“No Son of Mine” was the first single released for the album. It takes a very intense look at a household dealing the effects of domestic violence. The protagonist hears his mother getting beat every night, until he finally leaves. When he tries to return, his father sits him down and says, “You’re No Son of Mine”. This is very heavy subject matter for Genesis, particularly in light of the number of ballads and pop songs that were on their previous album, “Invisible Touch”. It doesn’t try to solve anything, it just presents an issue and accompanies it with a song that gradually builds to the climactic crash, musically mirroring what the main character is experiencing.
Completely changing the mood on the second track is “Jesus He Knows Me”, a song spoofing the slate of fallen televangelists that were dominating the news at the time. It’s very tongue-in-cheek, and was accompanied by a video featuring the band members as television preachers asking for money, and not practicing what they preach. Rutherford’s guitars on the song in particular give the song the perfect atmosphere around Collins’ lively drum rhythm.
Another hit single from the album is “I Can’t Dance”, the song from which the album takes it’s name. Rutherford’s simple but strong guitar riff is extremely catchy. The song is another lighthearted one, looking jealously at models that seemingly have to do nothing but look good to get rich. This one also had a humorous video that helped make it a hit for the band.
The album has it’s share of ballads. Perhaps most notably is “Since I Lost itu”, which Collins wrote for Eric Clapton’s son Conor after the child died in a tragic accident. Also in the ballad category is “Hold On My Heart”, a softer song in the vein of “In Too Deep” from their previous album. These are the songs that tend to sound more like Collins’ solo work than Genesis songs, very simply structured and soft in tone.
Two songs that received some criticism are “Tell Me Why” and “Way of the World”. These are songs that make attempts at the social commentary of “No Son Of Mine”, but without any real focus. They come across as a bit empty, as they are very general is saying things are bad, not giving anything specific, or any reason for the commentary. They fall flat where “No Son” succeeded.
Any Genesis album needs songs that maintain their progressive rock roots; this one has two in particular. The first is “Driving the Last Spike”, a sprawling tale of the building of the British rail system, noting all that sacrificed everything to get it built. The song has the trademark tonal changes and instrumental bits of a classic Genesis prog song, even though the subject matter is a bit more grounded in reality than many of their more progressive songs. The last song is “Fading Lights”, probably the most progressive on the album. It’s here that Banks’ keyboards are the most evident, as they do more to drive the song than Rutherford’s guitars or Collins vocals or drums, probably the only song on the album that can say this. The instrumental pieces on this track are among the best on the album.
“We Can’t Dance” is not the best album the band has ever produced, but it’s a good listen. It’s possibly the most uneven in their catalog, mixing heavy social commentary with soft ballads, humorous rock with progressive folk songs. There are peaks and valleys, but the end result is a good finale for the trio.