Herbicidal Battering

Waste no time!
They are approaching.
Hurry now, we must protect ourselves and find some shelter
Strike by night!
They are defenceless
They all need the sun to photosensitize their venom.

Still they’re invincible,
Still they’re immune to all our herbicidal battering

I get a bit envious sometimes of all you North Americans, Australasians, Africans, Aquaphibians and, umm, Polararians because you have kick ass wildlife that can kill you; surely that has to add a frisson of danger every time you head for the mountains? go outside to put the bins out? I mean don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking to be assaulted by mambas, mauled by tigers, nipped by poisonous spiders, or indeed, buggered by bears*, but I do experience a tinge of jealousy because your wildlife sits there coiled like a spring, all mysterious and dangerous, whereas British wildlife – exquisite, heart-warming and beautiful as it may be, is so damn bucolic and safe.  I mean our water-dwelling mammals really do wear trousers and live in little houses, when they’re not boating around – Wind In The Willows wasn’t a work of fiction, it was entirely factual.  True story.

Genesis Nursery Cryme 03
Click to enjoy in full glorious 1537-o-vision

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that when burgeoning new kids on the prog block Genesis released Nursery Cryme in 1971, they had written a pretty heavy track and wanted a suitably fierce, menacing subject for it they turned to British wildlife.  So would they write a song about a disgruntled, disenfranchised badger? the pain of accidentally stepping on a hedgehog barefoot? nope they wanted eviller.  So they finally settled for ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’, or as they helpfully elucidate at the end, Heracleum Mantegazziani.  Yup, the evil incarnate they found was a 7″ tall phototoxic noxious weed – okay so it could cause really nasty itching and potentially scars**, but it isn’t really up there with the fanged predators of this world is it?

The good news of course is that, all silliness aside (just like ‘Supper’s Ready’ from Foxtrot) it’s a really good track^, not quite as good but pretty darn good.  This was Phil Collins and Steve Hackett’s debut with the band and they both really make their presence felt, particularly on the first side of the LP.  Hackett adds layers of, umm, layers right from the off, he really is an incredibly talented guitarist and Phil Collins is a really good, astute, drummer – people forget that I think.

Genesis Nursery Cryme 06

Opening with the best track Nursery Cryme, kicks off with ‘The Musical Box’, a real English 10 minute polite prog classic.  It deals with that hoary old tale we’ve all heard a million times before in popular music: boy meets girl, girl decapitates boy with croquet mallet, boy possesses nursery musical box, boy ages rapidly develops adult feelings towards girl, girl hurls music box at disembodied bearded child’s head, causing the symbiotically linked items to mutually destruct.  If I had a pound for every time I’d heard that old chestnut!^ Seriously though, if you can suspend all disbelief it’s a cracking track, right up there with the band’s very best if you ask me.  It strikes a confident, otherworldly note right from the start with Tony Banks’ opening chords onwards and Peter Gabriel’s vocals sound clipped and venomous in places here, amidst the sprawling loveliness of the guitar setting.  When it starts to rock out at about 4 minutes in, it gets even better and rougher around the edges, Hackett playing for all he’s worth and accompanied by Banks electric piano played through a fuzz pedal (which I think is intrinsically a very cool thing indeed).  Like all good prog-tinged things I find you need to stop holding onto the side and just ease yourself downstream and float on off on a sea of time changes, false crescendos and preposterous conceits.

Genesis Nursery Cryme 05

One track I really enjoyed this time around stands in stark contrast to the other two behemoths on the first side of Nursery Cryme, that is ‘For Absent Friends’ a rather, underplayed gentle 1:48 song about a widowed couple going to church.  In the wrong mood I’d point to it and denounce it as an attempt to rewrite ‘Eleanor Rigby’, but I rather like it, it feels real.  It was also Collins’ first lead vocal for the band.  The mighty Opeth paid tribute to this track on Deliverance.

Unfortunately, in a mirror image of Foxtrot, it pains me to report that Side 2 is all a big load of nothing.  I can’t hear anything particularly worthwhile in any of the four tracks, okay so none of them are bad per se. but they really don’t rise above the bland for me at any point.  Actually, scrap that, I dislike ‘Harold The Barrel’ and its clumsy tale of a restauranteurs’ suicide intensely, musically it’s pants and, for me, not a topic you ever mess with.

Genesis Nursery Cryme 02

A word about the cover too, it works as a bit of a metaphor for the LP as a whole.  Paul Whitehead’s picture is what first attracted me to the album, it looks great when you open the gatefold right up (CD’s? pah!) but it’s also slightly amateurish and a bit rubbish (and I mean that affectionately, I really do!), he was no Roger Dean but I find that all a bit endearing – they were all doing their best.

Mighty Hogweed is avenged.
Human bodies soon will know our anger.
Kill them with your Hogweed hairs

Giant Hogweed lives


Genesis Nursery Cryme 04

398 Down.

P.S – additional Lego assistance tonight from the 1537-lings.

*definitely not that.

**even blindness if you get the sap in the eyes – so please don’t think I’m taking the p*ss too much here.

^okay so this is about the fifth time I’ve made this joke, but it amuses me every time, so deal with it.

^^not an easy rhyme that one, I can well see why they shirked it.

Bonus Literary Lego:

Iris Murdoch Severed Head Lego


37 thoughts on “Herbicidal Battering

  1. Went back to this one after ‘Selling England’. It satisfied my wanting to hear more Genesis . I don’t know much about “Hogweed” but some innocent botanist brought “Broom” over to the Island I live on and there’s an all out war to kill it. The Broom is winning!

  2. I’m one of those who has forgotten Phil Collins was a good drummer. I’ve heard bits and bobs and thought “oh aye, I quite like that”, but unfortunately my dislike of ol’ ‘Buster’ killed my interest in Genesis.

    I may review this, though, as I’d somehow stumbled upon information about his film, Tomorrow Is Always Too Long, and was intrigued enough to snap up some tickets. Oooft.

  3. Never caught on to the Gabriel Genesis, admitedly. Although I enjoy both separately.
    Having family in Northern and Eastern Ontario, we have to drive far into the bush to get there. We’ve interacted with deer running out on the highway, was hit by a truck in the lane beside us, its hoof hitting the hubs passenger side mirror (no damage). This was years ago. Since, we’ve seen bear snacking at the local cottage dump and fox is a common sight where I live in rural town. Oh, and how can I forget the a**hole racoon that lived in our attic for 2 weeks…
    Probably the weirdest thing was being in Florida on the coast and being instructed by erected signs to shuffle our feet for sting rays while swimming. Uh, what?!

    1. Shuffling Sting Rays!?! Sounds like the sort of thing Robin would have said to Batman,

      ‘Shuffling sting rays, Batman! The Joker’s gone, leaving three of his goons behind’

      1. Yes, bizarre!! Our honeymoon was on the gulf in November, and apparently this was the time of year where stingrays like to come to enjoy the still-warm waters. Apparently they are more scared of you than the other way around. But, you shuffle because they’d bury themselves in the sand and you didn’t want to step on one because they’d sting and then you have a golden showers situation…I smell another blogpost coming on…

  4. Hmmm… not so much savage wildlife here I agree. Although some of the squirrels in Queens Park are getting worryingly familiar and the Geese in Glasgow Green are terrifying. They will mug you for your fish supper.

    I agree with you on this one. I love early Genesis but there’s always one or two songs on each album that just do nothing for me, usually cause Gabriel has rammed them full of wordiness. This album is definitely front-loaded. I do like the last song Fountain of Salmalcis though, it has a cool intro.

    1. I hear the geese run Glasgow. Looks like the School of Art didn’t pay their protection corn on time…

      Okay I will concede the point on the Intro of Salamacis, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

      1. Yeah I know. It’s not exactly a glowing review of a side saying that one of the songs has a cool intro! I think the strongest Gabriel era albums were Selling England and Lamb but even those have tunes that fail to register with me. But somehow I still love them!

        An art school being burned down by geese sounds like the sort of thing Genesis would write a song about!

      2. I think you and I should pen a 26 minute track, in 9 separate sections about it immediately.

        Never heard Lamb, but I love Selling England – I listen to it quite a lot actually.

    1. Ha! I know I chickened out of the Hogweed – Lego need to bring out a prog rock essentials pack; limited market, I accept, but still necessary.

  5. Although I desperately want to be all show-offy and blitz you with my biblical levels of Genesis knowing, all I can really say is: great review, I agree with everything you said. Damn.

    Oh, I know! The two side one howitzers come up fantastically on Genesis Live. They really rock. And when Gabriel sings ‘Touch your face’ then ‘Touch your flesh’ it is seriously creepy.

  6. The rattlesnakes Hubner watched out for? I ran over one on my bike. Guilt merged with fear.

    You can write a song about food-vendors with a death wish? Imagine that.

  7. The wedding we went to in Denver was up in the mountains. We were told to keep our eyes opened and watch where we stepped as there were rattlesnakes in the area.

    True story.

    Peter Gabriel was one weird fella.

    1. (Chases after) I think you’d like the good bits here – without sounding icky there’s a fair bit of early Marillion DNA in here.

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