I guess it could be considered something of a personality test: Which version of Genesis do you prefer? No, no. Not the Bible. (Although considering yesterday’s post, I can see how you might think that.) I mean the band. Do you like the Prog Rock, Peter Gabriel lineup, or are you a hit-machine, Phil Collins era fan? Both have their defenders, but when you think about how drastic the stylistic change was, it’s not really a fair comparison.
From their formation until the late 1970s, Genesis created the kind of artsy, layered, thematic albums that are hallmarks of Progressive Rock. In Prog Rock, it didn’t matter if there were suitable singles; that was for the marketing guys at the label to figure out. The point was to explore the human condition through music coupled with fantastic storytelling. Songs were carefully linked–literally with musical bridges, and figuratively with recurring themes and characters. Peter Gabriel has always had a knack for this kind of conceptual songwriting, and Genesis were one of the better acts of this little sub-genre.
While Genesis were quite good at this stuff, it’s not exactly my cup of tea. I generally prefer the tighter Pop/Rock stylings Genesis favored when they became a trio led by Phil Collins. Collins had an ear for good rhythm (he was their drummer, after all) and catchy hooks. The music wasn’t better than what they did before, just different. And Genesis never really shed their storytelling roots. They were one of the first bands to take full advantage of music videos, using the medium as mini-movies for which their songs were the soundtrack.
The two different versions of Genesis are really more like two different bands. One was more successful artistically, the other commercially. I don’t know what it says about me that I prefer the more commercial band. Probably nothing. Which Genesis would you rather listen to? Or would you just change the station whenever they came on?