The girl turns in her seat on the bus and motions toward him. The all-state band contest is over, and so is the performance year for ninth-graders. He's trumpet. She's flute. He thumbs the volume knob of his Walkman, which is as big as a Kleenex box because the year is 1986, and raises his eyebrows.
"Can I borrow that?"
What can he say? She's flute.
"Sure, but I only brought a couple of tapes."
She lunges back to his seat. He digs in his backpack and shows her the cases. Genesis. Abacab. Genesis. Duke.
"I like that one," she says, pointing one perfect chewed pink nail at Abacab.
"I love 'Man on the Corner.'"
"That's my least favorite," she says. "I like the one after it. Thanks!"
What comes after "Man on the Corner" is "Like It or Not," weepy piffle about a damaged relationship. She knows about damaged relationships? She's fourteen.
"They say that girls mature faster than boys," she says, looking past him and out the bus window.
"Not really. Girls just learn to like boy-girl music "love songs" first. Until they're 30, boys, believing that they are sexual and social outcasts, prefer boy-boy music. Songs made by boys. Songs that say, 'Let's stay in the club as long as we can.'"
Which makes Genesis, an English band formed by boarding-school nerds with Church of England names (Peter Gabriel, Michael Rutherford, Anthony Banks) whose first boy-girl songs featured sibling incest and a divine hermaphrodite, the ultimate boy-boy band, ergo the best band ever.
"I know about Genesis," she says, impatient now. "They made boy songs for presexual types" she squints at him "but drummer Phil Collins was into girls instead of being an uptight schoolboy, so he loosened up the others while dumbing down the music after he took over singing."
"Ah, but Rutherford wrote 'Like It or Not,'" he says. She rolls her eyes. "In the future, though, when Abacab comes out again mixed in 5.1 with a separate stereo disc drawn from the new surround master, I'm sure I'll like that song more."
"Whatever," she says. She looks down at his open backpack. "What are those?"
"Those are the DVD-Audio discs," he says. He has her attention.
"Abacab's open spaces, skeletal guitar lines and hulking beats tear away the chummy insulation of the band's previous albums and expose its boy-boy heart to air, a move that would cause its eventual mutation to a boy-girl jukebox," she says, surprised at her own ardor.
"You've got it," he says. "Banks' keyboard parts buzz rather than simper, Collins finds sharp new corners of his glassy tenor, and Rutherford worries his bass and guitar frets with minimalist grace. The largely improvised setting melts the writerly chill of past albums. Of course, that insularity was part of the boy appeal, and these five albums chart the ebb and flow of writers honing their playing and players honing their studio skills and then working again on their writing."
She nods and sits down next to him. "What about the other albums?"
"Purists still complain that guitarist Hackett's departure after Wind and Wuthering crippled Genesis," he whispers. "That's wrong. And Then There Were Three loses its balance after the flinty 'Down and Out,' wobbling from keyboard solo to keyboard solo before succumbing to the pillow talk of 'Follow You, Follow Me.' But it's persuasive talk, buttressed by Latin percussion that sits up in the new mix like an e " he pauses and looks around "an erection in math class."
She blushes, but her smile doesn't fade. She leans into him. "After a nap and Collins' divorce," she says, "the band tosses out a cupboard full of noodles, hooks up its first drum machine and makes an American hit, Collins' 'Misunderstanding,' on the stoic, twilit Duke."
"The DVD includes indispensable footage from the band's most vital tour," he tells her as they admire Duke's cover. He kisses her cheek and then goes on: "Remastering engineer Nick Davis emphasizes group dynamics over individual attack. The sound is sometimes compressed and the reverb overbright, but the set makes a case for these albums as a band achieving greatness."
"Wait," she says as the bus slows and the school looms. "What's a DVD?"
Genesis 1976-1982 (Rhino) was released on Tuesday, May 15.
© Riverfronttimes, by Scott Wilson