Saturday, January 18, 2014

Overrated: Springsteen, Genesis

In light of the situation Bruce Springsteen has a new album out and Rolling Stone falls over their ass to praise each and every one of them since the beginning.  For the first time, High Hopes didn't get the converted and overrated 5 stars that Rolling Stone usually puts out, it was only four and half stars. Such a disappointment.  Bruce can make a album of farts and it would give five stars.

I never been a big Springsteen fan myself although I have the 'classics' but even after picking up a Japan CD import of Born To Run have yet to hear it.  The desperate call to arms which could lay claim of the return of Bob Seger.  Darkness On The Edge Of Town was ruined by a muddy Jimmy Iovine mess (later CD versions gave it a brighter sound) and The River went on too long for two albums although I liked the throwaway rockers like Crush On You, You Can Look But You Better Not Touch better than the overplayed Hungry Heart.  And Born In The USA was his crowned achievement, finally tacking the critics heart, the buying public radio and even the dreaded MTV although once again the lesser known and lesser played songs like No Surrender and Darlington County were the highlights.  The darker and more sinister Nebraska released earlier in the 80s may have been Springsteen's acoustic achievement as well.  But you couldn't escape Born In The USA and the major hits off that one. 

To me, Bruce's last classic was Tunnel Of Love and most anything after that despite what Rolling Stone told you was at best 3 and a half stars or less.  The Ghost Of Tom Joad disappointed me so much that the best version of that song Rage Against The Machine did better but the rest of that album I can't tell you about, I fell asleep.

The Rising and Devils And Dust to me were the last two good Springsteen albums, the former a response to the 9/11 tragedy in song, but somehow sounds a bit more dated today than 12 years ago. Working with Brendan O'Brien, producer to the 90s stars started out fresh and rocking but each album it became more stale and pandering to radio that wouldn't play any of the albums.  After Magic, I gave up and quit buying Springsteen's album, no matter how much Rolling Stone or his appearances on TV wanted me to go buy them.  Plus the digipak packaging was awful.  Sirius Radio loved Bruce's new album so much that Deep Tracks and Underground Garage played tracks off that record, which basically got me to change the station. Which come to think of it when somebody plays Hungry Heart or Born To Run, I change stations anyway. But didn't when the Garage played You Can Look But Don't Touch.  I'll give Bruce points for having a good laugh with Jimmy Fallon when they did a parody of the Chris Christie Bridge Gate mess set to the tune of Born To Run.

And Genesis,  Ah 2000 Man got the ball rolling on this one when he was talking about one of their albums.  Another band you couldn't escape in the 80s, Genesis remains the most frustrating prog rock bands that I have ever heard.   For all the talk of the ground breaking Peter Gaberial years, I still don't see what the fuss was all about, listening through the bloated Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the oddball Genesis Live (originally came out on Buddha) and the flawed Selling England By The Pound to which back in 1973 was featured a lot on the old KLWW FM station after hours and it may have been their best of the 70s.  The Jonathan King produced And The Word Was Genesis, done for Parrot/London years ago shows more Bee Gees than theater and perhaps I might chance it on Foxtrot, their only ABC album release before moving to Charisma and later Atlantic.

When Peter Gaberial left to go solo, the band soldered on with Phil Collins at vocals, stumbling around for Trick Of The Tail, Wind And Weathering (heard good things bout them) and And Then There Were Three, when Steve Hackett said bye bye and all of a sudden, the hits were starting to come.  The less prog rock they did, the more famous they got and with 1980's Duke they finally hit gold with hits Misunderstanding and Turn It On Again, but the rest of the album was a bore and Aracab wasn't much better, by then Genesis dropped the prog rock and went with more album rock (whatever that means)  Aracab I liked the single edit better than the boring ending which goes on too long and makes you wonder when the hell they going fade the damn thing out.  Genesis, the S/T 1983 album gave us the creepy Mama, a single that I did buy but really couldn't never understand the meaning of that song and Phil's ha ha ad libbing which gives me visions of Hannibal meeting up with Jodie Foster in that movie Silence Of The Lambs.  While the band dab a bit of prog rock in Second Home By The Sea it was more of a afterthought and the cheap stab Illegal Alien would be blacklisted off radio in this day and age. Invisible Touch is not prog rock despite the ten minute Domino would like you to think it is, in fact the album is more MOR in the way Chicago was MOR, selling out for the hits and they got them with Throwing It All Away and In Too Deep.  Phil Collins left after We Can't Dance and basically I never heard the whole thing and don't intend too.   But I did check out Calling All Stations and by then Genesis lost their way, I guess it was an attempt to return to a Prog Rock style but nobody bought the thing and when I found a dollar copy of it I could see why. An hour long snoozefest.  Only Congo was worth hearing a couple more times, the rest sucked.

Phil Collins career at times were better than Genesis in the 80s and why not. Face Value and Hello I Must Be Going were pop extensions of Aracab and formalted pop singles boasted by the all familiar drum roll of In The Air Tonight, another overplayed classic rock song.  Phil had a undying love of Motown (You Can't Hurry Love) and made a Motown album of sorts with Goin Back but on that album he played it much too safe.  Collins was a very busy man in the 80s, guesting on Robert Plant's first two album, and Eric Clapton's August.  And of course playing in Live Aid in England and jetting across the ocean to end it in the US in 1985, no wonder he burned out or people got tired of him. I thought his 1996 album Dance Into The Light was quite good and some tracks he discovers garage power pop. It hasn't aged as bad as say, Hello I Must Be Going or Face Value but the overall picture of Phil Collins is you either like him or loathe him, and there's a fifty fifty split in the results. 

There are two Genesis best ofs out there and both of them are flawed.  The more known Turn It On Again The Hits is the best overview but it shortchanges Peter Gaberial, only two songs including an updated 1999 The Carpet Crawlers and perhaps the best PG Genesis song in I Know What I Like In Your Wardrobe and even Ray Wilson gets some love on Congo but the album is overrun with too much MOR crap from Invisible Touch and We Can't Dance and leaves out Paperlate.  The 3 CD Platinum Collection is bloated but it does capture the best (and worst) of the Gaberial era (Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, The Cinema Show, Supper's Ready) some of the lesser known 70s album after P.G. and another disc of the hits. 

For all its worth, The Platinum Collection falls shorts, tries to hard to cover most of the albums and basics (except for And The Word Was album) and if nothing else shows Genesis who they really are.

A very frustrating prog rock band that became a hit singles band that continued to frustrate the masses while adding some new fans.  And continues to frustrate us all to this day. 


2000 Man said...

Oh, man! I hope you didn't get yourself stuck listening to much of that Genesis! They're spotty enough with Gabriel, but after he left outisde of Turn It On Again I can't stand them. Phil's solo stuff is brutal.

I've only got one Bruce album. It's okay. I know why The Underground Garage plays him, but I don't understand how he fits in with their aesthetic.

R S Crabb said...

Howdy 2000 Man,

Most of the Genesis stuff is gathering dust on the shelf. But it was a chore going through the 3 CD Platinum Collection. Mike Rutherford did a nice album called Acting Very Strange, somewhat progish and having Stewart Copeland sitting on drums.

Some of the lesser known Springsteen stuff does sound at home on Underground Garage but the new album makes me turn the station. I get bored with the repetition very quickly ;)

TAD said...

Hey Crabby -- For me, Genesis was at their best right after Peter Gabriel left and before the big hits started coming.
I have a problem with Gabriel's voice -- it's too ... guttural(?). Except for "Counting Out Time" and "The Knife," every Genesis song PG originally sang lead on sounds BETTER when Phil Collins sings it ... but that just may be because I discovered these guys back-asswards. Might just be me.
I was on their bandwagon from TRICK OF THE TAIL through THREE SIDES LIVE (not counting DUKE, everybody falls asleep sometimes), even liked it when they started sounding a little like the Moody Blues, lotsa mellotrons and stuff.
But by the time of "Mama" I was starting to lose interest. Some of the later singles are OK I guess, if you don't have to hear 'em every day.
But I still think their middle period's classic. For me, PLATINUM COLLECTION actually doesn't have ENOUGH of their best period.
Sorry to get in so late on this one....