Reevaluating PHIL COLLINS – Part 5: Both Sides

Phil Collins’ fifth solo album, Both Sides, was released in November of 1993. Although it was Collins’ least successful solo effort to date, it was nevertheless certified Platinum in the UK and United States.

I had really been hoping that my series of reviews reevaluating the work of Phil Collins would be a cheap & easy way to crank out piles of witty insults a couple times a month. It has turned out to be more than that. Phil Collins’ oeuvre has revealed itself to be an ever-expanding cry for help. Each Phil Collins record punches a new hole in the fabric of reason and reality, and through this hole we are invited to gawk at the burning wreckage of a prog drummer run amok.

At first glance, I don’t recognize any of the tracks listed on Both Sides, but the album’s title has me wondering what the “sides” are that Phil is talking about. Is this a “hear both sides” kind of thing in which he’s still hung up on the way things have shaken out with his ex-wife and is trying to insist that the world get it straight? Or are we…. are we talking about a full-on psychotic break/personality fracture here?

Honestly, I hope that it’s both.

Note: In the spirit of this album and to truly present “both sides”, I will be including opinions for each song from the YouTube comments. I know that I can be a little harsh, and I figure that this will be an effective way to achieve a balanced perspective!

Both Sides of the Story
Phil must have enjoyed the success that came on his last album when he and David Crosby tried to get serious about society’s ills, because this tune digs in on that vibe hard. Phil tells sad story after sad story, admonishing the listener to hear both side of a story, all over top of a three-chord splash-anthem that sounds about 90% synthetic.

The Wikipedia entry for this album points to the fact that Phil recorded this album at his home studio, without collaborating with anyone else. This could explain the bland sonic wash that I’m hearing here, and makes me think that I’m probably in for a lot more synth-everything.

Not a great song. Great over-sized ugly blazer in the video, though.

Rebuttal From YouTube
both sides 1


Can’t Turn Back The Years
This is a sensual jam!

You absolutely have to check out Phil in this video. He sits there on what appears to be the set from Rent, and shakes a little shaker while wearing a little vest and looking pained. It is the best.

This song is easy to relate to, as it is about aging and regrets. Phil is clearly seeing his part in the destruction of his marriage while simultaneously admitting that you can’t change the past. It seems remarkably healthy until you realize that it’s all being crooned over what sounds like the soundtrack to the most melancholy early-90s fuck session of all time.

You have something new to regret, Phil. This song.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 2

This video seems to point to the fact that Phil Collins can afford an apartment that looks like a sunnier and nicer version of the set from TV’s Frasier, but he’s really bummed out about it and he just mopes around. This is irritating to me. I want a nice sunny apartment! I wouldn’t mope at all! I would dance around with glee!

This song is the audio equivalent of a hang over. What a limp bummer. There’s a synth-horn solo that absolutely just sounds like someone fucking around between takes. What the hell his going on here, Phil?

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 3

I’ve Forgotten Everything
One of the things that Phil has forgotten appears to be the way that a real brass instrument sounds, because the synth-trumpet intro to this song is absolutely hilarious. The rest of the tune is a really slow-burning AOR-pitched drag. Again, it seems like some of these little keyboard lead lines were plucked out on the fly and made the final cut somehow. Say what you will about Phil’s other work, it was nothing if not fairly meticulous.

It really seems like Phil recorded this at his home studio (in the sunny Frasier apartment, I guess) and instead of buckling down and getting to the work of writing some crowd-pleasing fuckin’ pop bangers, he allowed his feelings of regret about his former marriage to just infect everything. Phil Collins being mad about his ex-wife was way more fun than whatever stage of grief he’s at for Both Sides.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 4

We’re Sons of Our Fathers
Holy fuck, Phil. Synth-TUBA now?

This is a dude that must have spent a fortune on investing in synthesizer companies. He truly must have thought that synths were the future and that in the future you wouldn’t need a band with a huge-bearded bass player in order to make great albums. He wasn’t wrong, but I feel as though he’s jumped the gun here, because this tuba shit is laughable.

…Imagine Phil Collins. Sitting in his giant sunny apartment where all of the furniture is still covered by white sheets. He’s staring at the phone, waiting for the call to come in that’ll inform him that there’s been a breakthrough and now he can finally get synth-wife. Hahaha. Pretty sad, Phil.

This song is bad.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 5

I Can’t Find My Way
Is this a synth guitar? Phil, you can get a fucking guitar. This is getting a little out of hand.

This song is a bummer, but it is at least a little bit more distinctive in the choruses than some of the other bummers on this album. There is a hilarious synth-lead guitar squeal screaming around in the background at some points that is just terrific, and also sounds totally improvised in the same way that so many things on this record do. Like someone with a shitty Casio keyboard is sitting beside a CD player and playing along with this song.

Phil sounds really depressed throughout this album, so maybe the part about it having two sides was actually sarcasm? Yikes, this record.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 6

I was hoping that this song would be about the TV show Survivor, but then I realized that this album came out about five years before that show started. Can you imagine a Phil Collins album with songs about that Rudy guy? It would be great!

If nothing else, this song has a propulsive rhythm on a record full of songs that have no discernible rhythm. So it has that going for it. The chorus is reasonably tuneful and the rhythmic “beeps” that are all over the song kind of work for me. It is far, far too long, though.

I hope he’s singing about some person he’s working things out with that isn’t his ex-wife. It probably isn’t Sussudio. But I hope it’s at least the dog that took a shit in his studio on the last album. It’d be good if those two buried the hatchet.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 7

We Fly So Close
…wait, does this song have synth-RAIN on it?

This album should have been titled “My Name is Phil Collins, The Computer”.

This song is about pretending to be a fun jet plane that gets to fall in love with other jet planes. Phil took a quick break from moping around his apartment and stretched his arms out, running around and making “Whooooooosh” noises. It was more fun than this song, which sounds like a really bad re-hash of “In The Air Tonight”, a song that already wasn’t that great.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 8
(ouch, Jeff!)

There’s A Place For Us
Given the rest of the tracks on this album, the return of lounge-lizard Phil is actually kind of welcome. This song is slinky in a way that probably felt super-outdated when it was released in 1993, but it’s been 25 or 30 years now since this kind of stuff was everywhere, so it’s all equally outdated to us now.

It is still unforgivably long and monotonous, though. This is the third of four songs in a row that are over 6 minutes long. And yet another song that sticks with the album’s theme of incorporating “fuck around” instrumentation that just sounds like a cat wandering back and forth on a keyboard.

It sounds like Phil likes a new girl, though! This is healthy! But Phil, if you’re having a hard time finding a place for the two of you, why don’t you take her to your big sunny, empty apartment? It is super big and empty!

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 9

We Wait And We Wonder
Don’t let this video fool you. Phil totally recorded this song all by himself. The video does make the song seem more lively, though. That tambourine player is going nuts!

“We Wait And We Wonder” is another “Phil Collins looks at the state of the world and tries to seem wise while really answering nothing and only asking more questions” song. I’m tired of this shtick. His new bass player looks great in a muscle shirt, though. Phil looks strangely bored, but this song has a little more oomph than most of the album.

Hilarious synth-bagpipes. It’s like he bought himself a very expensive synthesizer and decided that it would be a waste of money not to use every single one of the sounds on this album.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 10

Please Come Out Tonight
This song makes it seem like things didn’t work out with the new girl and now he’s sent his ex-wife an invitation to go out. Which is super sad and a total step backward. Aw, Phil.

This is one of the best songs on this album, but that’s a lot like being the best ice fisherman in the desert or something. I don’t really have much to say about it. I’m super tired of percussion that sounds like little raindrops and washy synthetic strings. I desperately need to listen to someone hit a real drum and hit it hard, or somebody rip through a bunch of power chords on a real guitar.

I’ve been hanging in there, Phil, but this one has been rough.

Rebuttal from YouTube
both sides 11

The Verdict

Both Sides fails to deliver on any great pop hooks or memorable melodies, and it fails to provide any new bonkers developments in the Phil Collins over-share lyrics department. The only real new development is Phil’s complete over-reliance on synth instruments of questionable quality. While this resulted in a number of pretty insane moments on this LP, it’s all sound and no substance.

While I had initially pegged Face Value as the worst Phil Collins record, Both Sides is easily worse. It basically has no good songs on it, and even the mediocre songs are enough of a bummer to listen to that I’ll actively avoid ever hearing them again.

I’ve gone ahead and looked at the cover art for the next album that I have to review in this series, and I’ve gotta admit… I don’t feel good about this. I pine for those heady days (a month or two ago) when I was excitedly wondering what trouble Phil would get into next, and when we’d see another appearance by the often stellar supporting cast.

I would kill even just to see Beardy Bassplayer again at this point.

More like Phail Collins.

Author: markmeeks

squid goals

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