The countryside cottage in which (it says here) Genesis regrouped their creative energies must have had a lot of strange stuff coming out of the walls to have been worthy of hosting this new contender for the coveted British weirdo-rock championship.
The cover of Nursery Cryme is a De Chirico-like painting of a croquet field littered with Surrealist paraphernalia. At stage center stands a large-eyed Alice sort, her mallet raised to poke through the wicket one of the disembodied heads that lie scattered about. Paul Whitehead's painting was "inspired by 'The Musical Box,' " the album's opener: playing croquet, Cynthia gracefully lops off Henry's head; two weeks later a tiny Henry makes an appearance in his music box, and his body begins aging rapidly; "a lifetime of desires" surges through him, desires that Cynthia will be no party to; the nurse enters and hurls the music box at the bearded child, "destroying both."
OK? Well, with the exception of "The Return of the Giant Hogweed," the rest of it isn't quite that bizarro. "Harold the Barrel" and "For Absent Friends" are observations of British life and characters that remind (in theme if not quality) of the Kinks; "Seven Stones" and "Harlequin" are vaguely poetic and impressionistic, and "The Fountain of Salmacis" relates the myth of Hermaphroditus and Salmacis in a straightforward manner.
Nursery Cryme's main problem lies not in Genesis' concepts, which are, if nothing else, outrageously imaginative and lovably eccentric, nor with their musical structureslong, involved, multi-movemented frameworks on which they hang their narrativesnor even with their playing, which does get pretty lethargic at points. It's the godawful production, a murky, distant stew that at best bubbles quietly when what is desperately needed are the explosions of drums and guitars, the screaming of the organ, the abrasive rasp of vocal cords.
It might really be there, and at times you can actually detect a genuine electricity in their music (which lies roughly within the territory staked out by Yes, Strawbs and Family, with a touch of Procol Harum). It could be simply a matter of taking off the lid.
Some numbers, including "The Musical Box," survive even under this handicap. "Harold the Barrel" moves well and features lots of enjoyable musical ideas and some fine lines. "Salmacis" swims about in a nicely drawn atmosphere and is a good example of Genesis' refusal to indulge in gratuitous eclecticism at the expense of rock & roll. And "Hogweed," while perhaps a bit stilted, is admirably ambitious and uses its excessive wordiness to humorous advantage.
It's definitely a type of music that skulks down back alleys far from the beaten path, but if Genesis (which consists of Tony Banks, Michael Rutherford, Peter Gabriel, Steve Hackett and Phil Collins) learn how to gear things up to explosion level and manage to develop their ideas a bit more thoroughly, they could be the ones to successfully repopulate those forgotten passageways. (RS 120)
(Posted: Oct 26, 1972)
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