Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time

Thirty Year Thursday – GENESIS “INVISIBLE TOUCH”

[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]


Genesis - Invisible TouchMore than just about any other release I’ve discussed in this series, Genesis’ Invisible Touch might be the quintessential mid-‘80s pop/rock album: synths, drum programming, huge production, big-budget videos and ubiquitous radio play. It’s also the most divisive title in their discography. To some fans it’s the nadir of the “sell-out Phil Collins era,” while others probably consider it their favorite Genesis album, helping to send five singles into the Top 5 and making it the band’s biggest seller. For many years I had a love/hate relationship with Invisible Touch. I initially disliked Genesis when I first heard them around 1979, yet I’ve never been able to pinpoint why. Two years later I fell in love with Abacab (the song “Keep It Dark” was my gateway) & I started delving into their back catalog. Then I won tickets to see them on the Three Sides Live tour and they immediately became one of my favorite bands. Concurrently, drummer/vocalist Phil Collins launched his solo career and his first two albums were equally as important to me. For some reason I never fully embraced his 1985 solo album No Jacket Required, and a year later his return to the mothership resulted in another initially disappointing record. Although it remains one of my least-favorite Genesis albums, I’ve come to appreciate it more and more as the years pass. Sure, it’s a time-capsule of its era, but when you sift through the sonic overload there’s some really fascinating & inventive music on display, which is a testament to the instrumental & songwriting talents of Collins, guitarist/bassist Mike Rutherford and keyboard maestro Tony Banks.

Fans looking for hints of their progressive side were surely disappointed by the peppy single “Invisible Touch,” which became a #1 hit and the album’s signature song, but it’s a ridiculously catchy (if somewhat lightweight) pop song that’s not dissimilar to some of their earlier forays into the mainstream. Those prog fans were rewarded with two lengthy tracks which took up nearly half of the album’s running time, “Domino (Part 1 & 2)” and “Tonight, Tonight, Tonight,” the latter of which was a massive success in its significantly shorter single version. I would have loved both of these songs a lot more had they been recorded a few years earlier Genesis - Puppets From Land Of Confusion Videowith less synthetic instrumentation, since they’re as bold & complex as anything on their previous couple of albums. “Land Of Confusion” is an interesting, dense & dark song that became another smash hit thanks in part to the clever video featuring puppets of all three band members as well as various celebrities & world leaders. It’s a much more complex song than its hit status would suggest, but that was part of Genesis’ unique ability to mix the creative with the commercial. Album-closing instrumental “The Brazilian” is a forgotten gem, with its heavy percussion, sound effects and huge synth melodies. The final two hit singles were both ballads, and very good ones. “In Too Deep” is probably the closest they came to blurring the lines between Genesis and Phil Collins solo records, but it’s a very pretty song, and “Throwing It All Away” has long been the heart of Invisible Touch for me. As someone who went through his first breakup the year this album was released, the following lyrics really struck a nerve at the time:

“Someday you’ll be sorry, someday when you’re free,
Memories will remind you that our love was meant to be.
Late at night when you call my name, the only sound you’ll hear,
Is the sound of your voice calling, calling after me.”

After playing the album a few times as I prepared for this post, I find myself enjoying it more than ever. Other than “Anything She Does,” which seems half-formed, I’ve really come around to everything else in spite of the fact that it might be the most dated-sounding record I’ve covered in this series. It’s also the only Thirty Year Thursday album I enjoy even more now than I did in 1986.


27 comments on “Thirty Year Thursday – GENESIS “INVISIBLE TOUCH”

  1. mikeladano
    June 2, 2016

    I know this might sound odd considering I trashed Marillion’s Holidays in Eden, but I really like this album. Sometimes the mixture of pop and musical excellence just works. I think this one works!


    • I think a lot depends on your level of fandom when you first heard it. Even though I had a high-tolerance for ’80s production during that era, I didn’t think it suited Genesis very well. When one of the best rock drummers of all time is basically programming all of his sounds, a good chunk of the musicality disappears. I don’t remember your review of Holidays In Eden (I’ll have to revisit it) but I really liked that album when it was released. I was a mega-fan of Seasons End and I was glad they explored their pop & straight-ahead rock side on its follow-up. Not a classic but it features a whole bunch of great songs with Hogarth in fine voice and Rothery still coming up with incredible guitar sounds.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Heavy Metal Overload
    June 2, 2016

    I think I feel similar to you on this. The singles were great and some good album tracks too. The choice of keyboard sounds isn’t the best sometimes and there’s something about the production that leaves me feeling a bit carsick! But still a good album… As 80s Genesis goes I prefer the self-titled, Duke and We Can’t Dance though.


    • I’m glad we agree about the keyboard sounds. They worked for other artists but they were too artificial for them, in my opinion. I love Duke, Abacab and the “Mama” album (as they like to call the self-titled release) much more than Invisible Touch, but I’m glad I’ve come to appreciate it more as the years pass by. I love your comment about the production making you feel carsick. Nice.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 2, 2016

        Abacab I’m less familiar with… although I’ve had it on my mp3 player for a while now so I can get round to it!

        (And have to give Martin Popoff the credit for carsick. It’s a very useful description as many albums do make me feel that way! He was talking about The Cult’s Sonic Temple and I agree with him there too.)


      • Abacab was my gateway album into the Genesis discography so I have a soft spot for it. I hope you like it whenever you get around to playing it. As for The Cult, I have that album and a couple of others. I like them but I’ve never been a huge fan. Perhaps that’s due to the carsickness.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Heavy Metal Overload
        June 2, 2016

        Haha that would affect things. Not a huge fan of them either. They’re OK if I’m in the mood.

        I’ll let you know how I get on with Abacab! Had it for a while now but always overlook it.


      • There will be “no reply at all” from me until you listen to Abacab. Okay, not really, but I can never resist a good (or bad) musical pun.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Jeff Kempin
    June 2, 2016

    To be honest, all of the Genesis and solo Phil Collins albums from this period (1980-86) sound the same to me. Not being mean, but I’d be hard pressed to tell you which song came from which album without looking it up. It’s good stuff and sounds great in the car and all, but instead of Genesis, I’d call it Generic.
    Phil Collins is one of the greatest drummers ever, on that I will agree. But so much of his drums sound like big slabs of percussion, I know they were heavily programmed, and is the poster child for that Big 80’s sound, again, it became too much where songs all sounded the same. Phil doesn’t write happy lyrics either.
    I never liked those Spittin’ Image puppets either in the Land of Confusion video.


    • Those are valid points, Jeff. Of course, having listened to all those albums multiple times when they were released, each has its own distinct charms, but I understand that more casual fans or people coming to that cluster of albums for the first time years later might hear them a lot differently than I do. Tony Banks and Mike Rutherford each have unique playing styles so it’s easy for me to tell the difference between Genesis and Phil Collins although, as I mentioned in this post, “In Too Deep” blurs the lines even for me.


  4. Vinyl Connection
    June 2, 2016

    Really enjoyed your (as always) even-handed review, Rich. My Genesis gateway was ‘Live’ (which I wrote about a while back) and that certainly influenced the way I heard the later material. Having said that, I really like ‘Duke’ very much, and that was several strides along the road to ‘Invisible Touch’. Overall, for me it’s a guilty pleasure I enjoy spinning now and then on a sunny weekend afternoon.

    PS> The Brazilian is terrific. It appeared on the ‘When the wind blows’ s/track, to powerful effect.

    The piece on Genesis ‘Live’:

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Bruce…for the kind words and for pointing me to your excellent write-up on Genesis Live (which had somehow passed me by). Did you say Duke is a “guilty pleasure”? You know how I feel about that term:

      I think Duke is probably the last album that old Genesis fans could cling to since there’s still a lot of prog within those grooves, and it’s not too “pop” for them. I consider myself fortunate to have discovered them during that era, since I appreciate (and love) all parts of their career. Yep, even the short-lived Ray Wilson year(s), enough so that I own all of his solo albums and other projects.

      I’ve never seen When The Wind Blows but will have to seek it out. Thanks for the recommendation.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. John Sturm
    June 3, 2016

    Great post, Rich. Love love LOVE this album. Yes, it’s an aural product of its time, but the songs are still really strong. Well… most of them!! Domino is still up there in my fav Genesis tracks list and I’ve always thought Tonight Tonight Tonight was a successor to Mama, tonally. I’ve not yet covered Genesis on my blog, but it’s on the list!


    • Thanks, John. It’s nice to find someone who doesn’t just like this album but triple-loves it. I can’t say I’m as enthusiastic as you but I’m amazed at how much it’s grown on me. At some point I was able to look past the production and synthetic sounds and just appreciate the songs & performances. I hope you tackle some Genesis at your blog. Please keep ms posted on that in case I miss anything.


  6. Phillip Helbig
    June 3, 2016

    “More than just about any other release I’ve discussed in this series, Genesis’ Invisible Touch might be the quintessential mid-‘80s pop/rock album: synths, drum programming, huge production, big-budget videos and ubiquitous radio play. It’s also the most divisive title in their discography. To some fans it’s the nadir of the “sell-out Phil Collins era,” while others probably consider it their favorite Genesis album, helping to send five singles into the Top 5 and making it the band’s biggest seller. “

    Great, accurate summary.

    There are about 150 cover bands who play Genesis stuff, and all of them play stuff from the Gabriel era. I’ve seen 3 of them (The Musical Box, The Watch, Seconds Out). Amazingly, all the singers sound just like Peter Gabriel, as does Nat Sylvan who’s out with Steve Hackett playing old Genesis stuff. Gabriel has a really unique voice, one might think, but apparently many singers can sound like him. Probably Geddy Lee, Ian Anderson, Rod Stewart would be more difficult.

    At a concert of The Watch, after a couple of hours of Gabriel-era stuff, the singer stepped up to the mic with a “clap your hands together and do you feel all right” pose and said “Are you ready for Invisible Touch?” Got a HUGE laugh.

    Genesis are a very good pop band. They were one of the leading prog bands. Personally, I think some of their prog stuff is too twee and their pop stuff too over-produced, but they are still better than most bands on the planet. However, they are probably the only band to make that prog-pop transition (which, interestingly, Peter Gabriel also went through). (Rush did, in a smaller way, in the era of Moving Pictures and Signals. Neither is really pop, but they were much more popular than the stuff before. Then they went back to being a nerds’ band, then it suddenly became cool to like Rush.)


    • Hi Phillip. I had never even considered that Genesis tribute bands (none of which I’ve ever seen, even though I’m sure there are plenty of great ones) would focus on the Gabriel era but that makes sense since that lineup hasn’t been active for more than 4 decades. At this point, with the trio lineup of Genesis being inactive for 2+ decades (other than the one reunion tour), you would think that tribute bands (and their fans) would be just as eager to play & hear those songs again. There may be distinct eras in their history but it’s still the work of one band and all their best songs could stand tall among one another.


  7. Murphy's Law
    June 3, 2016

    My wife just picked this up at the Goodwill a month ago, so other than the singles I got to hear it fresh just recently and I liked it more than I thought I would. I’m not a big fan of prog or pop, but they balance each other out really nicely.


    • Thanks for the perspective of someone hearing this album in its entirety for the first time with 21st century ears. I do think it holds up very well, even with the ’80s production choices, and it’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels that way. Is it the best Genesis album? Not even close. But the songs are very good and the playing (once you get past the synthetic instrumentation) is as good as ever…especially Tony Banks, whose keyboard melodies are what tie together all eras of their career.


  8. Geen Geenie
    June 3, 2016

    Ahhhhh Rich! You are totally giving me flashbacks with this one. I actually got goosebumps reading the lyrics of ‘Throwing it all away’. I love that song too.
    This is one of those albums I knew well as a child and the lyrics all come flooding back to me.
    I’m so glad you mentioned ‘The Brazilian’ , I remember being really enamored with it. (I just looked it up on youtube not having heard it in over 20 years and I still think it’s seriously underrated. This coulda been an indicator that I’d go on to be a huge Nine Inch Nails fan). I was really into 80’S Peter Gabriel and sometimes I think you can still hear that Genesis were his band (Phil Collins even sounds like Gabriel). Domino I- II could totally be Peter Gabriel songs, with their ambiguous lyrics and unusual song structure.

    Oh And you might already know this, but the puppets from the brilliant Land of Confusion video are from a UK puppet satire TV show that was really popular in the 80’s called ‘Spitting Image’. Man it still really stands up.


    • Hi Bridgeen. So glad we have similar feelings about “Throwing It All Away.” Some people complain about Genesis “going pop,” but they wrote good pop songs so I see nothing wrong with that. I didn’t make the connection from “The Brazilian” to ’80s Peter Gabriel and, later, Nine Inch Nails, but that’s a great observation. I will keep that in mind the next time I play it. Thanks for that. Also, I was aware that those puppets were from a UK TV show but I’ve never seen it. It was probably innovative for its time but I wonder how well it’s held up.

      Thanks for the feedback. Hope you’re having a great weekend.


      • Geen Geenie
        June 5, 2016

        I’m sure Spitting Image holds up pretty well actually, but it was super topical so a lot of the jokes may be lost in time. So scathing though. You wouldn’t get a way with it today!

        With the Brazilian / Peter Gabriel thing, I was thinking of this track Zaar, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZM6PejHMEY, it is 80s but its from his soundtrack work. (Probably shouldn’t be surprised by Nine Inch Nails connection- they were a fan of lots of UK 80S synth music 😉 )


      • Good call regarding that Peter Gabriel track. I haven’t played that album/soundtrack in a few years so I wouldn’t have made the connection. Thanks for sharing.

        Liked by 1 person

  9. keepsmealive
    June 4, 2016

    I still have this album on CD and LP! Greatness. So many big songs, and for all the right reasons!


    • I love it…an unapologetic fan of Invisible Touch. A lot of fans dismiss this album as too poppy but it features a lot of good music. It’s far from my favorite Genesis album but still offers plenty to enjoy. Glad you agree.


  10. I’m afraid I can’t really stomach the Collins-era of Genesis, but great writing nonetheless.


    • Hi Ovidiu. I can understand your aversion to the more pop-oriented material they released during the Collins era, but I’m guessing you would find a lot to enjoy on their first couple of albums after Gabriel left, when Steve Hackett was still in the band: A Trick Of The Tail and Wind & Wuthering. Both are highly recommended. Thanks for reading this post, and I appreciate the kind words about my writing. Hope all is well by you.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Forty Year Friday – GENESIS “SECONDS OUT” | KamerTunesBlog

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