Classic Genesis Album Review: A Trick of the Tail


Now that I’ve covered all the Gabriel-era Genesis albums, all you prog-heads out there may wonder why I even bother to continue. It’s true that the band would never quite reach the same kind of gonzo creative apex it did in those works, and the edginess in The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway in particular is singular. However, the history of Genesis has all sorts of interesting winding paths and dips, and we’re now entering one of the weirdest: the two albums after Peter Gabriel but before guitar virtuoso Steve Hackett left. While it must have been a chrysalis period at the time, in hindsight these two albums feel surprisingly even.

That’s not to say that the 1976 production A Trick of the Tail avoids feeling like a watered-down Nursery Cryme, but it’s more solid than you might expect. Out of all the different ways forward the band considered (and they considered many, including becoming a strictly instrumental outfit with no lead singer) this was probably the best to go. It feels more natural than you might think, even though it’s a step backwards in some ways. Instead of an attempt at a sprawling concept album, the band decided on a twee Edwardian short story collection approach, lighter and snugglier than their previous works but with some moments of menace. The album cover sums this up perfectly, with a bunch of kooky monsters, crooks and eccentrics waiting in line for their turn in a tableaux that makes me think of those old-timey Hendrick’s Gin ads.

Crack open the spine and let’s turn the page on this musty anthology. One thing I’ll say, you better start doing it right.

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Special Offer: A Devil of a Chapbook UPDATED

Boo! Got something special for youse guys, just in time for Octoooooober:


We all love a good scare this time of year, and there’s nothing scarier than a vaguely European cautionary tale about human darkness. Years ago, I had the honor of getting a short story, “A Devil Among Men,” published in chapbook form through the now-defunct Deathless Press. The goal was to write a dark fairy tale, in most cases a re-imagining of an old one, but in mine an original story featuring familiar names, motifs and concepts.

Did you know that demons tell ghost stories too? They do, and this mordant reverse tale of a foolish devil will make an excellent treat this Halloween (or, if I don’t get this working until later, a wonderfully random stocking stuffer).

As luck would have it, I still have a limited amount of copies of these absolutely gorgeous things available, and after years of lugging them around I have finally set up a PayPal Account so you can own one! I’m asking $6 for each book and will be matching half of whatever I make off with a donation to the Cambridge Women’s Center. I’m excited to finally send these little monsters into the wild. Even if you hate the story, you will look very sophisticated with one of these chapbooks in your house and you can even hold them up to your ear and turn the pages slowly to get that nice flippity sound. Hot dang!

I will update this post once the link is ready, but I just wanted to get everyone pumped.  Keep your eyes peeled!

UPDATE: It’s here! Click the link below and send me $6 and I will send you a copy of this chapbook in exchange.

Every ‘Black Mirror’ episode ending (so far), from least to most depressing [UPDATED 2019]

Warning: The following has spoilers for literally every episode of Black Mirror produced to date. It’s kind of in the title, but still: you have been warned.

Black Mirror’s runaway success with U.S. and other international viewers should say something about where we’re all at these days. Rarely has a show this consistently depressing also felt like such a must-watch, creating a weird dissonance after each episode ends: something like “Wow, I feel extremely bleak about life! Time to binge the next one!” Despite series creator Charlie Brooker’s love of perverse humor and insistence that the show comes from comedic premises played straight, the anthology show has always reveled in its grimness, in various shades of despair, horror and cynicism that only a show birthed in rising tensions of the early 21st century can. Whee!

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, Black Mirror began as a British sci-fi drama show with fewer than 10 episodes but has galloped into the international consciousness thanks to Netflix. The third season helped it past that  double digit mark but even with four total there’s still a tidy enough crop that we can easily arrange all of the twist (and non-twist) endings, for now, based on how much you just wanted to stare at a blank wall for a while afterwards.  Now that “Bandersnatch” is the water cooler discussion show of choice (for those who still work at places with water coolers), let’s take a close look at all the many different shades of sadness you can find in this gloriously morose anthology. And just a note: this is not a ranking based on quality, so don’t let my high placement of a certain infamous clunker worry you.

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