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Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel 3 [Aka: Melt] CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

4.20 | 915 ratings

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TGM: Orb
Prog Reviewer
5 stars Peter Gabriel 3, 1980


There aren't many occasions where describing my reaction to the album is probably going to explain more than describing the music itself, but I think this is one of them. As soon as I first heard Intruder, I was hooked by Peter Gabriel 3, I ended up humming melodies and singing lines of it subconsciously after one listen, I took out another hour the next day to listen to it again. It completely reversed my opinion of Gabriel's career (including pieces I'd previously heard and been apathetic to) after Genesis, got me hooked enough to head off to pick up Gabriel 4 as soon as I could, and has since gone for countless spins on the various CD players around the house. It was instantly memorable, moving, interesting and stunning. There are so few albums like that out there. The album does have one slightly weaker patch (Not One Of Us), but even that's a damn strong piece in its own right, and the diversity, experimentation and arrangement prowess of the whole album makes it an essential buy for anyone.

The opening Intruder showcases all the album's merits. The arrangement is very complex and even challenging to follow, with all sorts of carefully masked synth tones and piano touches seeming fresh and unexpected as ever after what must be at least thirty or forty listens. The most obvious melodies come from the synths and a pretty much unique guitar tone, laid over the hammering Phil Collins drum part, though a couple of stretching, creaking dissonants take over from these without pause. The vocals are masterfully arranged and performed, with just the occasional hint of force between the psychopathic, rapacious, yet very controlled lead vocal, just occasionally daring to hold on a moment more to instill the sense of fear so crucial to the song. A short whistling melody leads us on without letting go of the emotion at all, before launching into the emotional resignation/certainty/need of 'I am the intruder'. The lyrics are brilliantly written, and perfectly convey the idea of Intruder with alliterative bursts, a building sense of need, of greed and even of addiction, as well as the clever metrical arrangement of 'creep across creaky wooden floor' indicating the unwanted creak of floorboards by itself. Anyway, an extremely impressive opener. Memorable from the very first listen, and yet building up more and more impact every listen. Not to mention the plain unusual nature of the lyrical content in the context of rock music (or indeed, any music). A confident and challenging opener, and one that shows that Gabriel is deadly serious about this album. Anyway, a clunky description on my part, but it's simply too complicated and multi-emotional to sum up in a few words, but too well focused to suit an enormous review.

No Self Control opens with a grabbing synth melody and launches straight into the deceptive glockenspiel part (something, and I'm not entirely sure what, makes it sound at first as if it's much faster and denser than it is... and breaking it down only provides a temporary insight. Take your attention away for just a second, and it suddenly seems very fast and dense again). A heavily treated sax part features, along with various percussion choices, adding a bit of clattering excess as well as hungry, forceful drive to the song. The amazing Kate Bush provides backing vocals (both subtly as an extra rhythm feature and harmonized to cut off Gabriel's manic 'chorus' vocals). Again, Gabriel manages to very briefly and effectively convey a complex emotion, with all sorts of ingenious flourishes, and even if it's probably not as complex as Intruder, it's equally challenging and bizarrely catchy. One of the very best songs of the 1980s, and Gabriel's vocals and lyrics are unique, interesting and very well used.

The brief Start is more of an introduction to I Don't Remember, and features a rather neat juxtaposition of the soulful clean jazzy saxophone and the occasional bass thrum with a synth undertone that becomes dissonant as the sax reaches the sort of height of its clean and rather neat solo. Very, very neat, especially as a lead-up to I Don't Remember.

I Don't Remember is the first of the album's two 'straight rockers', with a sterling performance from the unmistakable Tony Levin on a chapman stick, as well as quirky plain rocking melody underneath Robert Fripp's incredible guitar whirling and very controlled soundscape things. The vocals are simply brilliant, especially the wordless bits, and the brief electronic moments as well as the strange distorted vocal melodic lines are something that I can hear again (though not as neatly included) in quite a few of the standard radio-one things. The sort of cathartic cleansing of the gently thrumming end of the song again shows a grasp of melody, an appreciation of arrangement and an admirable neglect for genre borders. Anyway, fantastic, groundbreaking stuff and proof that people were still doing interesting and creative things in the 80s.

Family Snapshot is the album's focal point, even if it's not the only highlight, and is another really rather genreless thing, containing understated piano-and-voice parts, bursts of rock excess and even a rather big-band-esque synthesised brass part. The lack of cymbals here, in particular, calls for inventive percussion, and even makes it more effective. Despite the top notch nature of the music (particular kudos to the subtlety of the synth and bass), the emphasis is squarely on the vocals (self-harmonies and all) and the lyrics, which are simply brilliant. The sheer menace of 'I've been waiting for this' with Gabriel's gritty and emotive voice simply needs to be heard. Powerful, moving and personal.

The rocking And Through The Wire bursts out of the nothingness with its catchy, eclectic guitar riff and rather neat John Giblin bass part (and another unusual percussion performance. Sure, others at the time were fiddling around with cymbal-less percussion, but managing a straight rock piece with it is damned inventive). The lyrics and vocals are good fun, and at the same time are moving and meaningful. The gradual descent into 'we get so strange across the border' is fun, as is the reflecting piano-and-synth bookends (the latter almost always coming as a surprise... it pops in at the middle of the deceleration thing, but I'm never quite sure exactly what it's decelerating from or just exactly what paves the way for that synth to come in). Again, an extremely interesting piece.

Games Without Frontiers is probably the most openly 'pop' piece of the album, with an incredible catchiness, masses of melody, and, while the backing parts are always interesting and strong, the melodies and dynamic are so strong and well emphasised that they take most of the attention. The lyrics are typically quirky, although still classy and clever, and the vocals are a pretty weird sort of non-specific-nationality style. The synth sound is simply awe-inspiringly good, with a sharpness and edge about it, as is the synth-bass and the incredibly well-arranged little electronic section at the end of the song. Finally, a note for the performance of the album: Kate Bush's backing vocals on this one are simply amazing. Just so incredibly silky, soft and capable. I mean. Wow. Anyway, great tune, and evidence that pop can, in fact, be progressive, in case anyone's still in doubt about that.

Not One Of Us is certainly the weakest song of the album (at least, in my view), even if it remains an extremely interesting piece, and very well arranged (particularly the little bit of interplay between the bass and the vocals), it ends up being admirable for its intelligence rather than its emotion. The vocals are again, excellent, and the synth tones and general Frippery are definitely challenging, interesting, and creative stuff (three adjectives that really do sum up this album). The piece does pick up towards the end, with the sort of freakishly twisted worldy mass vocal + drums contrasting with Gabriel's main vocal. Still, a very strong piece, just not as moving as the rest of the album, perhaps due to the viewpoint that Gabriel takes.

The beautiful Lead A Normal Life is (at least, in my eyes) a sort of sequel to Family Snapshot, with brief, and rather haunting vocals in between two insrumental atmosphere creatures, with another deceptive glockenspiel part, ethereal piano, some very subdued drums and the occasional wail of force and straight-out-rebellion, as well as a bizarre treated sax part. Incredible stuff.

The grandiose Biko really takes on the world vibe that's been carried by a lot of the percussion throughout, with a very interesting synthesised bagpipe from Larry Fast. The arrangement is simple, the melodies obvious, the performances all sound relatively simple compared to the previous ones, but still it simply has effect, it has power. The momentum, the basic appeal, the universalism of the song is unstoppable. Gabriel's lyrics take on a bitter irony, while the vocals give a straight, one-dimensional answer. The whole feel of the piece is simply so strong it takes away any quibblings and leaves behind just one statement. The final sharp drum thu-thud echoes the initial sound of Intruder a bit, rounding off the album to good effect.

Don't think there's much more for me to say. Forgive the rather clunky description of Intruder, and go ahead and buy this album as soon as possible. Superb, superb stuff.

Rating: Five Stars

Favourite Track: Intruder, No Self Control, And Through The Wire and Games Without Frontiers are all favourites. No Self Control, if I had to choose.

TGM: Orb | 5/5 |


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