Scratch My BackAlbum |
Piano-and-orchestra ballads, with nary a guitar or drum kit in sight
Admittedly, the first question Peter Gabriel's all-covers album Scratch My Back inspires is "Hasn't he written any new songs in the last eight years?" On the other hand, few rate his last album, Up, as one of the ol' Sledgehammer's best, so perhaps we shouldn't be pressing him too hard for more. Scratch My Back is eminently more enjoyable than its predecessor, even as it finds the O.G. art rocker leaving the "rock" behind, except in his choice of source material. Gabriel tackles the work of some highly innovative artists, including Talking Heads, The Magnetic Fields, Arcade Fire, Radiohead, Randy Newman, Elbow, and Regina Spektor, but that's where anything approaching a "rock" orientation ends. All the songs are rendered as piano-and-orchestra ballads, with nary a guitar or drum kit in sight. It doesn't always work; sometimes the lines and corners of the songs seem to swim a bit too freely in these orchestral arrangements. But when the orchestrations are sharp and to the point, the results are powerful and surprising, as on an appealingly angular version of the Heads' enormously underappreciated "Listening Wind" and a straightforward, heart-tugging take on Stephin Merritt's "The Book of Love."