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Albums of the week and a bit about my history with Genesis

The Muse research I did for a week prior to the gig last month has changed the way I listen to music. A week before I decided to go to the Muse gig, I knew only one of their albums, and that one not very well. So I got hold of their other three and spent an entire week listening to all four albums as much as I could. It paid off big time and the gig was one of the best I’ve been to. I knew every song they played and now I’m listening to them a lot (twice through Absolution today — awesome album!)

The thing with the Muse albums was that I only had a week and so the albums weren’t really distinct in my mind. It was more like one big album really and, being an album kind of guy, I like to listen to entire albums from start to finish.

So, what I’ve decided to do is, when I get a new album, I’ll listen to it through several times during the course of a week so that I can become familiar with it.

The girl I went to see Muse with is a U2 fanatic and so I thought I would listen to U2’s albums, starting from the beginning. I’m also going to see Genesis in Brussels on the 24th so have been filling up the holes in my Genesis collection with iTunes Plus (DRM-free at last!).

I got a pile of freelance translation work through from an agency a couple of weeks ago and our almost-one-year-old likes to fall asleep to music in the afternoon. So it’s a perfect time to put on an album on repeat and get as much work done as I can. I can also listen to music in the evenings when I’m translating. After a few listens in the background as I work, I become familiar with the music, but it’s still not enough. So, after the familiarisation process, it’s time to start listening a bit more intently and seeking out some lyrics. Wikipedia also gets a visit (both U2 and Genesis have fairly comprehensive Wikipedia entries).

So, this week’s albums are U2’s first album, Boy, released in 1980, and Genesis’ album from 1976, A Trick of the Tail.

From the very start of Boy, it’s apparent that you’re listening to U2 and couldn’t be anyone else. It’s got a raw, sort of unpolished sound to it, but for a début album from a bunch of kids, which they pretty much were at the time, it’s really quite astonishing. I did have a passing familiarity with U2, having had the Joshua Tree on cassette back in the day and had a taped copy of Achtung Baby. For some reason, I never really followed up, even though I liked what I’d heard. So I guess in some ways, there was a large U2-sized hole in my musical knowledge. Boy sounds very much of its time, and to that end, a bit dated. So it’s fun to come at it as a newcomer almost 30 years later. It was well worth spending a week on this album and it’s whetted my appetite for the following albums.

I’ve been a Genesis fan since Invisible Touch back in 1987. In fact, the first concert I ever went to was the Invisible Touch tour at Hampden Park in Glasgow. At the time, all I had was Invisible Touch, but the concert was played on Radio 1 soon afterwards, so I taped it and listened to it over and over for years.

After that, I got Genesis (1983) and The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway (1975). I loved both and used to listen to them on my Walkman. I grew to love the Lamb a lot and used to try and force it on whomever I happened to be with after a few bevvies. It’s not for everyone of course. It’s a journey into the mind of Peter Gabriel, which is a weird and wonderful place. The next album I bought, and the last one until recently, was Selling England by the Pound (1973), which I also loved.

So, that’s my history with Genesis pretty much.

Not too long ago, I reclaimed Invisible Touch from my brother and was in seventh heaven belting out all those songs and being caught up in a flood of memories. Then I found out, after blogging about my first ever concert, that they’re touring again with Phil Collins. Long story short, I scored some premium tickets on eBay for half-price for the gig in Brussels on 24 June.

Then Apple announced the DRM-free iTunes and it was time to get some more Genesis albums. I got Duke, Foxtrot, We Can’t Dance and A Trick of the Tail. I’ve listened to them all, but I decided to spend the week with A Trick of the Tail.

It was released in 1976 and was the first album after the departure of Peter Gabriel following The Lamb. It still sounds quite Gabriel-esque; it’s quirky as ever with weird lyrics, and ever-changing time signatures. All in all, I love it. I knew Los Endos from the 87 gig but what I didn’t know was that they used a lot of bits and pieces from this (and other) albums in the medleys they played in 87. It was a pleasant surprise!

So, all in all, it’s been a good week. Next week I’ll be working on U2’s second album, October, and need to figure out what Genesis one to work on. In fact, I’ll probably work on two Genesis albums as I only have two weeks until the gig. So I’ll do something old and something new, so that they don’t meld in my mind. I’ll keep the U2 one to add some balance.

This is fun!