Press File: Wise After The Event
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Anthony Phillips - Wise After The Event (Arista)
Not among the best known of the Genesis émigrés, Anthony Phillips quit the band after the "Trespass" album in 1970, and no doubt he's been trying to go straight ever since. Frankly, you'd never guess that he did leave, the Charterhouse sound-syndrome still lingering on this, his second solo effort after several years of musical research, forages into classical-ity and sundry other speculative enterprises. Whatever he's done, wherever he's been, Phillips has been wasting his time; he remains effectively confined within the original Genesis vision.
"Wise After The Event", masterminded by Phillips with help from old King Crimson drummer Mike Giles, former Caravan bassist John Perry and Genesis buddy Mike Rutherford, is a completely vacuous record. Rupert Hine's production impresses as much as Phillips' instrumental versatility , but talent badly and unimaginatively harnessed is no talent at all. Track by track, without exception, this is music to nod off to.
Phillips, obviously regarding himself of something of a poet, contrives plenty of Tolkien/Bolan acid imagery and Beatrix Potter lyrics: all very pretty and harmless enough if you like that kind of thing - drivel if you don't. Most of the songs bear a striking resemblance to Pink Floyd's short and trippy acoustic compositions around the time of "More" but Phillips' vocals rarely rise to the occasional occasion he manages to emote. To quote from the album in context would be rather lengthy; to quote random sentiments would not be to Phillips' advantage such are the puerile meanderings.
For fanatical Genesis chronologists only.
Emma Ruth, New Musical Express 1978.
Anthony Phillips - Wise After The Event (Arista)
An examination of the cover, with its astronauts on moon buggies surrounded by seals, squirrels and assorted threatened species, gives an indication of the album's theme - namely, that we have woken up to the horrors of technology too late.
A slightly closer examination of the credits on the back of the cover also gives a hint of what sort of musical fare is to be found hidden in the grooves. Gratitude is expressed to Mike Rutherford, among others, and the album is very reminiscent of Genesis, both musically and lyrically.
Indeed, at times it's hardly distinguishable and suffers from much the same flaws - lyrical obscurity often for its own sake, more than a dash of pretentiousness and music that is often precious - without having much of the imagination and flair that always made (makes?) Genesis what they were (are?)
"I dreamed I was a Big Bear, bespectacled and brown... Now what are they doing to my little friends? I make everything and it all dies in the end" is a sample of some of the more dire stuff.
It doesn't all reach those depths, though and "Moonshooter" is a fine song. Throughout the album there are plenty of pleasant melodies to set one humming, and there isn't a raucous note in it. But it's clearly not intended to be just mildly soporific, which is exactly what it is.
Phillips' voice and singing style is the same - sweet, tuneful but ultimately cloying. Where it's good, it's nothing but nice, and where it's bad, it's turgid, over-done and best forgotten.
D.B. - publication unknown, 1978.
Anthony Phillips - Wise After The Event (Arista SPART 1063) **˝
'Wise After The Event' has a lovely gatefold cover with elaborate illustrations by Peter Cross which mix all the metaphors contained in the lyrics and kind of imply that it's a concept album, which it isn't. It also proudly displays the track timings showing that for your money you will receive a total of 51 minutes 66 seconds (!) of music - a hilarious piece of arithmetic which I suspect was a goolie dropped rather than a joke, because this record isn't long on humour. Very persuasive visuals. But approach it with caution unless you are the kind of Genesis freak who must have everything by everybody who ever played a note with them.
The connection is still there despite all the years in between. A couple of declamatory choruses in 'We're All As We Lie' and 'Paperchase' would have been equally at home on any of the band's recent albums. There's the Genesis whimsy, obscurity and rather doleful pomposity as well - the less appealing ingredients of a band I rarely enjoy. However, although the links are too obvious to ignore, Anthony Phillips certainly does have his own sounds to make. Featuring acoustic guitars he sings high and light using harmonies not unlike the more soto voce passages of The Beach Boys and/or phasing a la psychedelic Lennon. Hearing it for the first time while washing up these familiar noises struck me as pleasant and appealing. That was as close as I ever got to it though. A couple of careful plays and the initial sympathy had become irritation at the lack of an original identity in the music and morose resentment of the hangdog tone of the whole thing.
By then the only tracks that were remaining palatable were 'Wise After The Event', with guitar and vocals you could actually describe as forceful, and 'Regrets', the only song in which the emotional content is on a personal rather than philosophical level (it opens with a neat reference to 'My Way'). Phillips is something of a (serious) punster and his words are by no means as leaden as those of many other writers who aspire to the cosmic. But for all the care and hard work put into every aspect it doesn't inspire me - even to calumny. I guess Genesis/Camel fans will like it. For the rest it's music to crash a sink full of plates and cutlery about to.
Phil Sutcliffe, Sounds, 1978
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