Artist – Genesis
Album – Invisible Touch
Year – 1986
Genre – Progressive Rock
– listen to 4:26 for part one
I’ve been asked if I could go back in time to see one band or musician, who would it be. The answer is Genesis, without question. Progressive rock is my thing, but Genesis consistently produced music that both had incredible construction and talent behind it, and yet still be insanely pleasing to listen to. Peter Gabriel and Phil Collins were both incredible frontmen, but Phil holds a special place with me due to his pop sensibility and ability to craft songs that appealed to a majority of people, as well as him being one of the greatest pop/rock singers of all time. Genesis’ Invisible Touch album had a huge list of top 10 hits, but “Domino” was not one of them. In fact, the song is the longest song on the album, and despite an album full of pop hits, “Domino” is a full on 10 minute progressive emotional exploration. It’s an absolutely beautiful piece, with incredible lyrics and melodies that hit you like a train on both vocal and musical fronts. It’s a track that deserves to be heard. As you can imagine, a ten minute song will require a bit of a longer review, so bear with me here.
The song itself is actually divided into two distinct parts, so I will divide my reviews as such. As the title implies, the song the “domino effect” in our lives, in which one single event starts a chain reaction and subsequently affects every aspect of a person’s life, or in some cases, many lives. The song’s two parts focus on two different instances of this affect, on two different levels. The first part, “In the Glow of the Night,” focuses on the decision to break up and the loss of love affects us on a deeply emotional level.
The song’s gentle opening is immediately graced with Collins’ impassioned vocals. The delivery of each and every word of the verse is filled with crystallized sadness, and you can trace the arc of feeling throughout. Tony Banks is the man on this half of the song, and his dark and moody synths paint a perfect picture of the atmosphere of loneliness and heartache. His little flourishes and melodies are impeccable and if you really focus on them, have just as much emotion put into them as the singing.
Lyrics and melody have to go hand in hand in this review. Tony Banks also wrote the lyrics to both halves of the song, and oh my God they are stunning. Every line in part 1 is perfectly written and melds poetry and relatable feeling better than most songs about the subject. If you’ve gone through really terrible heartbreak and heartache, please tell that every one of these lines is something you haven’t thought at some point:
Then I reach across to touch her,
But I know that she’s not there
Can’t you see what you are doing to me?
Can’t you see what you have done?
As I try to pass another long and sleepless night,
A hundred crazy voices call my name,
As I try to pass them by,
I almost can believe that she is here
Do you see we shall never be together again?
All of my life
These are the silent thoughts of desperation that remain unsaid to many. We hold these thoughts and feelings in our hearts and they eat away at us. One simple decision to separate leads to feelings of sickness, loneliness, sleepless nights and tears. Thoughts of inferiority, and second chances run rampant in our minds until we reach our lowest point. There is no worse feeling in the human heart than this, and I can see perfectly clear that Tony Banks knows this all too well.
Collins has the most important job of all. As the emotional swings of the song clash back and forth behind him, he wails and weeps, sighs and yearns. He does all this in his beautiful singing and melodies, which capture every nuance that the words put forth. Rising and falling, and building up again, much like we do in our own lives, Collins keeps the song potent and keeps it in our heads. You can feel his resignation to sadness in the beginning of each verse, and feel his anguish swell at the end of each verse. It’s incredible to hear emotional/vocal manipulation of this kind.
All the while, the instrumentation follows suit. Soft and smoky synths and guitar blankets the reflective parts, and intense pulses of keyboard and drums punctuate the anger and frustration. It’s the perfect mirror to the vocals, and the song stays in equilibrium throughout.
The final three lines of this half of the song hit you like nothing else. They perfectly capture the essence of a loving moment, and what the heart truly wants in that moment. Every time I hear them, I can’t help but get a bit emotional:
In silence and darkness
We held each other near that night
We prayed it would last forever
Every single person who has experienced love and the feeling that someone truly accepts you and cares about you for who you are knows this feeling. It’s such a universal statement of emotion, and it’s words like these that are what keep me passionate about music. If you’ve every held someone close at night, you never want to let them go. You want it to last forever. Because you know that in your heart, you’re the happiest you’ve ever been. What Banks and Collins are showing is how in one single moment, it can be taken away, and an emptiness like you’ve never known hits you. It’s a pain that can’t be quelled with medicine, and only time heals. Even then, scars remain.
Collins softly remembers the memory of that night as he sings the words, and he builds up to a final primal outburst of emotion on the last word “forever.” It’s a moment that truly needs to be heard to be understood and felt. Under him, Banks finishes the song with atmospheric synth that floats like a reverie. It’s a show of tenderness and quietude that can be felt both in loneliness and in the arms of a lover.
If there is a song (or a part of one for that matter) that captures what it means to lose love and to truly feel pain, it is this one. This is the “domino effect” on a wholly singular level. One person’s decision affects the other in ways that are hard to fathom until you’ve felt it. After this half of the song, you may be reeling emotionally, but “Domino” has more tricks of its sleeve in Part 2. What are they? Well you’ll have to read my next review to find out. As for this one, I truly hope you all find something special and emotionally potent for you in this piece. That is my fondest hope, because that’s the true power of music. Stay tuned…
Thanks for reading, and as always, I’d love if you guys could leave a like, comment, follow me, or share this page. The truth is that someone out there probably needs a song like this right now…