Dickon Edwards drew my attention to a rant on Taylor Parkes' blog about how terrible this film of Genesis performing Dance With The Moonlit Knight is:
Now, having recently subjected myself to The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, I fully expected to agree with Taylor. But when I watched the video and read the rant, something extraordinary happened. The video won, and the rant lost. The values of the video -- pretension, imagination, daring, not being afraid of mockery, talent -- trumped the values of the rant against the video (mocking pierrot types, mocking eccentrics, swearing at self-indulgence). Peter Gabriel's costumes were daring and interesting, his gestures winning, the dynamics of the music fascinatingly varied, with really alluring soft, spangled, twangling passages. The flute-playing that has Parkes clutching his head in exasperation has me soothed and impressed, and Gabriel's "fuckwitted scalp-carving" is, for me, an admirable piece of avant fashion -- that little extra spurt of eccentricity I wish more artists would squeeze out of themselves. As Parkes' swearing began to recede, like the voice of a frothing psycho being escorted out of the fairy ball, the music started reminding me of the best bits of Pink Floyd and The Incredible String Band, while Gabriel's stage presence was part Jagger, part Bowie, part pantomime.
I then watched a visually-brilliant Genesis appearance on a Belgian TV programme (singing The Musical Box, from their 1971 album Nursery Cryme) which I also loved for its theatrical gentleness and eccentric charm:
What the hell is going on? Genesis, brilliant? This band I used to scorn engineering students at university for liking? I always thought I hated Phil Collins (especially Phil!), Peter Gabriel and Genesis. And yet here they are on my computer being young, brilliant and handsome. Even Phil! With hair! Is it too late to recant? May I take back everything I've ever said about this band? May I glow, now, with pride remembering how Edwyn Collins once compared me to them? Taylor, you're quite, quite wrong. And so, for years, was I.
Am I going mad? I've found something else great today. A new artist, this time, one so obscure that he's only had two plays of some of his MySpace songs (unless the counter's broken). He's called David Shane Smith, and if I were a record company I would sign him like that. He's got something of Dylan about him, something of Cohen, something of Beck, something of Captain Beefheart, something of Mark E. Smith, something of Thom Yorke, something of Jeff Buckley, something of Ariel Pink. Some have compared him to Momus, but I don't think that's apt at all.
David Shane Smith could be a hipster or a schizo. I think he's probably a hipster, on balance; he was in Brooklyn, but now he's in LA. He hasn't released anything, unless by "released" you mean making homeburn CDs and handing them out to friends, free, in sleeves made from torn-out magazine pages.
His music is exactly the fusion between avant and trad that I want to be hearing, the balance that music needs if it's to keep advancing. It's not good enough just to have well-made songs in nice arrangements, you have to push and challenge and bend the medium itself, otherwise it'll go sclerotic and become an interpretive art, the new classical music. Smith does that. He challenges the medium, and therefore the audience. It's good for the medium, good for the audience, and good for him.
Listen to Brand, or -- especially -- Miserabilism, on Smith's MySpace page. You can tell that this guy learned to draw before he learned to scribble. He learned to range before he learned to derange, he could do familiar before he could do strange. Miserabilism starts like a Leonard Cohen song (there's even a tiny whiff of Coldplay about the start), but goes where neither Cohen nor Coldplay ever have or would -- into something very like an early Beck rap, in fact. The next track, Brand, sounds like mid-60s Dylan singing over cheap samples of Cohen's Master Song.
It would be tragic if this guy went straight, threw out the quirks. As tragic as Genesis losing Gabriel and his fuckwitted scalp-carving, in fact.
I'm not sure if mr. smith amounts to more than x artist + y artist at this point. I'd throw devendra banhart and maybe the dismemberment plan for the loud parts in there with cohen and beck... it's all pretty and nicely executed, but does he have anything to say? Anything unique in the lyrics? Is there anything more than aggressive lo-fi quirk that makes him better than a michael b. a. robinson, for example?
If you were to record your old songs in this style (with the added bonus that you wouldn't have to queue in safeway among the *shudder* common folk), wouldn't they be better than this? (Might they be better than the originals?)
Those Genesis videos look like just another Saturday night at the Compound in Philly. Which is to say I completely agree--not so much about Genesis in particular, but about refusing to piss on the peacocks.
Don't feel bad about disliking Genesis. I'm a fan of the older Genesis albums myself, but if The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway had been the first Genesis album I heard I might not have listened to a second. The problem with The Lamb is that it was conceived as a live show first, and an album second. The live show is something like a Broadway musical with a slide-show synchronized to the music instead of actual Broadway performers.
About five years ago I saw a band called The Musical Box perform a re-creation of the live show for The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, with all the material licensed from Genesis. I'm glad I saw it, because I can appreciate the album now. I never really got into it before that, mainly because I just didn't get the concept.
I'm 100% with you on this, Nick. As concerns mr Taylor Parkes, I got as far as the paragraph with : "...fuckwitted scalp-carving - they're determined to bugger everything up as badly as possible...he starts adding those yelps ..) which just make him sound like a cunt... Gabriel with a fucking lawnmower on his head, prancing around like a Flowerpot Man... Jesus fuck."
That sad little tirade peppered with Tourrete-type expletives just sent me reeling back to 1991: Firstly, since that was the year I got a copy of Nursery cryme. I was really into prog and psych, and felt like I was on another planet. Everyone around me seemed to be listening to the likes of Technotronic, Erasure, Queen, Dire straits, madchester stuff, Transvision vamp, INXS etc. All of which I found abhorrent! Secondly, the music press (vox and select etc) was then at the height of its bashing of anything a) from the 70s and b) experimental in any way, lyrically or musically, and was awash with tirades like Parkers. I recall feeling depressed by their conservatism masquerading as 'revolt'.
About that time I got a commodore Amiga with a primitive sampler and sequencer, to add to my collection of broken and modded analogue tech junk, and started composing my own weird music. Looking back, it was probably the right time to start doing so. Genesis and the tirades in the music press both played their part!
Any chance you'll revisit The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, now? Yes, no? I was pretty surprised to see the way you hated certain things about it enough to pan it outright, even though you clearly admired other things... in any case, Selling England by the Pound is also a great record, and this is a great turnaround to see. (And okay-- maybe this is pushing it-- but the third Gabriel album is pretty damn solid, music/production wise at least!)
I've got to thank you for finally giving me the direct, push-this-button-now access to some early Genesis live footage-- I had never seen any before now and I'm now going to see whatever I can.
Also been listening a lot to Tender Pervert and Don't Stop the Night. I must disagree with you on one key thing-- though I prefer Don't Stop ever such a bit more as an album to Tender, the Tender version of "Righthand Heart" trumps the Don't Stop version. The unplugged electric 12-string sounds kind of magnificent, and I feel the Don't Stop version takes the piss out of the tune itself rather than celebrating its simple loveliness. Not that I'd usually argue for a more stripped-down Momus, but that's how I feel it went this time...
I think the key thing to finding things to appreciate with certain musics is placing the music historically: it's very easy, if you don't, to hear cliche piled upon cliche, without realizing that, like the hoary old saw about Shakespeare, they invented that stuff. Or if not quite invented, practiced it when it was fresh.
Frankly, there's much in common between the best prog and your own work. Unafraid to be unfashionable, unafraid to be literary, intelligent, obscure, caustic, utopian, manifestoesque, unafraid to throw any musical item that appeals into the mix: success or failure is often less relevant than sheer nerve. Yes, prog rock became excessive, or at least its success became oppressive, and the punk moment became necessary. But as we all know, punk all too rapidly codified into an even more oppressive orthodoxy than any of the mainstream genres that preceded it and, worse, found itself succumbing to the pseudo-rebellion of aggressive machoism, whereas prog (which took its own dumb path, folding itself into metal) was unafraid to be fey, theatrical, performative, blatantly false, blatantly ambitious.
That said, prog can certainly be annoying. But I think the ambition and outlook behind it is far better than any sort of out-obscuring negativism, and of course than any genre-policed market conformity. It's not quite the genre's fault that it became its own, highly successful market (at least, its chief practitioners did - and many of them declined in interestingness rather dramatically, none more glaringly and annoyingly than that Phil Collins fella).
i had an early genesis youtube day last month and they were fkn brilliant (even phil) . there's a live clip of watcher of the sky where the costume is actually great whichever way you look at it. you might even want to give gabriel's first 3 albums a try. - hell, having come this far even a phil collins track like 'mama' might have some momusian ill in it, though phil's a lot more sick.
Dear, oh dear... Is it really necessary to grant such attention to the flimsy scrapings of washed up old skool musik paper hacks such as Mr. Parkes? For christs sake, even saw David 'Melody Maker' Hepworth mentioned a few days ago here! Getting slightly worried... Is this blog becoming a depostitory for the whitterings of senescent musik hacks? Should you not be above such stooping and groping? Methinks it is time to ignore their feeble utterances and force them to answer the question they should have years ago (to paraphrase the line from 'La Haine' when the "street kids" wander into an opening at a gallery in central Paris) : what are you going to do when you grow up?
BTW Genisis blow donkey dicky : try DDAA, Univers Zero, Les Chats Renaissance, Un Drame Musical if you got a pair of brassy PROG ones.
Even seen comparisins made between neo-folkies such as Naevus, Rose Rovine e Amanti, Varunna, Argine and Spirtual Front and Herr Momus. Maybe it's the song titles : 'Angel always stands for us', 'Beloved Kitty And The Piercing Bolts of Amor', 'Son of the Widower', baroque flourishes, juxtapositional acoustic / electrics ... Now THAT'S a thread I'd like to read.
I think that what youf of our generation hated was the virtuosity and politeness of Genesis, not the theatricality. There were plenty of theatrical early seventies acts that weren't rejected during punk year zero - Alex Harvey, Roxy Music, Bowie. But I do see what you're saying - there was so much early seventies music that was better than what came in the wake of the Sex Pistols. Look through the list of John Peel sessions in any one of those early seventies years and there were excellent performers doing fascinating things - here's 1974 for instance: http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio1/johnpeel/sessions/1970s/1974/
I was about to launch into a spirited defence of Genesis (despite owning no music by them whatsoever) both here and on Taylor's blog. But actually my position is that the fact that someone finds Genesis annoying is a) not news, and b) not interesting. Of course early Genesis will piss some people off more than "Sugar Sugar" by The Archies. Stands to reason.
But it's tricky to sneer at something that's 35 years old and get away with it, and despite Taylor supposedly addressing this point, he doesn't really, he just says that he's thought about it and decided that it's still shit.
I've always had an invisible line in my head dividing bands who take risks with composition and look to break out of 4/4 mundanity: there's the ones who look smug and the ones that don't. So Captain Beefheart is brilliant, Zappa's annoying. Dirty Projectors are sublime, while Deerhoof grate. Yes are ludicrous, Magma are frightening.
But once you start judging bands by the idea of whether you think that they're pleased with themselves or not, you become a prick. So I try not to do it anymore. And that's probably why I've started listening to Chick Corea. Ouch.
Anyway, here's Magma, if you like your prog with aggression and sci-fi pendants hewn from pig iron.
You're a natural fan of Gabriel-era Genesis - the sequence of albums Nursery Cryme - Foxtrot - Selling England by the Pound - The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (yes, I'm still including that) anyway.
You're intelligent and educated, and you like a bit of clowning around. Ridiculousness need not be for its own sake, either - the Fool can speak wisdom, and so on.
I'd recommend starting with the Nursery Cryme album, which begins with The Musical Box. Don't expect to love everything, not right away, but you'll enjoy a lot of the allusions and references, and I bet The Return of the Giant Hogweed gets you cavorting about in no time.
Ian Matthews is the Stroboscopic records label boss from Addington, now living in LA and working for Mattel. He's always good for a Barbie or two. Ian is also a terrific artist in his own right, fusing retro drum 'n' bass to the guitar licks of The Smiths. He and I were once in a band called Hunky Dory, many years ago. We once handed you a cd, you said that you liked the titles and lyrics but were not too impressed by the songs as I recall. He also happens to be my best friend. He was only telling me yesterday that he has discovered the new Cohen / Currie. Your interview for Culture Deluxe has attracted one of our highest hit rates by the way. I was speaking with Praveen from Project Adorno last night at the Philip Jeays show. He was saying how happy he was that you have been releasing the Creation albums. Making the point that he has modelled his whole career on Don't Stop The Night. Hopefully you will be back in the new year for more lyrics in libraries? Cheers Nick. Keith.
One of the great musical moments of my life was seeing Genesis during the Lamb Lies Down tour in February, 1975. The Musical Box was the second encore and I was sitting in the second row (in a huge hall) about ten feet from a rubber-masked Peter Gabriel singing "Why don't you touch me, touch me, now, now, now!"
I agree David Shane Smith is quite a nice find, musically. The lyrics aren't doing anything for me so far. I'm not sure what you mean by calling him a hipster. Usually the term "hipster" is derogatory; I think I'd rather be called a schizo.
Well, hipster isn't pejorative for me (google: hipster imomus adbusters). His sytax on his MySpace page is redolent either of schizo scrawl or hipster drawl. They're quite similar, and overlap, depending on the prescription.
1. Literary influence (high not low, this is) 2. Non-rockist (and camp-ish too) 3. Dandy non-prole values (bet Andy doesn't do housework - get a life) 4. Controversial (Jesus Christ.. a Superstar?!) 5. Imaginative (look at the Cats.. and silver men on skates) 6. Colourful, never drab 7. Unafraid of 'concept' 8. Superflat, post-class and socially inclusive (everyone likes ALW)
Who'd have though it? That the values of "The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle" would be embraced by Northern Rock; "Cash From Chaos" by the Royal Bank Of Scotland. They were all "Selling England By The Pound"...