Thursday, July 12, 2018

A Trick of the Tail

Trick of the Tail, by far the best of the post Peter Gabriel Genesis LPs, is a forgotten classic. Makes not sense. As immense as Gabriel was, he demanded control over Genesis songwriting, particularly with Lamb. As a result, the first LP sans Peter - where they were clearly under enormous pressure to prove that they could survive without him - ended up a songwriters' and instrumentalists' clinic, essentially with four George Harrisons (I'm thinking about the exceptional solo effort All Things Must Pass, of course, which, were it whittle down to two disks, would rival anything in the Beatles' canon). Tony Banks's songwriting, Mike Rutherford's and Steve Hackett's guitar, and Phil Collins' vocals and drumming get a great workout here, and there isn't a clinker in the bunch. "Squonk," "Dance on a Volcano," and "Entangled" are the clear winners, though Banks's keyboards shine on "Ripples" and "Mad Man Moon." Only "Robbery, Assault & Battery" ever strikes me as a bit dated or campy - but it's strong enough instrumentally to overcome the somewhat forced lyrics, and essentially mimics Gabriel's offhand ditties on PG1, with the new Gen beating him to the punch.

Trick's production is far, far better than that of The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. The sound quality is so superior that a good many, if not all, of the songs sound as if they could be released today, while many tracks on Lamb are stuck in the 70's. This timelessness is enhanced by Banks' choice to use good old-fashioned piano rather than dated 70's synths. Indeed, the simplistic piano melody that accompanies "Mad Man Moon" is nothing less than (dare I say it?) a master stroke of the highly underrated keyboard player. A Trick of the Tail is also the boldest and most successful of Genesis's post-Gabriel excursions into long-form composition. With all its funny meters, tempo changes, weird chord changes, oddball guitar tunings, medleys - all of the hallmarks of the Gabriel era (it is as Trespass-y as New Order's Movement is Joy Division-esque). Banks and Hackett stand out in a way that wasn't possible with Gabriel. The departure of Gabriel sent many a proghead into deep, deep depression, and overnight turned Genesis, at one time considered the most influential progressive rock band to emerge from England, into a critical colony of lepers. Yet when the smoke cleared, and cooler heads prevailed, it was discovered that , shit, the music retained the depth and musical complexity Genesis had been known for all along. Anyone born after 1975 might find this impossible to believe, but the 80’s Grammy-grabbing Disney schlockmeister, Collins, actually used to be very cool. Concurrent to his excellent drumming and later vocal work with serious symphonic proggers Genesis, Collins played with serious fusioners Brand X, and remained in demand by people like Brian Eno for his services.

Trick and Wind and Wuthering, were the last truly progressive studio albums by the band before the departure of Steve Hackett, and their subsequent pop stardom. The inevitable collapse of prog rock was indeed delayed at least by the new Gen. Pick this one up long before Abacab and the later nonsense, and even before Trespass and, dare I say it, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (Indeed, without "Humdrum," it out shines PG1 by far).