Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this music junkie as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. Compact Discs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no files.

Saturday, October 9, 2021

Genesis - Abacab (1981)

Note: this release was originally purchased as an LP, later replaced by this 2007 'Digital Remaster and Stereo Mix' CD

It's a bantamweight battle between Phil Collins' unabashed pop writing versus the group's prog-rock earlier days versus the up-and-coming New Wave sound. The bout ends in a draw, but I somewhat enjoy all styles on the album, particularly when they somehow all merge in the title cut. But good tracks are few and far between. Overall, I prefer Invisible Touch or, even better, Duke.

After abacabbing, the band focused on radio-ready, chart-topping releases and made truckloads of money.

Press of the time:
  • Trouser Press: "smothering of ideas by leaving no holes uncluttered"
  • Smash Hits (6½ out of 10): "Not exactly an essential purchase but undoubtedly worth a listen"
  • Rolling Stone (★★★): "Though you can't actually dance to Abacab, it does prove there's life left in the band yet."
  • Stereo Review: "a lifeless, styleless mess of repetition and garbage"
  • Musician: "Genesis sounds like a group for the first time."

Peak on the US Billboard Top 200 chart: #7
Peak on the Billboard Rock Album chart: #1
Peak on Cash Box album chart: #8
Peak on the Rolling Stone chart: #7

  1. Abacab (#4 rock, #26 pop) - catchy riff and chorus, then Tony Banks gets to stretch out a little in the prog solo section. That prog solo section is probably why the single didn't chart higher, but I like it anyway.
  2. No Reply At All (#2 rock, #29 pop) - Phil Collins snuck one of his pop solo tunes on a Genesis album and boy-oh-boy did that upset some Genesis fans. Not this guy; I enjoy the thing. Not surprisingly the producer of Face Value, Hugh Padgham, is credited as engineer on this album. This cut was probably left off the FV album because of its similarity to I Missed Again.
  3. Me And Sarah Jane - Starts off sounding like something from Duke but ends up being a bunch of song fragments that never really go anywhere. Pleasant enough, but nothing I'd seek out.
  4. Keep It Dark - a one-riff-pony track about an alien abduction. Pass.
  5. Dodo/Lurker - I like the bombastic Dodo section that kicks things off, but I really dig the popish synth hook of the mostly instrumental Lurker part. After the title track and No Reply, the third best cut on the album.
  6. Who Dunnit? - This repetitive song is annoying to begin with, but for some reason Phil affects a Cockney accent. Another pass.
  7. Man On The Corner (#14 rock, #40 pop) - Phil sneaks in another solo tune. I much preferred when he later recycled the drum machine programming for Take Me Home. A welcome change-of-pace, though.
  8. Like It Or Not - Not. (Apologies, but with that song title, they're handing me some low-hanging fruit, no?) Taking the heavy downbeat groove from Misunderstanding, this has its moments but, like track 3, just meanders around a few motifs. 
  9. Another Record - I can't tell if this filler tune is a clever way to end the album or an unintentional joke. Either way, it's still filler (with lots of drums).

For more information on the brief life of the CD longbox,
go visit The Legend of the Longbox.

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: I'm pretty sure my Genesis discovery went something like this: my buddy Jim gave me his copy of Duke in the early summer of 1982 and I played the heck out of it. Then I heard Paperlate on the radio so I went out and bought Three Sides Live. A few months later, I bought Abacab through one of those Columbia House scams (most people like to brag they got the better of Columbia House - myself included - but don't fool yourself, kids; Columbia House made a ton of money off all of us for decades until streaming finished them off.) I don't care much for That's All, so I never picked up the 1983 self-titled joint, but Invisible Touch soundtracked my summer of 1986. And then, for some reason now unknown, I was done with Genesis.

Remember taking those standardized aptitude tests in high school? The ones where the proctor said "there's no penalty for wrong answers, so just guess on the ones you don't know"? When we got near the end of the prescribed testing time, I would usually start singing this album's title tune in my head while filling in my answer sheet A-B-A-C-A-B-A-B-A-C-A-B and so on. If I knew then what I know now about standardized test construction and basic probability, I would have been better off just picking one letter and just sticking with that: B-B-B-B-B-B. However, I think I'm finally, gratefully done with multiple choice tests, so I don't need to clutter my mind with such things anymore. The real reason for the Abacab moniker is briefly explained here.
Previously revisited for the blog:
Turn It On Again: The Hits - The Tour Edition (2007)
Invisible Touch (1986)
Duke (1980)

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