52 albums – week 33

I think I’ve approached this review from the wrong angle.
Not quite knowing how to start, I flitted over to petergabriel.com, opening up on the FAQ page and it kind of soured the whole experience. Trawling through the questions you come away with the impression that, well there’s no polite way to put this, Peter Gabriel is a bit of a Prat!
Take these examples;
“Can I send Peter Gabriel  a gift”: Thanks but No, Thanks.
“Can I send in my artwork/lyrics/poems?”: Thanks but No, you might sue him.
“Where can I find sheet music for Peters songs?”: Hmm, good idea but No plans to do anything at the moment.
“Can I take pictures at Peters concerts?”: Refer to previous No’s.
“Can I send a demo to Peter?”: Yeah but he won’t listen to it so i guess another No!
What was missing was a merchandising page selling big T-Shirts emblazoned with the logo,
Look, the reality is that most of the questions being addressed aren’t going to happen. Peter Gabriel is a busy man and you and I are less busy fans. But to spell it out in such big letters was a bit brutal, a bit patriarchal, a little rude if you ask me. I suspect Mr Gabriel has overzealous minders around him. I’d like to believe he’s a more accommodating soul then the impression gleaned from the website; it’s his minions that are responsible for all those unwelcoming answers? No? Regardless of who’s responsible, it is off-putting. Anyway I know I’m being overly precious and as this isn’t a place for Web Site reviews, I’ll just go straight to the album.

Peter Gabriel was the odd & arty founding member of Genesis. A group I never paid much attention too, wrong generation and all that. Then Punk exploded and while I never bought into the whole Sex Pistols/Sham 69 “Anarchy!” diatribe. From the stifling backwaters of rural Nth Qld the DIY ethos, the shaking of ‘the system’ that punk advocated was seductive even if the music wasn’t. And dinosaurs like Genesis were the targets that Punk was railing against. While rock historians will lump prog-rock bands such as Genesis into that milieu, Peter Gabriel was always just a little bit more complicated and a little weirder than that. And more importantly he actually had something to say. My unfamiliarity with Genesis turned out to be a good thing because the Peter Gabriel I was introduced to was the one that collaborated with Robert Fripp on his Exposure  album. One track in particular, The Flood (which you can find back in one of the March posts) opened my eyes ears.

Peter Gabriel’s ninth studio album is US and it feels like I’ve had this album forever. It’s a C.D that gets played every few months and I can’t imagine ever tiring of it. For me Peter Gabriel’s great strength as a composer is a wonderful sense of rhythm. He mixes up tempos, slowing the pace down when called for, speeding it up as required. The song, Secret World is the most obvious example of this but just about every track is not what it seems. Somewhere within most of them, the key will change, the beat alter, the batons twirl a little faster or slower. You can’t help but be dazzled by the craft. However craft is not what gets a song on to the ledger, connections do that and this is an album I connect with through all 10 beautifully constructed tracks (Well, ten minus one; you can safely zip past Kiss That Frog). He’s on record as saying that the albums creation was an almost therapeutic act. It gave him a place where he could be truthful. A space to address a crumbling marriage. A strained relationship with his children. The advent of middle age where your failings gain traction and more years are behind you then in front of you. Courage falters and that acrid scent you recognise as fear. There are themes on this Album that are firming as I slide, ungraciously into that demographic, trailing just a few scant years behind him.

There is one song in particular Love To Be Loved, that fills then drains me every time I hear it. I kind of consider it mine. I’ll clarify that. It is mine! Not figuratively, not metaphorically but quite literally, mine. If I can pinpoint a moment, 3:19 in, is where something clicks, a lock springs open and I look up and realize that i am standing in front of my own open door. Peter Gabriel walks down the hallway to meet me, awkward introductions are exchanged. The few meagre musical instruments in the house are then brought out for his inspection. The hand-me down piano in the back room is selected as most appropriate. He sits down, briefly tracing the brittle edge of missing veneer on the lid before turning his head to address me. His eyes are blue, his gaze direct, “Brett he says, this song was written about you.”

I’m loath to link to the clip from the Album. This is really music that needs to be played in a still house, late at night. Or alone in the car with a 100 miles of empty road in front of you. It doesn’t translate well to YouTube and it’s noisy, crowded, opinionated pages. But I don’t know of another way to get it up here, so against my better judgement…

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