Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Genesis - Foxtrot

Foxtrot (1972) – Since there are only 6 tracks on the CD, I'll review this one track by track.

1) Watcher of the Skies – Rockets matters off on a leaden start, an attempted sci-fi anthem about god looking down upon his creatures that haven't taken care of the planet properly, with one of the ugliest mellotron tones (I'm assuming that's the instrument Banks is using) I've encountered. It chugs on energetically for over seven minutes while steadfastly refusing to embrace catchiness or melodicism.

2) Time Table – A simple, pretty piano ballad that is easily the most accessible and immediately enjoyable tune. As long as you can handle lyrics about jousting knights, and kings and queens sipping wine from goblets gold, this is a wonderful slice of melodic pop. Perhaps its simplicity in face of the maddeningly complex compositions that surround it make it so refreshing – doing simple well is often a difficult task to accomplish; any fool can master hypercomplexity. And despite the affected lyrics, Gabriel does manage one insightful couplet: "Why, why do we suffer each race to believe / That no race has been grander?"

3) Get'Em Out By Friday – Another science fiction tune, about rent control in a futuristic society plagued by overpopulation. Glancing at the lyric sheet, I note that Gabriel is supposedly singing this song theatrically in different parts from six different characters. You can tell because he changes his vocal affectations throughout, from lyric to lyric. The effect is more annoying than anything else, as is the band constantly shifting time signatures and keys to change the mood to fit the different characters' sections. The eight and a half minutes given aren't enough time to flesh this all out in any other manner than clumsily.

4) Can Utility and the Coastliners – i.e., the tune that passes everybody by without being too memorable. It's got some fast keyboard parts as it speeds up towards the end.

5) Horizons – Steve Hackett guitar solo. It's only a minute and a half long and is prettily played.

6) Supper's Ready – All the other songs on this album seem to be mere appetizers for this 23 minute long behemoth. It's not one long jam that stretches on forever like "Sister Ray" or merely a collection of guitar/bass/drum/keyboard solos stitched together; like I said, Genesis were always very song-like, and this is nothing less than 15 separate songs mashed together into one Abbey Road-esque suite (I think; I long since lost count of exactly how many tunes by the seven minute mark). It's an exhausting listen, but it manages to hold my interest with its ever-shifting moods and textures to the very end. I have no idea what it's "about", if anything much at all, and I doubt the band did, either. A prog-rock landmark, even if it's the type of thing I'm only in the mood for listening to once a year or so.

I'm awarding this one ***, even if I only really like two songs. But it helps that one of those two songs takes up half the record.

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