Genesis - Selling England By The Pound - Review
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critics' view

Following the critical success of Foxtrot, and having the live reputation to secure them gigs aplenty in medium-sized venues, the one thing Genesis lacked was a really successful album to put them up amongst their peers like Yes, and King Crimson. It was time to up their game once more.

Strangely they did this by backtracking. Their work had always contained a pastoral yearning and a sense of wanting to return to past times. Undoubtedly their adherence to this surreal form of nostalgia sprang from their public school backgrounds at Charterhouse, but following Foxtrot’s rather obtuse statements about the end of the world, it was a sense of loss for the old order that informed Selling…Hence its title.

The album’s opening track “Dancing With The Moonlit Knight” gives the perfect snapshot of what Genesis were about at this point. Its folk roots gradually morph into Elgar-esque, jazz rock grandeur as the band finally captured their true sound on vinyl. It still retains the creepy sense of Edwardian ghosts in there too.

By this point Collins’ jazz-rock drumming was transforming their set pieces into much sprightlier offerings such as the second part to “Cinema Show” where Gabriel’s love of T S Eliot also comes to the fore. It’s all much cleverer, and still manages not to be too overbearing, despite the use of words like ‘undynal’ in ‘’Firth Of Fifth’’ (the puns still kept coming). It also allowed Gabriel to don even more outrageous stage garb. Hackett’s work on the latter is awesome, his sound now fully his own; a really rare feat in rock. Even Gabriel’s flute now sounded polished. Only “The Battle Of Epping Forest” seemed out of place, with its comedy values at odds with its violent subject matter.

Banks here plays far more piano and synthesizers were now getting a look in as on the aforementioned “Cinema Show”. To cap it all, single ‘’I Know What I Like (In Your Wardrobe)’’, with its narrative about small town eccentrics, finally cracked the singles chart for the band. It seemed that the world now finally ready for Genesis.

Chris Jones
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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