Review Summary: Pop doesn't have to play by the rules all the time...
Progressive music has never been easy to box in. Some refer to it as a combination of experimental sounds and complex song structures to create pieces beyond the level of usual musical intelligence, while other may simply see it as music that pushes boundaries, creating an unusual or previously unknown experience. Genesis were an excellent example of both in their years with Peter Gabriel, and still nobody has come along who can quite recreate the Genesis experience, but the years of greatness were not to last. In 1975, Gabriel left the band to pursue his solo career, leaving Phil Collins in charge. While Collins was criticised for turning Genesis into a pop band, Gabriel continued to garner incredible critical praise, and as such has become a true musical icon over the years. The big question is:
Why was Phil Collins criticised for changing Genesis into a pop band when Peter Gabriel did the same thing with his own solo career?
The answer to that is evident from just one listen to this musical landmark. Experimentation and pop have never been mutually exclusive, despite what many people may have thought from the turgid mess that makes up much of today’s mainstream. With his third untitled solo album, Gabriel managed to create something that was instantly accessible and yet more emotionally complex than anything else at the time. And what a way to do it…
Peter Gabriel’s voice peaked in the early-to-mid 80’s, no doubt, as heard on this album. While he may not be the most technically skilled singer you will ever come across, he does have emotional capacity beyond that of the majority of vocalists that you will ever hear. He can sound like the world’s happiest man, use his voice as a proper instrument or combine some of the most moving lyrical content you will ever hear with some the most emotional vocals, connecting with the listener on every note in every vocal style he uses, to give just a taste of his abilities. Likewise, the experimentation on the album ranges from beautiful, calm xylophone lines and effect-soaked vocals to hints of world music, especially in the percussion and dream-inducing samples. Quiet, melodic piano lines are scattered everywhere, often backed by some equally simple and effective drumbeats. The relative lack of traditional lead or rhythm guitar is actually a very nice touch, these being replaced mostly by synths. When the guitar does crop up, it rarely plays anything complex, instead using distorted chords to create atmosphere.
Best of all, Peter Gabriel really knows how to have fun. Catchy pop choruses are found in several songs, and cannot be faulted for lack of emotion in the slightest. The sheer simplicity only adds to the atmosphere of the album, and is balanced out by the less accessible yet more emotional elements that the album has to offer. Gabriel always has something new to offer, avoiding recycling himself at any point in the album. He never relies on any single hook to carry a song, but manages to keep everything ordered, meaning that you never find two parts competing with each other, as everything works in unison to fuel one big masterpiece.
But what album is complete without having just one song to stand miles above the rest, and example everything that it has to offer, or even something completely separate from the rest of the album, standing there on its own as the crown jewel of the album? Surely it is only fitting that this song should be the closer, the conclusion that rewards the listener for having given it a chance? Well, this album has the closer to end all closers in Biko. A tale of protest that words cannot do justice to, Biko gives insight into the legacy of Stephen Biko, an activist for racial equality in South Africa who met a terrible end. The lyrics are the definition of inspirational, and the euphoric state that the beautiful instrumentation leaves you in allows Gabriel’s powerful vocal performance to completely overwhelm you in a song that is far from a traditional ballad. If there is any one song to show the world music influence at it’s best, this is the one, with both percussion and melodic lines to rival anything else ever written in emotion.
Peter Gabriel 3 (Melt) is, in conclusion, one of the most powerful, progressive and generally emotional albums that I have ever listened to, all the while remaining accessible and enjoyable. Anyone who has not yet graced their ears with this masterpiece should do so immediately.
wierd, i just bought this album. i love when that happens.
but yeah ive only listened to it once all the way through. a lot of the songs sounded like other pop songs of the 80's. that's not to say that he copied anybody (since it came out in 1980) but probably that a lot of other artists took inspiration from this album.
Merkaba - Listen to it a few times. I f*ckin hate the 80's for the most part, but this is way above everything else that the 80's had to offer, I think. But yeah, most of 80's pop took influence from this, but it quickly became cheesy. Peter Gabriel almost entirely managed to avoid becoming cheesy throughout his career, unlike the rest of the 80's.
I have had the pleasure of seeing Peter Gabriel live, not much more than a year ago... He still has one hell of a voice! It was fantastic, and actually the moment I realised that music was the thing that I really want to do in my life.
Depends what you mean by that... If you mean between Gabriel and Collins, Gabriel by far. I mean, there was a couple of alright Phil Collins era albums, but nothing that came anywhere near SEBTP, let alone Foxtrot or The Lamb. But the first Phil Collins era album just after Peter Gabriel left is pretty good.
phil collins managed to make some great stuff, and really, the pop era would have the edge in its actual lasting influences and whatnot. but obviously i prefer the older stuff, simply because selling england is for me the definitive prog album. that said, theres not much to dislike about either collin's or gabriel's solo careers
I dunno, I think Phil Collins' stuff kinda sounds a bit bland. Has it really had more influence than the prog era Genesis?
In The Air Tonight is really good I guess, it's just that, again, I think lots of Phil Collins' solo stuff is quite samey, whereas from Solsbury Hill to Biko to Shock The Monkey to Sledgehammer and beyond, I never feel that with Peter Gabriel.
well, not more influence, but more status. it's like a few other british prog bands who turned pop kept their status as a progressive band; Yes are remmebered for close to the edge et al, king crimson keep their early albums the most famous... genesis seem to have more of a role to play to lots as the 'pop' band. of course, i wouldn't say that side had more influence, that was probably a sli of the tongue.
as for collin's stuff, i find it to be on the same level as gabriel's honesty, though really i would rather listen to gabriel any day, collins has been a part of my genesis-related listening. :p
For me it's partly an influence factor, as if it hadn't been for my mum dragging me yearly visits to WOMAD, my exposure to so many of his singles and, more recently, this album, I don't think I'd feel the same way about music that I do now. So yeah, I'm pretty biased but that's just the way it is sometimes
Listen to it a few times. I f*ckin hate the 80's for the most part, but this is way above everything else that the 80's had to offer, I think. But yeah, most of 80's pop took influence from this, but it quickly became cheesy. Peter Gabriel almost entirely managed to avoid becoming cheesy throughout his career, unlike the rest of the 80's.
Oh for sure, I wasn't saying this album was on the same level as most of the 80's crap. Just that a lot of artists from that era took quite a bit of influence from Gabriel's work.
And yeah I agree that Gabriel owns Collins, but for some reason I've never been able to get into Genesis. I've got into KC, ELP, Yes, Rush, Floyd, you name it. But for some reason, not Genesis. It just seems so boring to me. What's the best album to start with? I've got Foxtrot, Lamb, England, and Touch.