A sentimental exploration of Mike Rutherford’s uncommunicative parental relationship had already catapulted a side band to the top of the charts. Genesis’ "No Son of Mine," released on November 11, 1991 as part of We Can’t Dance, takes a far different tack.
This time, with a Phil Collins lyric set to the accompaniment of a flinty keyboard sample from Tony Banks, they leave aside the redemptive qualities of Mike and the Mechanics’ "The Living Years" for a more serrated moment of real-world emotional damage: Thrown out of his house after a vaguely drawn moment of domestic violence, this son eventually works up the nerve to return — only to find things sadly unchanged.
Just as interesting is the musical setting, in particular for a period not known for risk taking by Genesis. Tony Banks’ keyboard stab — dubbed "elephantus" by the band — is joined by a tick-tocking cadence, something that imbues everything with deadly apprehension. Phil Collins then adds one of his most committed vocal turns in years, though he later admitted that he didn’t quite know where the narrative inspiration came from. After all, he somewhat sheepishly admits to a wonderful childhood.
Mike Rutherford contributes a tinkering guitar signature, and Collins eventually switches to a louder, slapping rhythm. But it’s Banks’ sample, taken from a riff Rutherford played and then pitch lowered by playing it on the low end of his keyboard, that continues to defines the song.
It’s there that the larger, darker, crushingly cyclic context of Genesis’ "No Son of Mine" — its grinding sense of defeat — is perfectly encapsulated. If "The Living Years" pined for a moment when a father and son could talk again, this track shows how that dream can be shattered by reality’s hard truths.
© Something Else Reviews, by Nick DeRiso
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