists to kick an album off with a strong opening single, but having four at once seems a bit ridiculous (although I have seen it happen before). However, commercialism aside, Invisible Touch isn't nearly as bad as you might expect it to be; if you can accept the poppy nature of the record, it becomes a stronger listen as well as one of their most emotional ones. As was said before, the first half of the experience is dominated by the big singles like the title track, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight," "Land of Confusion," and "In Too Deep." Immediately, the one that should surprise most listeners is "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight"; remember the single version that's played on the radio frequently? Well, that's not the version present here; this one is a whopping nine minutes! This song and the eleven-minute "Domino" represent the most progressive tendencies of the album with their sprawling length (at least by pop Genesis standards) and some added complexity in the songwriting. "Tonight..." in particular has a full synthesizer-driven instrumental section in the middle; in fact, most of the song's strength's are driven by Tony Banks' keyboard work. The biggest thing that comes to mind is the tension-and-release tactic between the verses, choruses, and the uplifting vocal interlude that follows; the way the major and minor notes/chords intertwine gives the song a very unique touch. The other hits (excluding one, but we'll get to that) are great as well, despite their more poppy nature. The title track is an iconic synth-driven power ballad that allows Phil to give one of his strongest vocal performances, while "Land of Confusion" is a heavier number that primarily showcases Mike Rutherford's high guitar chords and catchy main riff.
The first half is definitely where all the best things happen though, because the second is a bit of a mixed bag. While "In Too Deep" is a deeply emotional, soulful ballad and one of the band's best songs from their pop-era, the same can't be said for the hopelessly boring "Throwing It All Away." Definitely one of the biggest products of Collins' solo influence, the song sounds like if you took "That's the Way of the World" by Earth, Wind and Fire and sucked the soul out of it to fit an easy-listening format. While "Domino" is a successful "experimental" pop epic, "The Brazilian" seems like an unnecessary instrumental with synthesizer experimentation that just isn't all that interesting. "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" experimented with Banks' multi-layered synth arrangements more tastefully, but "The Brazilian" simply seems like filler. Also, one more thing: where the hell is Mike Rutherford? He's put to the sidelines for the majority of the album; while his basslines remain are prominent (although pretty simplistic), his guitar playing just gets drowned out most of the time.
To fully enjoy Invisible Touch, you have to go in with the right frame of mind. Don't go in expecting a crazy progressive rock comeback or something, but also don't get too cynical and expect a full-on Phil Collins solo record. It's still a full-band effort, although not as much as it could have been; in any case, if you enjoy fun and emotional 80s pop/rock, this album will easily fit the bill. Perhaps I'm viewing it as a guilty pleasure of sorts, but it's just too damn entertaining to completely ignore; yes, there's still crap on the record, but the gems are so well-done that it almost doesn't matter. Almost.