Saturday, October 18, 2014
Track of the Week: Genesis, "Carpet Crawlers"
There is probably no genre of music that I have changed my mind over more dramatically than prog rock. I became enchanted by punk's raw energy as a teenager, and according to punk's interpretation of rock history, I saw prog as apostasy. Instead of heart and rough power it was all musical wanking, daft lyrics, and overcooked silliness. Recently I've begun to actually enjoy a lot of 70s prog rock, since despite its drawbacks it often contains a musical complexity and creative daring missing in other forms of rock music. My growing appreciation for jazz also might have something to do with this change of mind.
Genesis has become my favorite of the prog bands, at least in their Peter Gabriel version. (Although I will admit a fondness for "Abacab," "Turn It On Again," and "That's All.") I could also say Steve Hackett version of Genesis, since his guitar playing really blows me away on a consistent basis and was a crucial part of the band's sound before they went pop. Gabriel's swan song with the band was The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, perhaps the strangest and most ambitious rock opera of its time. It tells the story of how Rael, a Puerto Rican, graffiti artist youth living in New York gets sucked into another realm via the subway tunnels and must confront strange beasts and his own innermost self. The concept gets a little ridiculous in places, but I tend to focus on the music rather than the lyrics.
"Carpet Crawlers" is ostensibly about horrid creatures Rael sees, but the song is really more a way to transport the listener into a focused mind space. It has become my favorite to listen to while riding my commuter train into Manhattan in the eerie pre-dawn darkness. Gabriel shows off his underrated voice in a warm, understated fashion that I find to be sublime when combined with the pretty Debussy-esque keyboard accompaniment and gently keening guitar. Yes, the lyrical content is indeed daft and the musicianship a bit wanky, but the overall experience I take away from this song is the thrill of brushing against something truly, heart-breakingly beautiful. Not many other songs can do that for me.