Abacab by Genesis

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Abacab by Genesis
Abacab by Genesis

Album Released: 1981

Abacab ::: Artwork

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2.No Reply At All4:39
3.Me And Sarah Jane5:59
4.Keep It Dark4:31
5.Dodo / Lurker7:29
6.Who Dunnit?3:24
7.Man On The Corner4:25
8.Like It Or Not4:52
9.Another Record4:20


Abacab is where Genesis went full force into the land of synth-pop. The eternally dull Duke brushed up against such music, but it wasn't until Abacab that the band became entirely synth-pop.

Fortunately - at least for now - Genesis were interested in keeping their reputation as an 'Art' band intact. So while these synth-pop ditties are usually catchy and accessible, there's an experimental twist to many of them as well. And this was a mightily successful album too - not only did it sell a lot of copies, but it was influential - many synth-pop bands of the time would aspire to it. And they had good reason to!

The opening title track is splenderiffic (shut up, spellchecker). It's catchy, it's fun, it's dramatic, it's inventive - what more could you want? Really, the instrumentation is done perfectly - the pulsating bass and mechanical drums certainly make my foot tap. Furthermore, the drums evolve and there are tons of excellent fills within them to keep things punchy. Phil Collins might now be using drum machines, but he hadn't forgotten how to make interesting rhythms.

Tony Banks' synthesizers are also awesome (surprisingly). The synthesizer tone that opens the album is weird and scratchy, then during the main portion of that opener, he uses a softer organ tone, which does a playful call-and-response style interaction with Rutherford's poppy guitar licks. Collins' singing is boisterous, playful and dramatic, and the vocal melody is so catchy that I want to sing right along. What an excellent way to start the album.

The horn arranger and players for Earth, Wind & Fire can be heard on “No Reply At All", and they help create a texture that is complicated and intriguing. Another major highlight is “Dodo / Lurker”, which is a sprawling seven-and-a-half-minute epic that indicates Genesis weren't that ready to leave their prog days behind. That's a driving and dramatic song with evolving textures, very awesome.

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by Reviewer: Don Ignacio (blogging at Don Ignacio's Album Reviews)

Luckily, Genesis have realised that their prog/rock writing has gone down the tubes, so they've converted to 90% pop songcraft. The only hints of prog come in the second cousin once removed from "Squonk", called "Dodo / Lurker". And the drum machines are more prominent on this album.

The band spit out one great tune after another ... the title track (featuring surprisingly good Rutherford guitar); the horn-filled "No Reply At All"; Banks's surprisingly good "Me and Sarah Jane"; the aforementioned "Dodo", and the album closer "Another Record".

The only minuses on Abacab are the incredibly annoying "Who Dunnit?", and oh-so-generic "Like It Or Not", and a couple of middling songs such as the sounds-like-solo-Collins "Man on the Corner".

5 stars

by Reviewer: Cole Reviews

Of all the Genesis studio albums released, Abacab would have to be my least favourite. And yes, I include ...Calling All Stations... in that.

Continuing their taste for a more commercial pop sound than they had in the first half of the 70's, the album certainly isn't bad. The opening title song is a reasonable effort, and I particularly like Tony Banks' keyboards touches there, while the following "No Reply At All", despite its dancing brass making it sound like an out-take from Phil Collins' lamentable solo career, is also pretty good.
But from there on, the album's quite spotty, starting with "Me and Sarah Jane", which is pretty dull, until the nice conclusion.

Indeed, most of the songs here have something to offer, like the driving bass in "Keep It Dark", and the silly but charming synth bit in "Dodo/Lurker", but the only piece that really does it for me in a complete sense is the oddball "Who Dunnit?". It's far from the band's best song, but at least it knows how to entertain.

The final two tracks however - "Like It Or Not" and "Another Record" - are completely forgettable, giving off an almost 'who cares?' vibe, to wrap up the album in a way that sees Genesis at their weakest, really.

Abacab is a big comedown from the previous Duke, which is one of my favourites by the band, but thankfully there was better stuff still to come, no matter the criticism the band received during the remainder of their career.

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by Reviewer: The Doctor

Duke had been Genesis' first UK chart topper, and this album likewise followed it to the top spot, and also hit the Top 10 in the lucrative US market.

The title track features an utterly contemporary (for the time) pounding electro beat, great bass, and melodic and thrilling keyboards ... from the off, the whole thing just pounds! And, in a rather strange occurrence, Collins turns in a superb vocal performance. Really life-affirming, it's a thrilling song to open the album (and I’ve not even mentioned the extended instrumental passage!).

So, with hopes raised, "No Reply At All" begins. Now, this one sounds very dated, and in a way the title track overcomes with sheer inventiveness. "No Reply At All" is best characterised as 'pleasantly melodic', with Collins returning to his usual level of competence vocally, and all is reasonably unremarkable - save a nice piano break during the latter part of the song.

"Me and Sarah Jane" is hardly enjoyable at all vocally - Collins sounds strained in places - the song overall is pretty good though, with weird rhythms that border on reggae in places, and keyboards that do all sorts of interesting things. Musically then, it's great!

"Keep It Dark" reprises the electro sound of the title track, though it's a lot more lightweight in terms of hooks and thrills and sadly rather tails off. "Dodo" once again sounds a lot stranger than I'd expect an 80's Genesis song to sound, with weird bass rhythms bordering on funk! Good interplay between the keyboards and bass there too.

So soundwise, Abacab is a very playful album, with much experimentation with new 80's technology. "Lurker", which segues from "Dodo" is forgettable though, and "Who Dunnit?" I don't understand at all, due to a lot of messing around with effects on everything, almost sounding like Art of Noise, so that track's very throwaway and hardly a highpoint.

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by Reviewer: Adrian Denning (blogging at Adrian's Album Reviews)