showcased a new Genesis
-- a sleek, hard, stylish trio that truly sounded like a different band from its first incarnation -- but Abacab
was where this new incarnation of the band came into its own. Working with producer Hugh Padgham
, the group escalated the innovations of Duke
, increasing the pop hooks, working them seamlessly into the artiest rock here. And even if the brash, glorious pop of "No Reply at All" -- powered by the percolating horns of Earth, Wind & Fire
, yet polished into a precise piece of nearly new wave pop by Padgham
-- suggests otherwise, this is still art rock at its core, or at least album-oriented rock, as the band works serious syncopations and instrumental forays into a sound that's as bright, bold, and jagged as the modernist artwork on the cover. They dabble in other genres, lacing "Me and Sarah Jane" with a reggae beat, for instance, which often adds dimension to their sound, as when "Dodo" rides a hard funk beat and greasy organ synths yet doesn't become obvious; it turns inward, requiring active listening. Truly, only "No Reply at All," the rampaging title track (possibly their hardest-rocking song to date), and the sleek and spooky "Man on the Corner" (which hides a real melancholy heart underneath its glistening surface) are immediate and accessible -- although the Mockney jokes of "Who Dunnit?" could count, it's too much of a geeky novelty to be pop. The rest of Abacab
is truly modern art rock, their last album that could bear that tag comfortably.