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Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel (2 -

PETER GABRIEL (2 - "SCRATCH")

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

2.97 | 389 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
2 stars Review 2 in a while, Peter Gabriel II

Peter Gabriel II is a spectacular effort to alienate listeners old and new. The series of problems that are the production (Fripp's rather idiosyncratic approach to the material here doesn't really do a good job of emphasising strengths and leaves the busier songs feeling messy), the vocals (Gabriel's voice is always under the same effect in this one, which makes it rather difficult for him to actually express most of the songs very well), the lyrics (now, Gabriel's lyrics past and future were excellent. Here he seems to be on the verge of moving to the more direct approach he'd adopt in the future but with neither the interest nor the powerful central images he so excels with) are mildly redeemed by the quality of a few of the album's better numbers and the sort of cumulative power that all these idiosyncrasies build over a listen. Worth picking up if you're a serious Gabriel fan and have the acknowledged classics; it has grown on me, given time, but in a sort of sideways direction that baffles and bemuses as much as it entertains.

On The Air is one of the album's little highlights, introducing Fripp's production by a little sensitive needling with the synthesiser breaking under the hard guitar/bass riff (some great little embellishments by Levin here). Gabriel's vocals add little more than a general angry buzzing interchanged with some slightly contorted theatricals, thankfully obscuring the rather misfired lyrics. Fripp's solo is rather neat (if a bit undermixed). On the other hand, DIY, the album's second hard rock number is equally dim but not quite so winning... there's an oddly decent version on Plays Live... here only Levin's bass really comes across very strongly and the vocals sound like they've been sung from inside a well-padded box.

Thankfully, that's really the only song that's a bit bland to sit through, and compensated for by the gorgeous Mother Of Violence (an icy little duet between acoustic guitar and piano... something I'm usually not a fan of, but it works here... and Fripp adds his yearning electrics over the top and a couple of interesting insect humming bookends), probably the only song on this one that a Gabriel fan really needs to hear and arguably his most winning acoustic piece.

Thereupon, the album's on its up... possibly the most satisfying section with the quirky bass-driven pop song Wonderful Way In A One-Way World and the thumping orientally-flavoured rocker White Shadow (with some truly superb multi-part riffs, one hell of a Fripp solo and a bit of an unhelpful synth-based introduction). Indigo opens the shorter still side two... a rather inoffensive little piano number seemingly adding a slightly more personal touch to the album's rather thin commentary on commercialism that clumps into a clunky chorus/break then suddenly explodes back in with an unanticipated emotional grip ('All right, I'm giving up the fight/I didn't know when I'd be a stranger again in my own land'). Eventually, it works out as a relatively satisfying piece with some cool side-melodies (listen out for the background guitar and synths... they're not exactly pointed out by the production. Animal Magic is possibly the closest to conventionally catchy the album gets... a slightly odd rock-and-roll inspired piece with Levin in the foreground and some snarly Gabriel vocals, great aggressive guitar, a comparatively convincing lyric. A highlight.

And yes, Exposure is the Gabriel/Fripp collaboration at its most extreme. A hypnotic rhythm, typically entrancing Frippertronics (i.e. a series of guitar loops designed to kill airplay), the first really effective use of Marotta's thick drum style and Gabriel just drawing out every possible idea, syllable and quality of the word 'exposure' before freaking out at the end. It's really something to observe. Levin's bass is also a blast. I'm sure many, many people will be rightly concerned by this; I think it's fantastic.

Flotsam And Jetsam continues in the slightly more experimental vein with a neat vocal yawning and some Marotta/Levin intensity. Almost a shame that Gabriel's boxed-in vocal and the rather persistent but superfluous piano cut away any power I think the song could have achieved. As it is, only the cutesy solo at the end really touches.

Perspective; the padded box is back in vogue for another piano rock song. Don't really feel there's much content in the basic song, though the sax, guitar and so forth are fun and it gives an opportunity for the band's musicianship to blow away suitably. Passable for what it is but really not doing anything interesting. And if you're sort of entertained enough by this point, Home Sweet Home sort of unifies the whole thing in a typically odd and fascinatin' moral 'dilemma' (dilemma isn't the word...let's try quandary?). It's a sort of piano ballad with half a million ambient touches (organ, harmonies, guitar, little rhythm section additions) fluctuating in the background.

Peter Gabriel II is not the finest 42.3 minutes of a very fine musician (and backed by a number of very fine musicians) but, at the same time is mostly enjoyable, has a couple of standouts and a couple of flumps. A fans mostly rating... 2 stars

Rating: Two stars, 9/15 (I have an odd scale, to be honest... 14/15 will usually be a 5, 12/13 will earn a 4. Thereafter it all gets a bit abstract... Favourite track: Mother Of Violence

TGM: Orb | 2/5 |

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