We Can’t Dance? More like, we can’t get inspired, or we can’t write decent songs, or we can’t go on anymore like this. Sorry, I’m a might bitter that my favorite band has “danced” this far away from their roots and into mainstream success that abandons most of the Progressive Rock nature they are famous for. Small wonder that after this album, And Then There Were Two. Keyboardist Tony Banks and bassist/guitarist Michael Rutherford would carry on without drummer/vocalist Phil Collins for another album, but they would not be returning to any former glories.
I debated on how I was to review this, my least favorite record by my absolute favorite band. Should I divide the songs in three categories like Inspired/Uninspired/WTF? Or Ballads/Epics/Insipid Lyrics? Truly, most of the lyrics haven’t got any better since the band started using the drum machine to create songs. And though there are some redeeming qualities, We Can’t Dance is a largely lackluster affair.
The Good: We have a couple of extended pieces over ten minutes (barely)! “Driving the Last Spike” and closer “Fading Lights” make strong comparisons to other almost-epics in the 80s sound they had been cultivating. “Hold On My Heart” is among my favorite of their syrupy lovelorn ballads, but that’s not saying a lot. “Dreaming While You Sleep” has Collins, Rutherford and Banks continuing the muscular direction they were edging towards in a style that is still innovative and modern, I guess you could say “progressive.”
The Bad: It just seems like they are “trying” too hard. “I Can’t Dance” and “Jesus He Knows Me” are so cheesy and almost as embarrassing as a previous album’s “Illegal Alien.” “No Son of Mine” tries to make a statement, but due to the lack of effort, I’m just not feeling it. Throughout much of this album, no one else seems to either.
The Ugly: The ever-declining ability to write really great lyrics. They proved they could when former principal lyricist Gabriel first left, but have not maintained this ability for several years with few exceptions. And all that power-chording, Ouch! Where’s the twelve-strings and the soft breaths taken to bring fluidity and dynamics? Rutherford seems to be listening to a little too much AC/DC. “Living Forever” is a decent song, but Italian band Moongarden does a better, more “Genesis-like” cover than you’ll find on this record.
Most of the album is forgettable and I’m certain that no one in the band considers any of these songs among their finest efforts. I would recommend most of Banks (A Curious Feeling), Rutherford (Mike & the Mechanics) or Collins’ (Brand X, works with Steve Hackett or Anthony Phillips) side or solo projects throughout the years over We Can’t Dance. Recommended for completists only.
Reviewed by Terry Jackson on December 31st, 2011