The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway


Atco Records, 1974

REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen


If you ever want to start a fistfight with a diehard Genesis fan, bring up the subject of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, ask them if they think it's a work of genius or the last act of a deranged frontman -- and then defend the opposite stand they have.

You never knew what to expect from this British art-rock band - lead singer Peter Gabriel was known to take the stage dressed up as a flower. Often the liner notes to their albums had rambling non sequitur stories that you probably could understand while on the influence of drugs. Obviously, this was a much different band than the '80s popsters they became.

But in 1974, Gabriel and crew did seem like they went over the top with The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway - an album that would have been great if it had been a single release. The first half is indeed a masterpiece,but the story line... would someone explain to me what the fuck this story is supposed to be about?

I swear, I tried extra hard on this one, but I just couldn't plow through the liner notes on this one. I think I'd rather read Charles Dickens -- and I hated Great Expectationsmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 when I was in high school -- than try to re-read the inside album cover again!

Apparently, the story revolves around a character named Rael who gets sucked into a surreal world of self-discovery. It's a difficult story to follow, even with the lyric sheets -- and the lyric sheets add a bizarre aspect to the lyrics. In the title track, one of the classic performances on the album, Gabriel sings a line that sounds like something in a foreign language -- it actually is "Rael Imperial Aerosol Kid". Two words: say what ?!?

In fact, the first half of the album is some of the most original music I think that Genesis had ever created. "Cuckoo Cocoon" is a gentle performance which features our "hero" finding himself imprisoned. "In The Cage" features some massive time signature changes and shifts in tempo; just their ability to work through these flawlessly is a sign of the band's power. Phil Collins' drum work illustrates how good of a drummer he is, and the guitar/bass work of Steve Hackett and Mike Rutherford is the glue that holds this whole collection together.

The second part of The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway -- side two, for us vinyl junkies -- is the part to hang over the mantle. From the surreal vocal effects on "Back In N.Y.C." to another gentle vocal performance on "The Carpet Crawlers" to a country twang on "The Chamber Of 32 Doors," this is the side I kept finding myself drifting to.

Too bad that the second record ruins the whole moment. The instrumental work on "The Waiting Room" is a little too whacked out for my tastes, as were the noodlings on "The Supernatural Anaesthetist." The story tying the songs together begins to develop on the final side, as Rael must face the decision of escaping from the hell he is in or saving his brother John and remaining trapped. You'll find out what his decision was on "The Light Dies Down On Broadway."

The whole weirdness level had to have gotten to even Gabriel; he bolted from Genesis in 1975 to start a more toned down solo career. And somehow, I believe that if the band had dropped the whole Kafka-meets-Poul Anderson schtick and concentrated on writing a one-disc pop progressive rock monster, this would have been a much better album. (In Genesis's defense, at least most of the music isn't over the top, and does lean more towards pop. "Counting Out Time" could have been a big hit on the radio, and doesn't get any airplay these days... pity.)

In one sense, I really think that if someone could figure out what the hell this story was about, they could turn The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway into a massive hit... yes, on Broadway. But until that day comes, my advice is to approach this album with caution.

Rating: C+

User Rating: B+



© 1997 Christopher Thelen and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Atco Records, and is used for informational purposes only.