Gem of the Week: “Squonk”-Genesis


Song: “Squonk”

Artist: Genesis

Album: A Trick of the Tail (1976)

For criminal-themed macabre swaddled in art rock bizarro–with a young Phil Collins on vocals–try Genesis’ 1976 A Trick of the Tail on for size. The obscure LP hosts Collins’ first trial in Peter Gabriel lead vocal-succession; the spark of his pop-and-beyond relevance and perhaps the band’s best career move of the decade.

There’s a misfit-like mystique that surrounds the album, though not just validated by its persistent, offbeat folklore (“Entangled”, “Mad Man Moon”) and cheekily murderous satire (“Robbery, Assault and Battery”). Minimally produced, its 8 tracks are made substantial by Steve Hackett (lead guitar), Tony Banks (on synths, organ, and piano), Mike Rutherford (bass), and Collins, nailing a duo of drums and vocals.

Likewise, there’s no edgy thematic element missing; sometimes the band drifts into arcane, magical reverie-speak (“I took off in the air, I flew to places which the clouds never see/ Too close to the deserts of sand, where a thousand mirages–the shepherds of lies–forced me to land and take a disguise…) and other times they warn—of devilish, menacing invisibles and other matter almost too heavy for a progressive rock album (“They’ve got no horns and they’ve got no tail, they don’t even know of our existence…).

A Trick of the Tail is worth treasuring for its unexpected strangeness…a gentle, sedating sort of weird that paints wild images of fantasy in the unassuming mind of one who only expected to hear four Brits rock out. The result is much more intoxicating than that; a creepiness handcrafted by the organic talents of a younger, much grittier Genesis.

“Squonk” is side-A’s urban legend, armed with thrashing drums from Collins, a formidable electric guitar lead, and caution of a Northern-Pennsylvania beast (“Not flesh nor fish nor bone, a red rag hangs from an open mouth/ Alive at both ends but a little dead in the middle, a-tumbling and -bumbling he will go…). Metamorphic in both sound and mood, the track is the perfect sample from A Trick of The Tail—melody and oddity in all the right places.

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