Peter Gabriel (Melt)Album |
A perfect balance of experimentation and melody.
Though 1980's Peter Gabriel is the former Genesis singer's third solo album, even Gabriel himself considers it his first true artistic statement. (Gabriel's first two albums were also self-titled; fans have since dubbed the trio "Car," "Scratch" and "Melt" based on their increasingly creepy cover photos.) Working with producer Steve Lillywhite, Gabriel arrived at the perfect middle ground between his melodic and experimental tendencies. The brooding "Intruder," a disturbing first-person character portrait of an obsessed burglar, sets the stage marvelously: Phil Collins' thick, reverb-gated drums (soon to become an '80s pop-radio cliche) enforce a stark, rigid rhythm underneath Gabriel's creepy vocal melody, discordant piano and sci-fi synths. Recurring themes of madness and modern paranoia--including the sinister "I Don't Remember" and the dramatic, shifting piano epic "Family Snapshot," about a sniper aiming for the president-- give the album cohesion, but it could have turned pretentious without Gabriel's knack for melody and inventive song structures, Lillywhite's hard-hitting production, and the alternately off-putting and visceral work of the album's guest musicians, including XTC's Dave Gregory, The Jam's Paul Weller, King Crimson's Robert Fripp and Kate Bush. The chokehold of darkness finally relents with "Biko," an emphatic, empowering memorial for slain South African political activist Steven Biko. It's a strangely hopeful and outward-looking conclusion to a dark and insular journey, foreshadowing Gabriel's eventual attraction to both political activism and cross-cultural musical influences. Gabriel got sunnier and more commercially successful after this album, but his artistic vision was never clearer than it was here.
|Peter Gabriel and his Collaborators|