Thursday, April 09, 2009

Something for Thursday

One of my favorite albums from the 1980s is Genesis's Invisible Touch. I think a lot of people probably think of this album, if they think of it at all, as basic 80s pop, but I was strongly attracted to it because it's really a fairly gritty and depressing album. The two "up-tempo" songs, the title track and "Anything She Does", are peppy enough, but that's about all the pep that you'll find on this record. "Anything..." is about pin-up girls and their static, unattainable nature ("Fiction/That's all you really are I know..."), while "Invisible Touch" describes an infatuation with a woman only seen from afar ("Well I don't really know her / I only know her name. / And though she will mess up your life / you want her just the same").

After that, the album's themes get more serious. "Land of Confusion" is a cautionary song about life in the nuclear age, with that famous video using puppets to perform satire on the geopolitics of the time. The album's two ballads, "Throwin' it All Away" and "In Too Deep", are both about failed love affairs, one from the point of view of the person ending the affair and the other from the POV of the person being left. Both are beautiful songs, but both are quite sad. The first asks "Now who will light up the darkness / and who will hold your hand? / Who will find you the answers / when you don't understand?", while the second has Phil Collins meditating thusly: "I gave you too many reasons, being alone, when I didnt want to. / I thought youd always be there, I almost believed you, / All this time, I still remember everything you said, oh / Theres so much you promised, how could I ever forget."

One of my favorite rock songs of all time is "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight", which to my ears describes the harrowing night of a strung-out drug addict ("I got some money in my pocket / about ready to burn, / I don't remember where I got it / I gotta get it to you."). This song is sometimes heard in a shortened version, but it just doesn't sound right to me outside its eight-minute length with the long instrumental interlude in the middle. And then there's the two-part, eleven-minute "Domino", all of eleven minutes long. I have no idea what "Domino" is about -- maybe nuclear annihilation? It's a very strange song, but deeply compelling, as well, with some of the album's finest imagery in its lyrics: "Sheets of double glazing help to keep outside the night, / Only foreign city sirens can cut through, / Nylon sheets and blankets help to minimize the cold. / But they cant keep out the chilling sounds."

Rounding it all out is a vocal-less techno track, "The Brazilian", that was actually used in a gritty episode of Magnum, PI. For all the pop sound on the Invisible Touch album, the songs themselves are not pure pop at all. There's a lot going on underneath the surface of this record.

Anyway, here's one of those two ballads, "In Too Deep".

I remember how a lot of the kids I hung out with in high school and college had specific pop or rock albums that they listened to on their Walkmen at night, with all the lights out. Invisible Touch was mine.


Roger Owen Green said...

Actually own this album. May be the last Genesis album I liked pretty much start to finish.

teflonjedi said...

Loved this album back in the day...had a bootleg copy on cassette tape...

Tosy And Cosh said...

Me too! I would rotate between this, Huey Luis and the News Fore! and Bon Jovi's Slippery When Wet on alternate nights.

Earl of Obvious said...

I am a fan of Genesis

We chose "follow you follow me" for our wedding song. It was the only non classical tune played (besides of course "play that funky music white boy").

I named my son Gabriel after Peter Gabriel

In my opinion, Lamb Lies Down of Broadway was their 3rd best song.

This album? eh, well, I am sure it made them wealthy.

Earl of Obvious said...

Ok, I posted before I read your insight. I never thought of this album as deep. I discounted it as pop as soon as I heard the first few tracks.

I never really forgave them for letting Peter Gabriel leave. Oh, what could have been with a little more understanding.

jason said...

Not a big fan of Genesis or of prog rock generally, but I liked this album a lot back in the day. I have to admit, I also thought of it as harmless pop for the most part (aside from "Land of Confusion," which even a hormone-addled teenager like myself could tell was about something). Your insights have inspired me to go dig through my old cassettes and give it another listen, though.

Oh, for the record, my late-night, lights-off Walkman fodder was Dire Straits' Brothers in Arms. As, I imagine, it was for lots of mid-80s kids.