Progarchives, the progressive rock ultimate discography
Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel 3 [Aka: Melt] CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

4.21 | 995 ratings

From, the ultimate progressive rock music website

The Dark Elf
5 stars From a compositional standpoint, the idiosyncratic Gabriel hasn't merely chosen the path less traveled, he's clear- cut a gaping glade clean through the forest. Whether as the outrageously caparisoned front man and storyteller of Genesis, or as a visionary solo artist delving into world music and visual media, Gabriel is not only singing from left- field, he's up in the nosebleed bleacher seats with the field barely visible below. And it is precisely because of the unconventional vocals, the quirky beats, the irregular time signatures, and the unorthodox subject matter of Peter Gabriel's third solo release (popularly christened 'Melt') that makes it an essential listening experience.

You have to hand it to Gabriel. With the release of 'Melt' in May of 1980, he came out with one of the best albums of 1980s only six months into the decade. It is certainly on par with other stellar releases from the period, such as U2's 'Joshua Tree', Paul Simon's 'Graceland'', Talking Heads' 'Remain in Light', or Gabriel's own 'So' album from 1986. But whereas 'So' was more commercially successful (with the MTV hits 'Sledgehammer' and 'Big Time') and far more huggable for the masses (don't we all get nostalgic when we hear 'In Your Eyes'?), the thorny 'Melt' pricks one's sensibilities and is satisfying from a visceral standpoint, with a psychological depth and intensity to the storytelling few albums from the 80s could match.

The first thing you notice is that there are no cymbals... throughout the entire album. There are other percussion instruments, but the lack of cymbals creates tension - a totemic, animistic thrum and rumble - that permeates the album with an unrelieved edginess bordering on hysteria. The purposeful mania instilled by Gabriel is amplified further with the "gated drum" sound, a dramatic reverb effect that produces a booming but highly-compressed punch to the drums created specifically for this album and employed with gusto by drummer Phil Collins (who appears on four tracks). Collins would memorably re-use the gated drum effect on his hit "In the Air Tonight", but perfected it on Peter Gabriel's stunning third self-titled solo album, known as 'Melt' (for the distinctive cover photo). And 'Melt' (1980), even more so than Gabriel's mega-hit 'So' (1986), is the best album of the 1980s. Aside from distinctive vocals, studio techniques and musical innovations, 'Melt' is, for all intents and purposes, a "psychological treatise' on the human condition: compulsion, obsession, isolation, schizophrenia, amnesia, prejudice, bigotry, anger institutionalization, and murder. Herein lie the darker dimensions of thought and action, delivered with an actor's flair by Gabriel.

'Intruder', a flesh-crawling ode to home invasion, begins the mind games with the grating, metallic grind of clippers on twisted wire, discordant keyboards, and Collin's strident drumbeat, and ends with a bit of whistling-with- criminal-intent made famous by Peter Lorre in the movie 'M' (1931). 'No Self Control' mirrors the troubled tendencies of 'Intruder', but amps up the mania, as well as the volume, with Gabriel's recurring avant-garde partners-in-crime Robert Fripp on guitar and Kate Bush on backing vocals, along with a vicious turn on drums by Collins. 'I Don't Remember' (amnesia), "And Through the Wire" (communication overload) and 'Lead a Normal Life' (asylums) are each excellent tunes, but the truly stellar songs are the allegoric satire on nationalism "Games Without Frontiers" (again with Kate Bush singing 'jeux sans fronti'res' or "games without frontiers"), and "Not One of Us", which cleverly attacks hatred and prejudice born out of fear and ignorance.

And then there are the two epics. The first, 'Family Snapshot', is a suspenseful character study of a publicity- seeking loner who kills a public figure, in which Gabriel, through the use of internal monologue, grafts the memoirs of assassin Arthur Bremer onto scenes of JFK's assassination in Dallas. The effect is riveting. Finally, there is "Biko", about Stephen Biko, a South African civil rights leader murdered while in police custody. The horrid event gained worldwide attention due in part to Gabriel's profound lament. "Biko" was the greatest protest song of the 80s, and the grand lyric 'And the eyes of the world are watching now', proved prophetic. 'Melt' is fully realized and conceptually brilliant, a stark look at man's inhumanity to man, and the madness that stirs in the minds of many.

The Dark Elf | 5/5 |


As a registered member (register here if not), you can post rating/reviews (& edit later), comments reviews and submit new albums.

You are not logged, please complete authentication before continuing (use forum credentials).

Forum user
Forum password

Share this PETER GABRIEL review

Social review comments () BETA

Review related links

Copyright Prog Archives, All rights reserved. | Legal Notice | Privacy Policy | Advertise | RSS + syndications

Other sites in the MAC network: — jazz music reviews and archives | — metal music reviews and archives

Donate monthly and keep PA fast-loading and ad-free forever.