An Exercise In Pain: Six Songs of Radio Phil Collins

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John Seaborn Gray

Inspired by Seanbaby's wonderful article using Pandora via Phil Collins as musical gaydar, Rocks Off logged on to our Last.fm account to see where a similar journey with the Genesis drummer and noted Texas history buff might take us. After all, it's not really scientific unless you can repeat the results, right?

Last.fm is different from Pandora: it doesn't ask for your favorite song, but your favorite artist, after which it will play one song by that artist, and then a bunch of other songs by what it considers to be similar artists. Seanbaby's column started when he entered Phil Collins' "Sussudio" as his favorite song, so we figured to make it an even starting point, we'd enter in Phil Collins as our favorite artist. It hurt a little.

The little Last.fm widget fired up quickly, and the first song we got - no shit - was "Sussudio."

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Last.fm's robotic mind could have chosen any of two dozen Phil Collins hits - "Take Me Home," "Against All Odds," "Another Day In Paradise" and so on. That it started us out with "Sussudio" tells us that last.fm talks to Pandora, which means other Web pages are also communicating with one another, which means the Internet is now Skynet. But what invisible touch had given life to the impish AI now gleefully assaulting our sensibilities? The true magnitude of the horror was only beginning to come into focus.

Already fear had its icy grip around our throats as we suffered through Collins' tissue-thin rip-off of Prince's "1999," watching our "Recently Played Songs" list begin its slow decay from the hardcore punk we'd been listening to yesterday into Radio Collins. Now the whole world could see our shame. (Or at least anyone with a Last.fm account.)

When "Sussudio" ended, our journey got hellishly worse - next up was "Rosanna" by Toto.

The live version.

The guitar solos are longer. The synthesizer solos are longer. The bantering with the crowd is fucking interminable. We had made up our minds to sit through six Radio Collins songs, but already our resolve had grown weak and brittle, like a flash-frozen Graham cracker, or the bones in Ozzy Osbourne's hip. We should have made someone tie us to a mast, because we were seriously considering bolting out of the house and never returning. And we weren't even through the second synth solo yet.

Once Toto had finally, finally finished the epic reworking of "Rosanna," a fresh load of easy-listening phlegm was spitefully loogied into our faces: Mike & the Mechanics' "Another Cup of Coffee" fired up.

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It makes sense, of course; Collins and Mike Rutherford were bandmates in Genesis, and their musical styles never really became incongruous even in different bands. This one was slightly less excruciating than the others - it had sort of a James Taylor-ish arrangement but even more bland, which means it was so inoffensive we sometimes forgot it was still playing.

"Excuse us, we'd like to play a song? If it's okay?" Mike & the Mechanics seemed to be sheepishly mumbling, every statement fearully inflected as a question. "Y-you don't have to listen? We'd just like to play it, if that's all right?"

Huh? Wha? Zzzzz.

From there, we jumped to an unfamiliar name - Chris de Burgh, who we had never heard of before but immediately hated.

His song "Borderline" filled us with saccharine nausea. The song's subject matter - something to do with soldiers - was delivered with such overwrought and histrionic vocals, backed by a wall of cheap Casio synth, that all of us who heard it now hate freedom. We're lining our catboxes with copies of the Bill of Rights even as we type this. Next up was Peter Cetera's "Glory of Love," in which the ex-lead singer of Chicago swears he will fight to defend the honor of his true love.

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It's delivered with such drippy soft-rock flair that now we kind of want to insult the honor of Cetera's true love, just to watch him fly at us in impotent rage, screeching and crying, flailing madly in a pinwheel of limp-wristed slaps. Did Daniel LaRusso really beat the living piss out of Chozen with this song inspiring him? Maybe he tapped into the raging monster that horrible songs sometimes awaken within us all.

The sixth song from Radio Collins should have two extra sixes behind it, because it was Phil fucking Collins.

Well, actually, it was Genesis. But the song was "Invisible Touch," a song from deep within Genesis' post-Peter Gabriel reinvention, and virtually indistinguishable from Collins' solo music.

What Seanbaby had found, we confirmed: Phil Collins' music, not quantum physics, is the underlying language of the universe. All roads begin with Phil Collins, and end with Phil Collins. Phil Collins is a Lovecraftian elder god given flesh, free to reshape the twisted fates of humanity into living nightmares.

We let the song play all the way through because we wanted to see if the universe would end, but what happened next was worse: Last.fm queued up "Truly" by Lionel Richie. We screamed and closed the browser. What we have heard cannot be unheard. We are never doing this again.


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