Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
[Welcome to Thirty Year Thursday, the weekly series on my favorite albums of 1986]
Album: INVISIBLE TOUCH
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. 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 with 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.