30 Years Ago: Genesis Release Their Self-Titled Album
If you’re looking for the precise moment when Genesis made their sharp turn away from free-form prog, here it is.
After engineering 1981′s ‘Abacab,’ Hugh Padgham took over as the group’s producer on ‘Genesis.’ He quickly got to work overseeing the band’s — and Phil Collins‘ — transformation into mainstream pop stars. The album got its reboot name because of this, and also because it was the first group LP to feature a complete set of songs composed by all three members.
From the prominent use of a drum machine on ‘Mama’ to the Top 10 pop hook of ‘That’s All‘ to the radio-ready ballad ‘Taking It All Too Hard,’ the album aimed squarely at the mainstream. And let’s not forget the shockingly wrongheaded decision to release a song called ‘Illegal Alien,’ which came with a blatantly racist music video.
But dig deeper, and you’ll find a glimmer of what had come before. ‘Home by the Sea / Second Home by the Sea’ starts crunchy and limber, and then it gets spacey and progressive, with a spooky theme to boot. This lengthy suite — combined, it’s more than 11 minutes long — represents the last rickety bridge between Genesis’ two periods.
Keyboardist Tony Banks, who composed the song’s lyrics, is particularly effective during the extended instrumental passage that links the two tracks. First, he skitters with a gutsy verve over a metronomic rhythm that seems to enclose the listener; then he helps shape a towering, almost paranoid wall of sound before the song’s theme is reprised.
Collins had by then developed into a singer of exceptional range, angrily imploring “sit down, sit down … sit down!” in the song. But more importantly, ‘Home by the Sea / Second Home by the Sea’ retains a distinctive musical character that rounds out the narrative. It’s all a perfect reflection an era of the band that was definitively drawing to a close.