And yet the landscape they describe has changed so much that listening, 40 years on, evokes nostalgia for their nostalgia. Fine Fare has gone - their grubby store on Dunstable's High Street North now replaced by a massive Asda where the Queensway Hall stood, massive Sainsbury where the Bedford Trucks factory was. Safeway were swallowed by Morrison's - the sort of northern chain it probably never occurred to Genesis existed. After years of their suppliers cooperating with their fine, fair discounts it turned out that Tesco were accounting - ahem - wrongly for them. The Cheshunt Empire is as diminished now as the British one was then. The supermarkets left the high streets for the green fields, and have now snuck back onto housing estates. And now all that volume of retail space looks embarrassing, as people in sheds push out internet orders.
And what we are left with? Maybe reflected in the Olympic ceremony of four years ago - a certain wit. Self-deprecation instead of imperial bombast. Irony and humour and wordplay and an ability, through these, to distance ourselves from our situation while consoling ourselves that we are above it. All the things this album revels in. We may not have faith in God. We may not have faith in ourselves. But we have faith in our ability to divorce ourselves from our lack of faith.
The album came out as an England bereft of empire joined a European Economic Community (as it was) running out of stream. That old fraud and fiddler of political boundaries, Edward Heath, was responsible for this most important piece of politics of the last 50 years. And now we wonder again what our place in the world is.
The UKIP MEP David Coburn tweeted Saturday regarding EU exit. Maybe it's just me but his stream of consciousness reminded me of Gabriel's list of grocery prices:
There's a variety of nightshade called bitter-sweet. Its berries look pretty, but if you chew them, like a demon in the guise of a damsel in distress, they taste bitter and - if you are foolish enough to eat them - can kill you. And so this best of albums passes into the night with its lament for a departing England - and rings now bitter-sweet.toasters, kettles rally call UK manufacturers British standards internal sale export Euro standards microcosm of our future success BREXIT— David Coburn MEP (@DavidCoburnUKip) February 27, 2016
Still alone in o-hell-o See the deadly nightshade grow.