The album art of Genesis: an evaluation

by criticalhit009

A while back I wrote a mega-post critiquing the rhetoric and arguments of a Genesis box set review. That bulk of writing got me thinking about the album art of the band. Here’s my resulting evaluation of every studio album by Genesis. Some assorted notes:

  • All copies of of the album artwork has been pulled from unless otherwise noted.
  • Most album art refers specifically to a song or the entire concept to the album.
  • I usually HATE classroom grades given to works of various media, but in the case of particular evaluations of artwork, I find they work well.
  • I find the album art during the Gabriel years more compelling in its complexity.
  • Also, this list is TOTALLY the definitive evaluation of the album artwork. Yep. Totally.
From Genesis To Revalation

From Genesis To Revalation, 1969

Genesis’ first album is mostly a footnote in the band’s career. The black with dark…something text only pushes the album from memorability. D-

Trespass, 1970

Much improved. The ornamentation adds to the presentation without overpowering it, and the rendering of the knife cutting through the artwork itself adds a meta-textual layer to the work, connecting to the breakout song of the album, “The Knife.” Sophisticated lettering adds a lot as well, considering Genesis has a troubled history with its logo. B+


Nursery Cryme, 1971

Nursery Cryme, 1971

Kind of doofy, but I like the texture of the artwork. The stripes leading to a singular horizon point adds some visual interest, and the central figure is incredibly intriguing. B-

Foxtrot, 1972

Foxtrot, 1972

So there’s a whale, and the Watcher of the Skies, and some people on the shore. A curious scene, to be sure. Unfortunately, Genesis used the same name logo from Nursery Cryme. It’s ok, but I find the logo on Trespass more interesting, even though it would not translate well to many of the other albums. I find the overall blue ocean feel nicer than the bland yellow/tan of Nursery Cryme, with some nice illustration of the waves. B+

Selling England By The Pound, 1973

The painterly texture of the album art is a very nuanced addition to the artwork., but with a plain light yellow-tan border, the artwork itself can feel a bit drab. A few of the figures have some interesting flavor to them in their fashion, but the scene is enigmatic, making it difficult to evaluate. Unfortunately, the name logo is just plain text, which is also another disappointing entry in the “Genesis never really has a good logo for their name” history. B

The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, 1974

One of the best entries. The tension between the men in the palpable. The figures are dynamic, and each photo background reflects the textures and terrors of modernity. The conceit of the artwork itself is interesting and insightful to the album, a nice plus. The logo is probably the weakest link in the ensemble, but it’s still a vast improvement to plain text. A-

A Trick of the Tail, 1976

The best album art of the whole oeuvre of Genesis. The artistry is detailed but not overwhelming, and the logo meshes perfectly with the artwork. A

Wind & Wuthering, 1976

This artwork I feel is somewhat maligned for being impenetrable. I find the name logo one of the best entries in Genesis’ history, with an overall moody atmosphere of the work. It’s nice and simple, with some fantastically employed detailed. B+

…and then there were three…, 1978

…and then there’s this monstrosity. Where to begin? The Genesis logo is bafflingly awful, bare dotted text beginning to ooze some mysterious green substance. The album title fares a bit better by trying to keep it simple, making it the least awful element by comparison for simply not trying. The artwork itself is a complete mess, utterly incomprehensible what you are actually supposed to be looking at. If I had the patience, I could probably rip into this artwork, but for now, let’s just call it the strange home planet of Grimus and be done with it. F

Duke, 1980

If Duke has one saving grace, it’s that’s it’s oversimplicity gives a focused perspective to the artwork itself. By as my dear culture stalking friend put it, “the album art looks like it belongs to a children’s book.” The texture and subject matter feels like you’d be reading this book as a nightly reading before bed. It’s still ghastly bland though. The text and artwork is so non-stimulating I find myself falling asleep already. D

Abacab, 1981

Abacab, 1981

Simplicity in a turn towards the abstract. Primary colors add some visual interest. I like it. B

Genesis, 1983

And back to the realm of childhood again, except instead of a children’s book like Duke, we have a look at 3-D puzzle slot pieces. This might just be a look at Instagram-y art before Instagram. The bright neon yellow is eye-catchingly, glaringly destructive. I’d give points for a cursive font for the name logo, but that also doubles for the unoriginal album title. C-

Invisible Touch, 1986

For being a combination of a few simple patterns and shapes, this album art is remarkably messy. It doesn’t help that the hand of the aforementioned “Invisible Touch” is an unappealing tan-ish orange. if you couldn’t tell, there’s an outline of a family of four in the green pattern. I didn’t see it for years until today. It’s this mis-mash of colors and shapes that makes me actually appreciate the plain text name logo and album title. Points for the hyper-modernity of style, at least. C

We Can’t Dance, 1991

Another children’s book cover. Seriously. At least the name logo is an interesting shape, even though the purple-colored text just adds to the warm fuzzy sleepy-time feels of the artwork. Watercolors of a sunset. The easiest, most inoffensive thing you can probably paint. Booooriiiing. D

Calling All Stations, 1997

Let’s start with the logo: it has a bizarrely orange shading, with a tacky water rippling effect that looks like it was ripped from a 50s B movie. Surrounding the title with ellipsis just reminds me of …and then there were three…,which is not a compliment. The strange blue ripple the mysterious figure stands on proves that, yes, there is some kind of connected theme of radio waves. It all works theoretically in content, but not necessarily in form. D+