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Peter Gabriel - Shock the Monkey CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel

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3 stars If the members of GENESIS as a band and as soloists (Tony Banks, Phil Collins, Mike Rutherford) were by 1982 apparently sounding and looking "very happy" playing their music with some Prog Rock and Pop Rock influences and having some Hit Singles played in the Radio, PETER GABRIEL was still having then some "resistance" to join the musical mainstream of the eighties. His fourth solo album (titled "Peter Gabriel", but AKA "Security" in the U.S. and even being titled "Peter Gabriel 4" in some countries like Mexico) was in fact his second "journey" into World Music with the addition of African percussion instruments (a thing which started a bit with his self-titled third solo album from 1980). But, he also released this single with his song "Shock the Monkey" in the Side "A", taken from his fourth solo album.

"Shock the Monkey" was also an obvious choice to be released as a single. A World Music / Pop Rock influenced song, with some African drums and percussion influences, with some synthesisers playing a very characteristic riff, some guitar playing, and with Tony Levin's very good stick bass playing. This somewhat "strange" song has lyrics about jealousy, as PETER GABRIEL once mentioned in an interview. The song also has a "strange" and a bit "disturbing" music video which I watched to on TV one or two times. After all, GABRIEL always has been interested in "strange" and "disturbing" themes for some of his songs. The video also shows him using some make-ups, a thing which he also used a lot when he was a member of GENESIS since late 1972 until his departure from the band in 1975. There are some influences from DAVID BOWIE in his music and in his looks, in my opinion. But BOWIE tended to change them from time to time, like a "musical chameleon". GABRIEL found his musical style and looks and tried for several years to have them as part of his identity as an artist. Anyway, with his next album ("So" from 1986) GABRIEL tried to join the mainstream with a more accessible album, even if he also included some songs with "dark" musical and lyrical themes.

"Shock the Monkey" was played in at least two FM Radio stations in my city in 1982-83 and also years later. But I prefer the live version which was included in his "Plays Live" album from 1983.

"Soft Dog", in the Side "B" of this single, and which was not included in the album, is an almost instrumental musical piece, very simple, but very similar to other songs from the album. GABRIEL only sings for a brief time the title of the song at the end of it. A song with a guitar riff, a stick bass, a saxophone, a synthesiser, and a bit of drums. It is also a bit "strange" song which maybe influenced some songs which were released on some "B" sides of singles from new bands of the eighties like TEARS FOR FEARS.

As GABRIEL has said in some interviews, some of his music could be "hard to stomach" for some people. I agree with him. One really has to be in the mood to listen to some of his music. But "Shock the Monkey" is a good song. With "Wallflower" it is one of the best and most accessible songs from his fouth solo album.

Report this review (#1572526)
Posted Monday, May 30, 2016 | Review Permalink
1 stars #46 Review

This is my first review of any Peter Gabriel stuff and i chose this song because it got stuck with me for a month, its a pretty entertaining music track.

That's no the only reason why i am in here though... i'm here because of the odd discussion and comparison that many Genesis "fans" do here on Peter Gabriel reviews, like comparing the output of both careers saying that Genesis sold out and Peter was still keeping the Prog flame lit, i find it even more odd when people say that songs like this one are more musically complex that anything Genesis did on the 80s.

So this review will be a little bit different, i don't usually do technical reviews, but this song is so "simple" (to explain musically at least) i might just give it a shot.

Since i was so fascinated with this music piece, i tried to learn it and that revealed me tons about how it was composed, i was able to figure out more than 9 tracks of audio in this particular composition, more than half of those are percussions that sound drastically different from each other, some electronically made, others the real thing. The other thing i learnt about this song is the chords used, of wich there are only 2, i know its strange to have a song with less chords than the most basic Phil Collins stuff, but in this case, the entire song features 1, until it reaches the climax where it changes, the song hooks you in some way and then after lots of repetition the song changes chords wich feels very dramatical, and that's great.

Now compare it to Genesis output during this time, maybe a simple song like "Man on the Corner", wich i don't like, also very repetitive but its the chords that get this piece to life, yet it features like 4 tracks at most. Do you really just need more tracks to make your song more interesting, to give the idea of being more complex? Or is it the structure? Now compare it to REAL progrock stuff like "Firth of Fifth", it has SO much more than what this little repetitive monkey song offers.

Shock the Monkey might be experimental, but is in its simplicity, in its capacity to convey a complex feeling, that's what makes a good music piece, yet it is also hindered by Peter Gabriel saying "Monkey" 46 times during the song, i think that the point of the piece is made much earlier on the running time.

The first time you hear it, it might not click, and then you end up listening to it over and over again, hearing every piece and note that makes this song, after that you might learn it and what you end up is with dissapointment, feeling like you just wasted your time.

Peter Gabriel's strong suit are weird unusual ugly chords, while his mate Tony Banks has the ability to make weird unusual rimbombastic chords, both things that no one would normally use for hit singles, yet Peter managed, compared to Tony also, he doesn't do that many changes or long songs, as he said once "An artist without limits is the death of creative expression" i personally don't agree to a point but his philosphy really paid off in the end.

So, this song is repetitive trash, but good artistic repetitive trash, i was going to give this track 3 stars, but it has so much rating that i'm going to give it just 1, it really doesn't deserve the recomendation for any prog rock music collection, but it is good though.

Report this review (#2475023)
Posted Thursday, November 12, 2020 | Review Permalink

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