I wrote this about Invisible Touch last year:
Genesis - Invisible Touch My memories of this album seem to cluster around the age of six years old, and days spent listening to whatever was playing in the living room while staring at the intricate patterns in the carpet. That would peg my relationship with Genesis to 1988; it's possible my parents purchased this album previously, but I didn't become a music critic until about six, so any prior memories have not been documented. At the time Genesis - even mid-eighties Genesis, and indeed no other incarnation existed for me - seemed fantastically dramatic and serious and weighty, qualities that attracted and repulsed with equal measure, and stood distinct from the nostalgist soundtrack fare ('Dirty Dancing', 'Good Morning Vietnam', 'The Big Chill') that comprised the balance of my inadvertent listening in the late eighties. This is in part because it was dramatic and serious and weighty in its presentation, but also in part due to my imposition of a concept album-like narrative arc over the songs, some sort of love-struggle between our hero and a mysterious, seductive succubus, or at times between our hero's task to save the world and his debilitating desire for the femme fatale. This probably stemmed from the actual lyrics of "Invisible Touch", mixed in with ideas and allusions taken from my motley collection of then-favourite films and stories ('Dracula', 'Blade Runner', above all Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis', the Moroder version) plus some sort of general horrified fascination with the concept of desire per se, to become something much more ominous than a "straight" reading of the song would suggest - less invisible touch, more invisible taint. In some senses the album is better than I remember, but only in senses that I was too young to articulate or care about at the time, so it would be more accurate to say it has characteristics I can now identify with approval: those snazzy programmed beats in the title track, and its across-the-board panache; the Moroderesque middle section of "Domino", which I cannot remember at all, and now seems like some weird cross of Donna Summer's 'Once Upon A Time' and Simple Minds' 'Empires & Dance' (the joy and pain of rediscovery often boiling down to shifting reference points in the interim), the buzzing pomp and circumstance of "The Brazilian" which just about defies comparison with anything ever (if only because not all sounds which can be made should be) - unless it's the theoretical possibility of what would have happened if Trevor Horn had joined Yes only after producing Frankie Goes To Hollywood, In other ways, it's lesser - most obviously in the vocals, Phil Collins frequently sounding pinched and strained, as if he was patched in from a toilet. But mostly, it's not that the album is bad so much as that what moved 6 year old me doesn't move 28 year old me quite so much - in particular, the middle-class agit-pop of "Land of Confusion" is nowhere near as evocative as I remember, though I still love the guitar riff that arrives at the end of the chorus (otherwise you can stick with Alcatraz's superior dance-pop version, "The World We Live In"). The song I was most interested to rehear, and the one which also stands up best today, is "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight". Even going by a twenty year old memory, I had a feeling that the tune's pitchshifting syncopated rhythm and cricket-chirp synths would connect with a current (and perhaps modish) weakness I have for opulent eighties stabs at greenhouse global lushness - see also Fleetwood Mac's marvelous "Caroline", in some ways this tune's superior successor; on a different plane, the gentle but widescreen mysticism of the extended mix of the Commodores' "Night Shift". I was right, and "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" has a cracker arrangement, eerie and foreboding and excitingly disjointed and ultimately so epic that even the weirdly corny first section middle eight can't hinder it much. It's also a stout defence of the brave pomp of mid-eighties drumming. But what startled me on returning to this song was not how much it appealed to an older version of me; rather, it was the rush of remembered associations and feelings, like a familiar scent whose origin in memory you cannot place. This song, rather than the title track, bore the full burden of a six year old's moralising treatise on the dangers of sexuality, becoming a tragic declaration of submission to the alluring enemy, laden down with dramatic irony ("don't do it!" I had wanted to shout at Phil through the speakers, like I was watching a pantomime). The memory springs back to life fully formed, notwithstanding the now-apparent complete disconnect between the song's lyrics and the story I had created from nothing. It got to me so that I ultimately disliked this song, or rather, like my imagined protagonist, I viewed its approach with both anticipation and dread, and sighed with relief at its passing (which may be why I liked the following "Land of Confusion" so much at the time). From a pop critic perspective, the ears of children interest us because of how wrong they can be, or how right - a source of entertainment that functions in much the same way as watching trained monkeys, in that it's never clear whether the humor derives from how closely they mimic humans, or how far they fall short. But what interests me about my own child's ear is that clearly I had yet to perform the fundamental conceptual task - to isolate music as music, to consider it as such - that I now do without thinking. Genesis did not exist as music for me then, but as parable, or a prophetic vision of the adult world that was denied to me not by lack of age, but by a lack of story. To listen to "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" in particular was to step dangerously close to a threshold into another life, such as those that existed in my other (more age appropriate) favourite stories. I was right in one crucial respect: with an arrangement that brilliant, "Tonight, Tonight, Tonight" really deserves to be a dark tale of conflicted, dangerous desire. Not the confused and confusing song-about-nothing it turns out to be when replayed to these disenchanted 28 year old ears.
― Tim F, Tuesday, 3 May 2011 11:05 (2 years ago) Permalink