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US

Peter Gabriel

 

Crossover Prog

3.62 | 347 ratings

From Progarchives.com, the ultimate progressive rock music website

TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Us, Peter Gabriel

While it's fairly galling to give what's quite possibly my favourite Peter Gabriel album less than a confident five stars, I have to admit that the overwhelming emotional power and quality of the whole isn't quite matched by a slightly trundling Sledgehammer-lite song in the shape of Steam. Otherwise, however, we have Gabriel at his most heartfelt, with his raw voice and honest lyrics never buried under effects and a sort of electronic world/pop orchestra approach to every song that doesn't really crowd proceedings but rather produces a wonderful, flexible background against which the ideas, vocals and soloists stand out.

The first three songs are various shades of heartbreak, with a special emphasis on the power of the lyrics... this is not the sort of teenage angst that can be wonderful if written preciously enough but a much more mature look back at failed relationships with sentiments that really should make an impression. Come Talk To Me is the most colourful song Gabriel's ever written, in my opinion, just listen to that violin-solo-followed-by-Eno's(I think)-keyboards towards the end or the way the central theme is reprised very quietly in the softer, hopeful but unsuccessful, breakthrough section.

Love To Be Loved is equally powerful from a lyrical perspective, has a great rhythm section and the unsuccessful escape at the end (a recurring theme of this album) has a crushing emotional power, some of Gabriel's best personal dramatic vocals and a touching musical contrast. Blood Of Eden is a slower, calmer piece but no less emotionally charged ? the vocals shared with Sinead O Connor have a wonderful liquid power contrasted with Gabriel's grittier, more defined leads.

I've already touched on Steam but I suppose it's worth saying that it's more how out of place this chugging guitar/horns song is and how lacking in dynamics (well, they're there but more in the minutiae of the construction than the whole piece) it is compared to its obvious model. It's a good song; I enjoy it, but I'm not sure it should be here. While we're here, I suppose we may as well touch on the other two upbeat 'pop' songs of the album ? Kiss That Frog is in the same vein, though I really like it for some incomprehensible reason. Maybe it's the less unitary nature of the second half the album or the hilarious harmonica or the disarming tricksy intro but I think it fits in pretty well.

Digging In The Dirt should certainly not be placed with those two; it's fast-paced but it's also an aggressive, angry piece full of contrasts both emotional and musical and listen to that gorgeous break at around 2.20. In short, it's serious and it really is very good. Probably the piece from the album that's most grown on me.

Only Us is a very powerful piece of dark, murmuring atmospheric music directed mostly through the rhythm parts. The electronics are draped over the duduk and Gabriel's vocals and Levin's breakthroughs into the upper register. I suppose you could trim a couple of minutes and keep the general thrust of the 'song' more or less the same but then you'd lose the album's best guitar part. Washing Of The Water is easily the best of the occasional simple pieces Gabriel's given us in dribs and drabs since Peter Gabriel 1, aside from the powerful central image ('let your waters reach me, like she reached me tonight') and the heart-melting vocals, the choices of instrument (piano, organ, cello) are all pretty much perfect.

Fourteen Black Paintings is a very simple concept executed brilliantly and professionally. Showcases one of Gabriel's best features: while in the details he incorporates a lot of world music and pop elements, he usually retains a sense of overall structure and energy that allows him to mould these into something really powerful, unitary and unique.

Secret World sees at last the escapism so often unsuccessful in the previous songs, breaking free from the constraints of failed relationships. The image is incredible, the lyrics and vocals heart-rending and the bass part is particularly good.

Us is probably my favourite Peter Gabriel album, a bit more consistent than 4, a bit more mature than 3 (which I've rated higher), rather deeper than So and much more vivacious than Up. I'd recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone who thinks that experimental 'pop' music has some possibilities for expressing ideas in a serious way (and if you're on this site, you probably should) or simply more or less anyone. A very good album, get it immediately.

Favourite Track: Secret World Rating: Four Stars (13/15)

TGM: Orb | 4/5 |

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