says a lot about the latest Peter Gabriel
album, except for how it is.
Up may be Peter Gabriel's best solo album. The long time waiting for it was worrisome to me--he had taken 6 years to make Us, and that album often seemed tired and overworked, not to mention not having the production quality of So which preceded it, and I was worried that after 10 it would be hard to sound fresh.
I was wrong. Up is all the good things about Peter Gabriel. The opening track, "Darkness" starts with barely audible percussion, then explodes into loud, distorted, synth bass sounds, and Gabriel, half singing, half growling, his voice often a plaintive cry, singing of childhood fears and adult paranoia.
"Growing Up" has almost a dance beat to it, a dizzying mix of beat, melody, and again Gabriel's voice, world-weary but still true and clear.
"Sky Blue" is a ballad, with The Blind Boys of Alabama doing harmony vocals. This is a beautiful melody, with a rousing chorus. It's haunting and touching. It will bring a tear to your eye the first time you hear it.
"No Way Out" brings loud percussion like his third or fourth albums together with another stunning set of lyrics.
"I Grieve" is a ballad about death and loss. Stunning.
"The Barry Williams Show" is the first single, and most people believe it to be the weakest song of the album. That may be true, but it's a lot better than it seems at first glance. Part of the issue is that the idea of a Jerry Springer-esque talk show isn't as shocking as it would have been in, say, 1997, and thus the lyrics lose a bit of impact, but the song is clever and it's got a great beat. It's the one song on the album that sounds like a conscious effort at a single.
"My Head Sounds Like That" is a Beatlesque song with muted piano and orchestral accompaniment.
"More Than This" is one of those songs that builds and builds. Classic Gabriel in it's reliance on solid drums, a tremendous Tony Levin bass line, and the guitar stylings of David Rhodes.
"Signal To Noise" is a tribute to Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan if nothing else.
"The Drop" ends the album with a wisp of a song, a delicate melody over a hint of piano.
You need to listen to this album a few times to get its full impact. Once you do, places in the album will open up for you. Every sound, every silence on this album has a purpose. Let it ride over you, and move you. Gabriel shows no signs of slowing down with age--he's incorporated some sounds and textures that are almost industrial and techno, perhaps borrowing back from those who borrowed from him.
This album has been worth the wait, and is proof that Gabriel is one of the most important forces in popular music, and will be vibrant in the 21st Century.