The iPod Shuffle: No Jacket Required

I’m one of the few people who still rocks a 160 gig iPod. I still use Amazon Music quite a bit, but this is a way to keep all the albums I’ve ever bought — both physical and digital — in one place. Every now and then, I’ll put it on random, listen to that album and write about it!

Today the grand ol’ iPod pointed me to 1985 and Phil Collins’ third solo studio album No Jacket Required. While it feels like I’ve been hearing some of these songs my entire life — pretty true considering I was born two years before this record bowed — I didn’t actually purchase this disc until about a decade ago and admittedly haven’t listened to it much.

Around that time, I was trying to expand my horizons into the world of 80s music, which I’ve written about here and here. Honestly, I didn’t dive too far or deep as I mostly focused on Phil, Genesis, The Police and one Talking Heads record. But they’re still on my beloved device and pop up from time to time like this.

As I mentioned above, I’ve known these songs for just about the same amount of time as I’ve had coherent thoughts. I mean, “Sussudio,” “Don’t Lose My Number” and “One More Night” might actually be embedded in my DNA. Listening to those songs again brought a big smile to my face and it was a delight returning to them, even if I don’t know how I feel about them objectively.

Basically, this record breaks down into two kinds of songs, upbeat and downbeat. Both camps come from that very Collins place of strong vocals, driving beats and lots and lots of digital/digitized instruments. My ear doesn’t always like that. I’m not sure if this is actually a thing or not, but I feel like there’s an Uncanny Valley for songs where too many synthetic sounds start to make it feel less real to my ear. Maybe it’s just me, but there were definitely parts of these songs where my brain got tired trying to find something human in there aside from emotion.

Anyway, I dig the upbeat ones way more than the slower ones. “Sussudio,” “Only You Know And I Know,” “I Don’t Want To Know,” “Don’t Lose My Number” and “Who Said I Would” all click that faster 80s new wave button in my brain that makes me want to roll up the sleeves on my white sport coat and drive around in a car that’s somehow both sleek and boxy.

Of the slower offerings, “Long Way To Go,” “One More Night” and “We Said Hello, Goodbye (Don’t Look Back)” still hold up, but the other ones are just sorta there. I was working while listening and had no problem feeling the vibe, getting my stuff done and still kinda-sorta following along to those tunes.

After reading some of the Wiki page, I was surprised to find out that both Sting and Peter Gabriel did backing vocals for “We Said Hello” and Sting also worked on “Long Long Way To Go.” Also, it appears that even Phil doesn’t know why he wrote some of these lyrics. When I read that it solidified an idea that had been floating in my head the whole time I listened to the record. Overall, a lot of the music is engaging and working to bring you in, but it feels like the lyrics are trying super hard to be vague, keeping you at arm’s reach.

At the end of the day, I’m not sure how much any of that matters. This album’s considered a classic and, like the songs themselves, the videos also seem to be ingrained in me pretty deeply. Had I listened to this record for the first time today, I’m not sure what I’d feel about it, but given my longstanding relationship with Phil, I’ve got to give it a thumb’s up.

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