Embracing that which has been reviled: Genesis “Calling All Stations”
The Genesis album “Calling All Stations” has been universally shunned for over a decade now, mostly for committing the alleged sin of not having Phil Collins on it.
Phil Collins made a very clear (and financially incontestable) decision early in the early ’80s that he was going to be a full-on pop songwriter and singer. That fact was hammered home on his second and third solo albums, “Hello, I Must Be Going” and “No Jacket Required.” Naturally, it was only a matter of time before that overt pop sensibility bled over to the band that made Collins a star.
Genesis was certainly no stranger to pop success. “Turn it On Again” and “Misunderstanding” continue to stand out as gems from the Collins days, and are as good as any of the more complex and confounding of the band’s works. The difference was that, before the 1986 “Invisible Touch” release, the pop songs always seemed balanced out by the more “Genesissier” songs. For every “Misunderstanding,” there was a “Behind the Lines;” for every “No Reply at All,” a “Me and Sarah Jane.” However, once “In Too Deep,” “Throwing It All Away,” and “Invisible Touch” made it into the Genesis song library, the transformation of the band into unapologetic pop superstars was complete.
Following “Invisible Touch” was 1991’s “We Can’t Dance,” an album that felt overly sweet and inauthentic. In a word, saccharin. We can all thank Nirvana for providing us with a mighty distraction that particular year.
Six years later, and one year after Collins left the band for good (at least until the inevitable reunion in the late ’00s), Genesis returned with an all-new album (“Calling All Stations”) and an all-new…and mostly unknown…singer named Ray Wilson.
The album stiffed harder than critics had anticipated. The U.K. was more forgiving, but only because they tend to be a more polite people.
On its own, and separated from the expectations and weight of the Genesis brand, “Calling All Stations” plays like a lighter version of the late ’80s, post-Roger Waters, David Gilmour-led, Pink Floyd. Or at least a ballsier Mike and the Mechanics.
To this day, there are a handful of songs on the disc which I still enjoy. “Congo” is pretty great, as is the title track. And I can sit through all of the near-eight minutes of “The Dividing Line” without clicking my iPod forward. In fact, if not for the scorn-worthy ballads (“Not About Us” being the most egregious), “Calling All Stations” might have had a shot. If not at success, Genesis cred. Long term staying power, maybe. Perhaps something more than recognition in this sad little blog.
Hear “Calling All Stations” on iTunes: