Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Genesis 4: Foxtrot

With all the ridicule prog-rock gets, it’s undeniable that the people who composed the music were inventive. It could be said that, like Spinal Tap, their taste was always more in question than that of whether or not they were skilled, but it’s staggering to think of how these bands were able to keep up the pace of creativity while touring between the release of a new album every 12 months.
In the case of Genesis, they definitely weren’t stagnating, as demonstrated by Foxtrot. The album art may suggest a sequel to Nursery Cryme, but that’s only on the surface; the guys had a lot more up their ruffled sleeves.
Beginning with a glorious Mellotron fanfare that goes from pastoral to foreboding and back in a matter of seconds, “Watcher Of The Skies” is one of the most exhilarating tracks in their catalog. Its crisp 6/4 meter keeps the whole band in check, and particularly showcases Phil Collins as an excellent drummer. Each high-hat tap or stifled crash is timed perfectly with Steve Hackett’s accents. Its placement on the album makes it easy to repeat as many times as one wishes. “Time Table” is a simpler arrangement, with piano predominating, and a lyric longing for the days of old. Its pastoral mood fades away for “Get ‘Em Out By Friday”, a truly strange narrative more in line with Peter Gabriel’s surreal song introductions. Using various dialects and voices, he tells a multi-faceted story of people being evicted from council flats, then leaping 40 years into the future when the government has limited the height of its citizens to four feet, so that they may build more floors to house people from whom they’re still collecting rent. “Can-Utility And The Coastliners” is even more obscure, providing a less edgy contrast to the previous song, the acoustic and whistling organ gently bobbing us along like a ship on waves.
Side two begins with “Horizons”, a brief, Steve Hackett acoustic instrumental that gains and loses an apostrophe depending on what edition of the album you have. It’s a lovely interlude, not unlike the snippets Steve Howe added to Yes albums. It’s a particularly effective palate cleanser considering what takes up the rest of the side. “Supper’s Ready” begins with a couple enjoying a quiet evening at home, and with the arrival of seven “saintly shrouded men” outside their window, they get to watch the Biblical Apocalypse ensue right there on the lawn, with a happy ending for all concerned. Seven sections of the songs are labeled, some with fanciful wordplay, occasionally reprising earlier sections, but flowing all the while. (The “Willow Farm” section is particularly striking in its change of pace; besides foreshadowing another future epic, there’s another tempo change for an almost Beatlesque interlude.) If we’re going to take a cheap shot anywhere, let’s just say that without this song, neither Marillion nor their singer Fish would have had anything resembling a career.
Genesis was getting better with every album, and Foxtrot was their best work yet. Their live reputation might have helped garner some attention, with their singer occasionally donning a dress, fox head, flower petals, bat wings and the like. The band proved that there was substance behind the shock.

Genesis Foxtrot (1972)—

1 comment:

  1. I remember picking this album up in my early teens. At the time Genesis' current album was probably Abacab, so that was my initial point of reference. This seemed so very strange. It wasn't that old, but it sounded like it came from another century to me, with multiple reference points to some alternate world history I knew nothing about.