Genesis' Invisible Touch turns 35 this year. I first came across this album in high school as I was a big Phil Collins fan, and was always eager to seek out more of his material. A lot of people have given Collins' era of Genesis grief, but I'm not one of them. The album provided me with songs ranging from danceable to thought-provoking, and on the occasion of the album's 35th anniversary, I would like to do a Track-By-Track analysis of why I love Invisible Touch so much.
We start off the album with the title track.
Genesis were masters of creating catchy songs with unnerving lyrics, and this song is a sterling example of that skill. The song has a bounce to it, and some interesting gear shifts, but when you listen to the lyrics, you hear a song about a codependent relationship with a woman who messes around with the protagonist, yet he can't help falling in love with her. They say love can make you crazy, but this song asks who's crazier: The woman for manipulating the man, or the man for thinking with his johnson and not considering whether the relationship is a good idea or not?
Based on the lyrics, I'd have to say the protagonist is crazier for entering the relationship. Nothing good comes from codependency. Whether it's a romantic relationship or a familial relationship, once codependency enters the picture, things go downhill faster than a Winter Olympian with grease on their skis. You think things are going well, but the truth is you need to find a way to get out. It could put your life in danger if you don't.
The second track on Invisible Touch is Tonight, Tonight, Tonight, and this is a track I find very interesting.
To my ears, the song is about an addict jonesing for a fix and, at the same time, desperate to escape the hold his addiction has on him. With the references to monkeys, heroin could be the drug in question, but the applicability of this song could apply to any addiction from drugs to sex to spending. Even something more benign could become a danger to you if you seek out too much of it. We've all had to deal with habits we've tried to break before they broke us. Speaking for myself, the addiction was self-loathing. I hated myself for decades, and only really have learned to love myself in the last decade or so.
Why do I bring up addiction in the context of Tonight, Tonight, Tonight? This song was famously used in 80s commercials for Michelob, and I find it interesting that a song about addiction, and trying to break that addiction, was being used to sell beer. I got a lot of mixed messages growing up. For example, the same police officers who taught us in our D.A.R.E classes that alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and hard drugs were all bad, and all the same in how they harmed you, would be drinking and smoking at picnics. It didn't make sense to me, just like it doesn't make sense that a song about addiction would be used to promote a substance you can get addicted to.
Side note: In my articles for the 80sxchange so far, I've often written about how bad my relationship with my mom was, and how I utilized the pop culture of the 80s as a way to escape my problem with her. My mother was an alcoholic, which perhaps explains some of her more abusive behavior towards me. I wish she could've broken her addiction, but she was a person who would be in AA meetings one day and drinking at a cousin's wedding the next. Considering she was an alcoholic, I'm surprised I'm not more screwed up than I am. I often wonder if she drank because she had me for a son. Her friends say that she didn't, but many of these same friends of hers' have also tried to gaslight me into thinking that what I went through at her hands wasn't abuse. Very confusing.
Speaking of which, we now come to Invisible Touch's third track, and one of the album's biggest hits, Land Of Confusion.
Everybody remembers the music video and its' memorable usage of the Spitting Image puppets, but as a writer, it always comes back to the lyrics for me. When I used the term "thought-provoking" at the beginning of this article, this song was what came to mind. Land Of Confusion is a classic protest song about the impact of the politics of the 80s, but a lot of these problems are still with us. The protagonist promised his generation "would put it right", but in that generation, there's been a tug of war between those who want to "put it right" and those who want to move back.
We're still dealing with chaos on multiple levels from environmental to political, and although COVID vaccines are now being distributed (I got my first one last week as autism spectrum disorders are covered as comorbidities for younger people to get the vaccine), we're still very much in a land of confusion as we're all still walking on eggshells, trying to make our way through chaos. Many people see a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm one of them, but just as many think the light is that of an 18-wheeler bearing down on us. Hopefully there will come a day when we can be, if not on the same page, then at least in the same book, but Genesis were hoping for that 35 years ago as well. It could drive a man crazy.
Going back to Invisible Touch, the album's fourth track is In Too Deep, an excellent example of the 80s ballad.
This song was written for a movie called Mona Lisa, which is about a former criminal (Bob Hoskins), recently released from prison, who is tempted back into the criminal life by his old boss (Michael Caine) and a prostitute (Cathy Tyson) that Hoskins' character finds himself falling in love with. Mona Lisa is one of the best crime dramas of the 80s, and the lyrics Collins wrote for this movie really reflect the movie's themes. Would you be willing to risk your freedom for what you think might be love and success?
Knowing that In Too Deep was written for a movie, listening to it makes me wish the song had been nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar. Collins would eventually get a Best Original Song Oscar for You'll Be In My Heart from the 1999 Disney adaptation Tarzan, but if I had the chance to go back to the Oscar nominations for the 1986 voting year, I would try to convince HandMade Films, the company behind Mona Lisa, to put some more muscle behind In Too Deep to get it a Best Original Song nomination. Although Top Gun's Take My Breath Away is a fantastic song, Mona Lisa's In Too Deep reflects its' film's themes in a more appropriate manner.
The fifth track on Invisible Touch is Anything She Does.
The song itself is about obsessing over a famous woman, possibly a model, maybe an actress, and thinking lustily about her while knowing that you'll probably never meet her. Considering how raunchy the subject of the song is, I think it's rather appropriate that they cast Benny Hill in the song's music video, playing one of his most noted characters, Fred Scuttle. Several Page 3 girls show up in the video, and it all climaxes with a fast motion segment in the style we all know and love from The Benny Hill Show...
Well, maybe not all of us. One thing that the Collins-led incarnation of Genesis and Benny Hill have in common is that they're not exactly well-thought of in the modern day. That's not to say they don't have their fans, but quite a lot of people view the Collins-led Genesis as too poppy, just as they view Benny Hill as retrograde humor lacking the intelligence of Monty Python or the slashing wit of the alternative comedy scene. I like all of it, though. Sometimes I seek out a challenge. Other times I just want to sit back and relax. It all depends on the day.
For a bit of what TV Tropes would call Mood Whiplash, we come to Invisible Touch's sixth track, Domino.
The lyrics of this song are very unnerving. An anti-war song written in response to the Lebanon conflict, but applicable to all wars, the song is about a man trying to think positive during the chaos of war, finding it difficult to do so, having nightmares about the conflict, and finally pretending to put on a happy face when he's been scarred, mentally and quite possibly physically, by the events he's had to deal with.
So many war veterans have had to deal with those emotions. I've never served in the military, but my late father was a Vietnam veteran. We never discussed the war while he was alive, but on a Boy Scout trip to Washington D.C in 1994, a litle under a year before his passing, we visited the Vietnam War Memorial, and it was an emotional occasion for my father. I really wish my dad was still around. Perhaps he would've straightened me out to not support the War On Terror if he survived his heart attack. I really regret supporting the War On Terror in the 00s, but I was scared of another 9/11 and I wasn't thinking straight. I'm now anti-war, but not anti-soldier. it took me a long time to learn that you didn't have to support the war to support the troops. I hope my dad's spirit can forgive me for my actions in the 00s.
The seventh track on Invisible Touch is also the last song with lyrics on the album. It's another excellent ballad called Throwing It All Away.
This song is a break-up ballad, all about how the protagonist is having difficulty seeing a future for he and his romantic partner The lyrics tell a tale of wanting to stay, but at the same time, knowing that staying could make things worse than they already are. Over the course of the song, the words of the chorus change from "you" to "we", indicating that both the protagonist and his partner know that things will never be the same.
While I don't have romantic relationships, I have seen friendships come to an end and be thrown away. There are friends I've made through my writing, and friends I've made through shared pop-cultural tastes, that I've been connected to on Facebook, but I'll occasionally see that I've been unfriended, or even unfriended and blocked. I have no idea why that happens. I always try and be as kind and supportive as possible, but sometimes things just don't work out. Part of me wonders why, but part of me also understands that I can be too much at times. I don't intend to be too much on purpose. It just comes naturally.
While Throwing It All Away is the last song with lyrics on Invisble Touch, it's not the last song altogether. That would be the album's 8th track, an instrumental called The Brazilian.
The title is rather interesting as, to my ears, Brazilian is only one of the many influences on this track. It's an interesting collage of music and sounds, and in some ways, the instrumentations sounds like voices. I can only wonder if there were originally lyrics considered for this song before it was decicded to be an instrumental. When I listen to The Brazilian, part of me also wonders if the title and the sounds might mean this song was intended to be an environmental commentary.
In summation, I enjoyed Invisible Touch, and still do so to this day, because the music makes me think. That's one of the many powers that music has. It can give you ideas, give you emotions, give you relaxation...It can give you so much. I only wish that this album got more respect in the modern day. So many critics seems to think that "pop music" is dirty talk, that it can't be as thought-provoking as more serious music. If you listen to the words, though, you'll find so much more than initially meets the ears.
Thank you as always for reading, and if you have any 80s albums celebrating either 40th or 35th anniversaries this year that you would like to see me cover in a future Track-By-Track article, leave a comment below. Be well, everybody.