Genesis - Foxtrot
1972; Atlantic Records; Surrey, England
First of all, can I just say how raw it is that Peter Gabriel used to dress up like that fox lady on the cover when he performed songs from this album?
IT'S TOTALLY FUCKING RAW.
Anyway-Genesis is quite an odd beast to tackle. Public opinion generally seems to flow against them, which is something I've never been able to understand. Or, wait, is it because my generation takes their opinions from South Park?
No, okay, I understand completely.
This is the fourth album they cut-it's from their "golden age", which means Pete Gabriel singing, Steve Hackett on guitar, Phil Collins on drums, Mike Rutherford on bass, and Tony Banks on every instrument in the world. This lineup had four albums-this one, Nursery Cryme, Selling England by the Pound, and The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I haven't heard Cryme but I can definitely say that this is solidly between Selling England and Lamb. That doesn't mean anything to anyone who isn't me, so I'll go into some more detail.
To understand this, you need to know something about early Genesis, and that is this: They write fairy tales. They don't write songs about fairy tales, they make new ones and make them as musically complex as possible. Yes, it's pretentious and dandy and abstract and weird, but it's also just gorgeous fucking music. I don't think there's one person who couldn't find a song that moved them if they looked into it.
On the proggiest, most inaccessible end of the spectrum, you've got Selling England by the Pound. It has eight songs, two of which are over eleven minutes long, and for all save one, there is a keyboard solo that takes over five minutes. It's essentially studio-sanctioned masturbation and it's not an album I recommend to anyone who can't sit through a lot of pretentious horse shit, lyrically and instrumentally.They try to jam too many stories and too many disparate ideas onto one record and it really doesn't work as well as they think it does.
And then on the other side you have The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.Much like Pink Floyd's The Wall, it's a double concept album, and what that means that when you have an album that's 90 minutes, you're going to have an audience that's not going to abide 50 of those minutes being instrumentals or keyboard solos, so what they had to do was rein themselves in, and shit, did it ever work. It's instantly accessible without losing a modicum of depth or intelligence and it tells a compelling, if hard to follow, story at that. It's easily in my top 20 favorite albums of all time.
And then right in the middle of all this you have Foxtrot, released before both of them. It's six songs long-the final song is the 23 minute "Supper's Ready". It's the centerpiece of this album-a lot of people would call it the centerpiece of their early career-and Gabriel, Collins, Rutherford and the rest had the good Goddamn sense to make sure that it moves. Every minute trucks along briskly as we start in the living room of a pair of lovers and ends with Revelations and the building of the new Jerusalem. "Epic" doesn't begin to describe this song, and not "epic" in the way a bro would use it- really, truly sweeping and moving, like the Illiad or Beowulf. It's worth getting this album just to hear this song, if you're willing to invest the nearly half hour you'd need to enjoy it.
The rest of the album fares pretty well-not a whole ton happens during the first song, "Watcher of the Skies", but "Time Table" is a pretty lovely letter to "A time of valor, and legends born/When honor meant much more to a man than life", and while "Get'em Out By Friday" can wear on the nerves, "Can-Utility and the Coastliners" entertains throughout. It's interesting to note that the two longer songs("Watcher" and "Friday) easily cause interest to wane, while the two shorter ones are superior and the very, very longest is by far the achievement of this album.
So it's hard to really get a bead on this one. I would say that it's without question better than Selling England and definitely not as good as Lamb. But how would it sound to a newcomer(the important part)? I couldn't in good conscience tell anyone to stay away from this album; I think it would be more beneficial to borrow it from a friend and see what you think. This is not "walking around" music-this is Mr. James's government class: You'll have fun and you'll definitely learn something, but you're going to need to plant your ass down, shut up and pay attention. This is big kid music, and Genesis is not going to hold your hand through it. If you don't mind a little keyboard action, if biblical overtones interest you, if you like your music as more than "background noise"-well, I don't actually know if you'll like it, but I'll definitely be curious to hear what you think.