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Peter Gabriel - Peter Gabriel 2 [Aka: Scratch] CD (album) cover


Peter Gabriel


Crossover Prog

3.00 | 555 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars Low Point of a Brilliant Career

The best thing about Peter Gabriel II / Scratch is the cover art. Where on the debut album, Gabriel explored multiple styles, on the second he chose the weakest of those styles (modern rock of the time) and based the entire disc on it. You'd think a Peter Gabriel album with Robert Fripp producing and playing would be an experimental tour de force, but unfortunately we get PG's most straightforward music underlying some of his weakest lyrics.

Sadly, most of the guitar work here is done by Sid McGinnis, whose major career job was as part of David Letterman's house band. And in fact, much of the music sounds like theme music for late night TV, with vanilla sax sounds, and a variety of interchangeable guest key players. Drummer Jerry Marotta, whose work is absolutely essential to Gabriel's best work, plays here like a session musician. Fripp provides some spacey solos and a few mildly interesting instrumental bits, but the overall result of the collaboration is extremely disappointing. The sound is a bit like Elton John or even Meatloaf ? theatric rock with plenty of 1978 sonic trappings. Most annoying is the delay on Gabriel's voice which muddies the mix and often makes the lyrics hard to hear.

1. On the Air - A staccato guitar rocker, this song takes a Cheap Trick riff and dresses it up a little with a story song about a fellow under the bridge trying to find meaning by broadcasting "On the Air." The phrase is repeated ad nauseum and the verse lyrics are snarly, lacking Gabriel's usual literacy or complexity. The instrumental outro was almost certainly written by Fripp, and is moderately interesting despite playing over an almost drum-machine beat.

2. DIY - More incessant repetition of a not-compelling-enough hook. Again, the lyric is surly and simple, well below PG's standard. One of the few Gabriel tracks I find actively annoying. Mother of Violence ? This slow piano / acoustic guitar piece was co-written with wife Jill Gabriel, and it is one of the better tracks of the album. It is still lyrically and musically straightforward, unsubtle. It is, however, very pretty, and I can actually hear the lyrics clearly. ]

3. A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World - The song starts on what sounds like a Casio keyboard or a video game sound generator. This song nods to Randy Newman, and actually makes sense from a songwriting point of view. A mildly interesting swipe at consumerism, it is a listenable throwaway track.

4. White Shadow - This song sounds almost like an early 80's Genesis track. Tony Levin gets to fuzz up the bass, and Fripp contributes quite a bit of texture to the sound. The song sounds more like prog than anything else on the album, but ironically the chorus / hook is too weak to lift the song. It really feels unfinished, like a track that could have been interesting if it had more parts or better development. Even the lyric is more typical of what we expect from Gabriel, better imagery and some cryptic lines that allow the listener's imagination to explore a little.

5. Indigo - This is a slow intense piano ? vocal song in a style that Gabriel would later use to great effect. A song almost certainly about depression, (indigos = blues, about as good as his metaphors get on this one) the song at least feels sincere and honest. Perhaps this reflects his state of mind at the time and why the well of creativity seems so dry. Again, a listenable but forgettable song.

6. Animal Magic - Starts with a Billy Joel piano riff, we get another 70's rocker complete with disco guitar strumming. The song is about fighting back after a breakup, again displaying an unfocused anger typical of the album. More of the same, sadly.

7. Exposure - the most experimental piece on the record, employing an early example of "Frippertronics." Mainly an example of Fripp and Gabriel playing with all the toys in the studio, the song itself is actually just a very static groove with mildly funky bass and drums, and a single word as a lyric for most of the way. Normally, this would be an enjoyable album track, a textural sidestep to flesh out the disc. Here it just highlights how little progressive music is on the album.

8. Flotsam and Jetsam - This song seems to come from a very similar place as "Indigo," except the melody and hook are much better. The pain again feels more honest, and we get a little more open space. The track is short, but works.

9. Perspective - This feels like a David Bowie throwaway, a "Suffragette City" style up-beat, mid-tempo rock song. (Kiss is also brought to mind, yikes) Sadly we're back to massive repetition and over-production. Fripp's guitar is crazy but extremely out of place. The song is lyrically pointless, but accurately tells us that Gabriel's has lost his way.

10. Home Sweet Home - This song has such a disgusting misanthropic lyric that it makes me cringe. An attempt to capture the capricious hand of fate in the life of a lower-class bloke, this story song misses the mark so badly, that one is reminded that Gabriel was a rich kid who achieved fame straight out of (exclusive private) school. The banal sax in the background honks away the bad end to a poor album.

This album is not totally unlistenable, but I was tempted to give it one star. This is a big step back from the debut and perhaps PG needed a slap in the rear to find his focus. Luckily, he takes an almost complete about face for the next album, finding the voice that would carry him for the rest of his career. But Scratch is the dark before the dawn, and should be one of the last albums of anyone's Peter Gabriel collection.

Negoba | 2/5 |


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