So now the formerly “veddy british” sounding band, more known for 12-string bouts of fancy and pastoral settings befit a Merchant & Ivory film, have become the hit making machine. This is indeed a change for one of the finest progressive rock bands in the world. Earth, Wind and Fire’s horn section? Are you kidding me? What has happened to my beautiful Genesis?
Change is inevitable, and Genesis moves towards that direction successfully for the most part on Abacab. The opening title track is blisteringly good. It is straight forward in beat and rocks so very hard for this band. Guitarist Mike Rutherford is really magic here, and trades licks with keyboardist Tony Banks on a long extended solo in the outro that shows Rutherford to be growing more as a lead player. The song is lyrically odd, but musically portrays color and depth in a very powerful manner. This is the new sound they had pioneered on the previous album, one of my all time favorite records, 1980’s Duke review. In some ways though, this was not the album I expected after such a groundbreaking record.
There are some wonderful songs here. Rutherford’s “Like It or Not” begins a bit like Trick of the Tail’s “Squonk” and features a complicated yet beautiful melody. Phil Collin’s “Man On the Corner” shows him being a more controlling force in the band. It begins with the drum machine that they were now using to write most of their songs, and layers and builds to the end with Collins presenting us with a fine emotional vocal performance. “Keep It Dark” is undeniably catchy, especially the break where the singer says where he really went on his journey.
This is actually the first time I feel a bit disappointed in a Genesis record however. Banks’ solo contribution on the record “Me and Sarah Jane” starts well, but the seemingly deliberate attempt to write a “poppy” sounding chorus doesn’t work for me. All the other songs on Abacab are group composed. “No Reply” seems to fight against itself and never reaches a point where Banks’ keyboards and the horn section gel. The much-maligned “Who Dunnit?” most likely deserves the malignment it’s been given. Many of the lyrics on the group composed songs seem to be written on the fly and have no real substance.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a really good release by the “And The There Were Three” guys. They had been that trio for three albums now and had found a drum-driven sound (with Phil Collins help) that was very popular and taking them to successes unheard of before. The magic is starting to fade just a bit though. Closer “Another Record” is a great song, but could have just as easily been on a Collins solo album. This is how it would seem in later years for the band as Collins solo career became even more popular than the group for a while.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on September 23rd, 2011