Tag Archives: Prog

“Home By The Sea” Is A TWILIGHT ZONE Episode Written By Genesis

Genesis has always been a guilty pleasure for me, but a pleasure nonetheless. I’m not sure how you feel about Genesis, but I have an odd fascination with the band. In fact, I think I love them. It’s not like I really had a choice in the matter, I grew up in the 1980s thus the band is encoded in my DNA. My love for the sappy, syrupy Phil Collins-era eventually led me to the darker, stranger stuff generated in the 1970s when the band was led by Peter “Shock the Monkey” Gabriel. I can (and do) defend a lot of bands, but Genesis has always seemed indefensible, even to me.  Having one of the periods most famous drummers and then using the then-fashionable drum machine on your records? Egregious.

But amid the  puppet music videos, the drum machines, and embarrassingly earnest love ballads, Genesis never really stopped being a prog-band at heart. Even long after Gabriel had vanished from the band Genesis would tuck weird (and lengthy) progressive rock songs onto their albums. These songs no doubt confused the average pop fan who bought their records for the radio singles. Worse, however, these progressive artifacts always seemed to bring the band’s albums grinding to a halt (even though many of these songs are quite good). I find it interesting that a faction within Genesis fought the good fight to keep the band weird even as they were churning out mega-pop hits like “Invisible Touch.”

"Spoooky"

“Spoooky”

As the 1980s wore on, Genesis evolved away further and further from Gabriel’s version of the band replacing his cold theatricality for Collins’ affable charm. And yet, even as they basked in the neon glow of the mainstream (read: MTV), the band continued to make strange music that the public enjoyed.  I’m not 100% sure, but I have the feeling that the majority of people consuming Genesis’ music were oblivious to the darker nature of some of the bands output. I am no exception. The best Genesis songs, in both the Gabriel and the Collins era, are the ones that strike a balance and perfectly merge the band’s bizarre oddball sensibilities with more mainstream pop music. For my money, the best peanut butter and chocolate mix of the two sides of Genesis is the 1976 album A TRICK OF THE TAIL, which was the band’s first post-Gabriel album. If you find the Phil Collins stuff to be too poppy and the Gabriel stuff to be too stuffy/overblown, I implore you give A TRICK OF THE TAIL a listen. It’s the best album the band ever released, mostly because Gabriel was gone and Collins had yet to fully commit to being a pop idol.

Anyway, a few months back, I became obsessed with “Home By The Sea” off the band’s 1983 album GENESIS. For most people, myself included, GENESIS is the record where pop finally won out over the progressive side of the band.  I always remembered if for it’s pop hooks.  It was these same hooks that led me back to reevaluate the album. After hearing “That’s All” on the radio for the 10,000th time, I gave GENESIS another listen.

It was just as I remembered. The album is loaded with hooks, but among the tracks one stood out. “Home By The Sea” isn’t just a good song for this period of Genesis, it’s a good song period.  It’s so good, I found myself humming it all day long. I hummed it while brushing my teeth, driving to work, making a cup of coffee, riding in an elevator, and staring up at the ceiling while I waited to fall asleep. In short, I was haunted by the song.

Home By The Sea cover front

The more I thought about the song and the lyrics (the ones I could remember) I realized that despite being catchy, “Home By The Sea” is a dark, strange song. I decided to read the lyrics and re-listen to the song. When did, I was immediately struck by something incredible: “Home By The Sea” is a fucking Twilight Zone episode! Well, not really…but kinda. The song is about someone sneaking into a house, presumably with ill intent, and getting accosted by ghosts!

“Coming out the woodwork, through the open door

pushing from above and below

shadows but no substance, in the shape of men

round and down and sideways they go

adrift without direction, eyes that hold despair

then as one they sigh and moan”

These ghosts are lonely and force this person to stay with them as they relive their lives. The song talks about pictures coming to life and while it all could be a metaphor for holding onto the past (or growing old), on the surface this is a creepy ghost story of a song.

“Images of sorrow, pictures of delight

things that go to make up a life

endless days of summer longer nights of gloom

waiting for the morning light

scenes of unimportance, photos in a frame

things that go to make up a life.”

I’d heard this song on the radio countless times over the years growing up and none of this had ever occurred to me. During my re-listen of GENESIS, I discovered that the song is actually part one of a two-part suite of songs, the other being “Second Home By The Sea.” That second half is a fantastic near-instrumental (Collins sings a bit of “Home By The Sea” at the very end) that adds a sense of grandeur to the ghostly tale. Combined into one, “Home By The Sea/Second Home By The Sea” is over 11 minutes long which probably explains why it is broken apart (which feels like label interference). But taken as a whole I find these songs to be incredibly powerful.

It’s important to remember that this song(s) appears on the same album as “Taking It All Too Hard.” I can’t think of a greater tonal shift than the leap from “Home By The Sea” to “Taking It All Too Hard.” Sure, the songs don’t appear back-to-back, but the fact that they inhabit the same album is very strange. Not ghosts coming out of the walls strange, but strange nonetheless. That GENESIS reaches such sublime heights while also spiraling so low seems like proof that the band isn’t very good. However, I actually think the opposite. I think it takes real talent and chutzpah to be both on both ends of the creative spectrum on the same record. Straightforward radio pop and a mini-prog suite about ghosts? Amazing. Like something from The Twilight Zone. 

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LONERISM by Tame Impala

Australian daytrippers Tame Impala burst onto the collective consciousness in 2010 with their fantastic debut album INNERSPEAKER.  That record, which I once described as perfect Sunday morning chill-out music, set the bar pretty high for the band.  I honestly didn’t expect to hear from Tame Impala so quickly, especially after lead singer/songwriter Kevin Parker released an album of similarly psychedelic (but far woolier) tunes under the name Pond in March of this year.  Much to my delight, however, Tame Impala is back with their new album LONERISM.

In case your’re wondering, the sign on the gate reads: “Dogs, even on a leash, are not admitted beyond this point.”

What I find most interesting about the album is that it’s both a leap forward and a step back.  Sonically, the album is lightyears ahead of INNERSPEAKER, which itself was hovering at the very finge of our soloar system.  The band pushes the band’s sound even further into space with it’s  heavier use of synthesizers.  Parker has said in interviews that LONERISM is more prog/indulgent that the last record.  And while that typically is a negative, in this case the songs on LONERISM run wild without running completely away (the longest song clocks in at just over six minutes).  The band’s vast, spaced-out sound is pushed to the limits on such tracks as “Mind Mischief” and “Apocalypse Dreams.”  Both tracks sound like a calmer, mellower, less cartoon version of The Flaming Lips.  LONERISM also recalls Todd Rundgren, whom the band has cited as a major influence.

That said, LONERISM is also a bit of step back in that lyrically the majority of the songs deal with personal issues of loneliness, isolation, and social awkwardness.  The best example of this is the woe-is-me jam “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?” in which Parker sings about being alone and only thinking he’s happy. This material would probably seem whiny, self-pitying, and immature except that it’s swathed in a big bouncy beat.  The trippy vibe takes an emo kids lament and transforms it into the inner musings of a stoned philosophy major.  The albums themes of isolation are also represented on the album’s cover, which is a photo taken by Parker at a French public park.  I think the shot of the happy people viewed through the bars works best with “Why Won’t They Talk To Me?”  Tame Impala was smart to both expand their telescope sonically while at the same time write more personal songs. It keeps the band from floating away entirely into the stratosphere where the listener is unable to relate to them.

Sitting amongst the green.

Special mention should be made concerning the band, specifically Kevin Parker’s affinity for John Lennon.  John Lennon’s ghost looms large on LONERISM, specifically on the albums best songs “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards,” “Sun’s Coming Up,” and “Elephant”.  Parker’s vocals eerily channel the former Beatle throughout the album, but on “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” sound like a lost PLASTIC ONO BAND track.  “Sun’s Coming Up” sounds like a sleepy/boozy Lennon demo for one of his piano ballads. “Elephant” which is my favorite track on the album, sounds like “For The Benefit of Mr. Kite” merged with “I Am The Walrus.”  It’s a lumbering rocker that wouldn’t stick out too much on MAGICAL MYSTERY TOUR.   The homage/influence of Lennon will probably turn off as many people as it switches on.  I don’t think it’s 100% fair to give Tame Impala too much grief about this because:

1. The dude can’t help who he sounds like

and

2. There are worse things to be like than John Lennon.  Do Tame Impala rip off The Beatles? No.  Do they re-invent the wheel? No, but what they create vast sonic murals of trippy space rock and they do it well–end of story.

Ah. Freak. Out.

Tame Impala have forged a solid second record with all the big, epic sound you’d expect from the band that brought us INNERSPEAKER.  However, more than just delivering more of the same, the band has stretched their legs and dug a little deeper for LONERISM.  The album, while not as top-to-bottom perfect as INNERSPEAKER, still manages to capture the imagination and delight the listener.  To say that LONERISM is a headphones album would be the understatement of the year.  Switch off the lights, pop in your ear buds, and close your eyes.

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