We Can’t Dance celebrates 30th Anniversary

11 November 2021 is the 30th anniversary of the release of Genesis’ WE CAN’T DANCE – the last studio album recorded with Phil Collins. The record was released five years after their mega-seller INVISIBLE TOUCH and consolidated on the huge success of that album. The sound here is much earthier, the result of a change in production engineer and a desire to create a more natural sound. The album was released with the CD era in full swing and the band utilised the increased running time available (70+ mins as opposed to 45-50 mins) on disc to produce a collection of songs that had great variety.

The opener is ‘No Son of Mine’, an arresting and emotional tale of a broken father-son relationship. ‘Jesus He Knows Me’ shows the band delving into satire in an up-tempo and melodically catchy exploration of the motivations of TV evangelists. ‘Driving the Last Spike’ is the first long song on the album, which has strong passages but suffers from over-length, being framed in a traditional structure. Collins’ lyrics depicting the working conditions during the building of the railways are amongst his best. ‘I Can’t Dance’ is another satiric song, this time looking at TV advertising. Rutherford’s riff is memorable and Collins has fun delivering the vocals. ‘Never a Time’ is a nice ballad, one that feels like the band could write it in their sleep. The brooding ‘Dreaming While You Sleep’ is one of the album’s strongest songs. A dark tale of a hit-and-run accident and the guilt the driver must face. ‘Tell Me Why’ is an unfortunate mismarriage between music (upbeat and slightly psychedelic) and lyrics (concerning poverty and starvation). ‘Living Forever’ returns the band to satire, this time looking at contradictions in advice on healthy living. The song plays out with a pleasant, but undemanding, instrumental section. ‘Hold on My Heart’ is a strong ballad with Banks’ trademark chords and a great vocal from Collins. ‘Way of the World’ has a shuffling rhythm to drive its philosophical look at life and is musically strong with a neat short solo for Banks. ‘Since I Lost You’ laments the tragic death of Eric Clapton’s young son, with the jarring backdrop of a plodding piano and Phil Spector-like production sound. The album closer, ‘Fading Lights’, is a masterpiece of reflection with one of the band’s best instrumental sections filling the sandwich. Bank’s lyrics seem to announce the end of this line-up of the band deliberately closing with the word ‘remember’. Whilst the album is inconsistent, there are still a good number of high-quality songs. Of the two non-album tracks ‘On the Shoreline’ would have been worthy of inclusion.

GENESIS
WE CAN’T DANCE (Virgin, 11 November 1971) – Album Score – 72%
Tony Banks – Keyboards
Mike Rutherford – Guitar, Bass
Phil Collins – Vocals, Drums, Percussion, Drum Machines

Produced by Genesis and Nick Davis
Engineered by Nick Davis assisted by Mark Robinson
Recorded at The Farm, August 1971
2007 remix by Nick Davis assisted by Tom Mitchell and Geoff Callingham
Cover and Art Direction by David Scheinmann of Icon Photography
Cover Illustration by Felicity Roma Bowers

TRACK SCORES

  1. No Son of Mine (6:41) **** (A-side single 28/10/91)
  2. Jesus He Knows Me (4:23) **** (A-side single 20/7/92)
  3. Driving the Last Spike (10:10) ****
  4. I Can’t Dance (4:04) *** (A-side single 6/1/92)
  5. Never a Time (3:52) *** (A-side single (US) 19/10/92)
  6. Dreaming While You Sleep (7:21) ****
  7. Tell Me Why (5:00) ** (A-side single 8/2/93)
  8. Living Forever (5:42) ***
  9. Hold on My Heart (4:40) **** (A-side single 13/4/92)
  10. Way of the World (5:40) ***
  11. Since I Lost You (4:10) **
  12. Fading Lights (10:16) *****

Non-album tracks:

  1. On the Shoreline (4:45) *** (B-side to ‘I Can’t Dance’)
  2. Hearts on Fire (5:15) ** (B-side to ‘Jesus He Knows Me’)

All songs written by Banks/Collins/Rutherford