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Music / Abacab

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"And there's no reply at all. There's no reply at all."

"When they do it, you're never there.
When they show it, you stop and stare.
Abacab isn't anywhere.
Abacab doesn't really care."

Abacab is the eleventh studio album by progressive and pop rock group Genesis. It was released through Charisma Records on 18 September 1981 in the United Kingdom, and through Atlantic Records on 24 September 1981 in the United States.

After touring in 1980 to promote their album Duke, the band took a brief hiatus before buying a farmhouse in Surrey and converting it into a recording studio, making this the first album since A Trick of the Tail to be recorded in their native UK. The Farm would go on to record the remainder of Genesis' musical output, as well as the solo projects among the three band members.

Following the departure of their previous producer Dave Hentschel, Genesis sought Hugh Padgham — who previously worked on Phil Collins' solo album Face Value and former frontman Peter Gabriel's Melt — as album engineer while the band took sole production credit for the first time. They were impressed with Padgham's "gated reverb" effect on Collins' drums in both the Melt song "Intruder" and the Face Value song "In the Air Tonight" and sought to incorporate elements of that in their album.

The album was a commercial success, being certified double platinum by the RIAA in 1988, with "Abacab" and "No Reply at All" as the two most successful singles of the album. Three of the songs left off the final cut were eventually released the following year as the 3x3 EP, which in turn was included in the international versions of the live album Three Sides Live.

Abacab was supported by four singles: the Title Track, "No Reply At All", "Keep It Dark", and "Man on the Corner".


Side One
  1. "Abacab" (6:58)
  2. "No Reply At All" (4:33)
  3. "Me and Sarah Jane" (6:02)
  4. "Keep It Dark" (4:33)

Side Two

  1. "Dodo/Lurker" (7:31)
  2. "Who Dunnit?" (3:22)
  3. "Man on the Corner" (4:28)
  4. "Like It or Not" (4:58)
  5. "Another Record" (4:38)

Principal Members:

Trope with me, you never trope with me:

  • Alternate Album Cover: The album features four different versions of the cover art featuring different arrangements of the color paper shreds. Going clockwise from top-left, the four arrangements are red-blue-yellow-brown, brown-yellow-red-light blue, teal-orange-red-light green, and yellow-red-brown-green.
  • Artifact Title: The title "Abacab" itself was taken from a song structure which it was originally to be set to. The structure has changed, being more like "ABABCAB", but the name still stuck with the band.
  • Broken Record: "Who Dunnit?" uses repetitive lyrics through its run.
  • Epic Rocking: While the album is still firmly in a pop-oriented direction, "Dodo/Lurker" still maintained some Progressive Rock elements and clocked in above seven minutes. (Originally, it was planned to be even longer, with "Submarine" and "Naminanu" coming after the two movements that made it onto the album; however, this was dropped when the band dropped their plans to make Abacab a double album.) The title track also clocked in at around seven minutes in its album version.
  • Medium Awareness: "Another Record", about an aging rocker stuck in a rut playing the old hits for longtime fans, as sung by a group of aging rockersnote  who were afraid of exactly that (hence their push to make this album as different from their conventional material as possible).
  • Monkey Morality Pose: The sleeve artwork for the single release of "Keep It Dark" depicts a statuette of the "say no evil, see no evil, hear no evil" monkeys in that order. The music video additionally features the band members striking the pose in the same order during the Title Drops, with Mike Rutherford covering his mouth, Phil Collins covering his eyes, and Tony Banks covering his ears and grimacing.
  • Riddle Me This: In "Dodo/Lurker":
    Clothes of brass and hair of brown
    Seldom need to breathe, don't need no wings to fly
    Ooo, and a heart of stone
    And a fear of fire and water, who am I?
    • Answer: A nuclear submarine. "Hair of brown" = seaweed. "Seldom need to breathe" = unlike a diesel-engined sub, a nuclear one doesn't need oxygen as part of its power. "Don't need no wings to fly" = submarine crews refer to its motion through the water as "flying". "And a heart of stone" = the fuel rods which power the reactor. "A fear of fire and water" because leaks and fire are both feared on a submarine. Leaks for obvious reasons, and a fire needs oxygen to burn.. This has never actually been officially confirmed to be the band's intention, but the fact that the next movement was intended to be "Submarine" when Abacab was still intended to be a double album does carry with it a certain implication.
  • Special Guest: The EWF Horns provide the horn section in "No Reply at All".
  • What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Invoked on the opening lines of "Dodo/Lurker".
    Too big to fly
    Dodo ugly, so dodo must die.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Phil Collins himself noted the disjointed nature of the Title Track's lyrics, stating that his inability to figure out what the song is about is the main reason why Genesis left it out of their 2007 and 2021 reunions' setlists (and he co-wrote it).