Celebrating Mediocrity as Success: Genesis Together and Apart

Review of the documentary, Genesis: Together and Apart (BBC), Part I.

http://www.veoh.com/watch/v78665528YFza6yzt

As someone who grew up with Genesis in the 1970s and followed the band’s career very carefully until 1986, I found the most recent BBC documentary, Genesis: Together and Apart (2014 or 2015–I’ve seen both dates listed for its copyright), a serious disappointment.

Not that there weren’t some fine moments in the film.  There most certainly were.  Some great conversations?  Yes.  Some great scenes?  Absolutely.

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Celebrating the Worst in Our Heroes

But, overall, watching the documentary made me feel as though I’d entered a de Tocquevillian nightmare.  What is common becomes what is great in this story.  Indeed, the documentary argues that it’s best to take one’s highest art and pander some low form to the masses, mediated by corporate marketers and profit-grubbing labels.

And, please don’t get me wrong.  I’m not such a snob that I don’t enjoy post-Hackett Genesis.  I do.  I still consider ABACAB (1981) a great art-rock album.  For me, there’s not a dud on the album, and it has never grown stale for me.  While I don’t listen to it as much as I do MOVING PICTURES, which also came out that year, I listen to it constantly and have for 35 years.

I don’t have a problem with GENESIS (1983), either.  While there’s a song or two on the album that does nothing for me, I still find “Mama” quite haunting and “Home by the Sea” outstanding.  And, as much as Genesis fans mock “The Silver Rainbow” as sophomoric, I think it’s quite endearing, having captured the mystery (and clumsiness) of a moment of love quite accurately.

DUKE (1980): Outstanding, overall.  I didn’t like “Misunderstanding” in 1980, and I still don’t.  But such is life.  I got listen to this album at any moment in my life, and I find it utterly captivating (I just skip that one song).

. . . AND THEN THERE WERE THREE (1978).  Pretty much a perfect pop-prog album.  Every song a little masterpiece.

It was only when INVISIBLE TOUCH (1986) came out that my love of Genesis faltered.  I still think “Domino” is quite good, but, at least, three of the tracks are simply unlistenable for me.  I can actually remember the day it came out, because my then-girlfriend was mad at me for some long-forgotten reason.  When she broke our date that night, I just laughed and said: “That’s ok.  I need to listen to the new Genesis album.”  Which I did.  And, which, naturally, only made her madder.

A year later, my INVISIBLE TOUCH cassette broke.  When I took it back to the store, I replaced it not with the same album but with one I’d never seen before, one with a much more interesting cover–THE COLOUR OF SPRING (1986) by Talk Talk.  I really can’t complain, as THE COLOUR OF SPRING became my all-time favorite album.  To this day, it remains that.

Back to the article.

I only purchased a CD of WE CAN’T DANCE (1991) about a week ago, and I’ve still never bought CALLING ALL STATIONS (1997).  I’m in no position to comment on WE CAN’T DANCE, but a first listen had me fast forwarding as quickly as possible through most of the songs.

Part II of this screed coming . . .

 

5 thoughts on “Celebrating Mediocrity as Success: Genesis Together and Apart

  1. Haha,Agreed on ALL of this Sir-Brad!!! EVERYTHING…………..EXCEPT for which You mention the tune “Misunderstanding”!!! I have to take issue with You on THAT one!!! I have always LOVED that song!!! To me,it’s always been MORE than a “weepy” love-song,but almost a provocative insight on WHAT he was seeing/feeling when he caught his significant-other,in the arms of another!!! Some of us,have BEEN down that road before!!! Haha.

    Anyway,as You quoted………….to EACH their own,regarding that!!! But Yes…….I totally agree in the fact that UP until the mid-80’s,Genesis was a REGULAR “listen” for me (and STILL IS!!!) BUT………that collection only goes from their Start,to around 1983!!! Everything after that…………is all “pop-nonsense”!!! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Michał

    I am actually among those few (at least that seems to be the common consensus that we are few) that actually counts “Calling All Stations” among the band’s best albums.

    I am not a Genesis fan, but still a good read Brad! I really like how you add all those personal details to your pieces here.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Harry

    I decided not to purchase this documentary, Brad, a decision based purely on the knowledge that Steve Hackett had been represented so badly. How the rest of the band could have sanctioned this is a travesty of justice and, to be honest, there are only so many times I can listen to the same old stories being bandied about as if they are being told for the first time.

    There is not a commercially-released Genesis record that I do not own (apart from one of the Box Sets as I only bought TotT and W&W in surround sound format, having remained loyal throughout their career) but the same cannot be said for the individuals’ solo recordings.

    I have We Can’t Dance and I wrote a favourable review of it back in the day but, on reflection, Dreaming While You Sleep and Fading Lights are the only two songs that have made a long-lasting impact and I consider to be amongst the best of the post-Peter/Steve era.

    Misunderstanding and Illegal Alien are amongst the worst songs they ever attached to the name Genesis…

    I still wallow in the early years and continue to celebrate those releases as being the cream of their output.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great comment, Harry! Thank you. As an American of just the right age, I always liked Illegal Alien. Not as a Genesis song but as a clearly sympathetic (even if a bit cheesy) song understanding the plight of illegals. Misunderstanding, though. Blech. Never liked it and never will. It’s a greeting card, nothing more and nothing less.

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  4. Robert

    I love the prog era, but Albums like We can’t dance should be so written off. It’s my favorate of the “pop era’ easily because many tracks return to longer more stated riffs. It makes me wonder how another album might have gone with Phil Collins and I would agree Invisible Touch while very popular, and it has it’s moments, it’s my least favorite. Thats just me.

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