Peter Gabriel was a pioneer in several things aesthetically when he was in his band Genesis
. Years before Kiss
put on their trademark ludicrous amount of makeup to cover up the fact that they weren't very great at all, Peter Gabriel would burst on the stage, with eccentric narratives before each song, dressing up in costumes, and with ridiculous amounts of [url=http://mitkadem.homestead.com/files/Genesis_PeterGabriel_live.jpg]makeup[/url]. Yikes! Gabriel's antics took the attitude of progressive rock to a new level, like the less threatening Alice Cooper
of the genre, or an even more pretentious David Bowie
. The result of this ambitious mixture of dramatics and music left Genesis as the talk of the town, particularly Gabriel, and his fantastical story concepts laced with social commentary. And even though Genesis spawned a plethora of crappy rip-offs, the stage imagery still is impressive to this very day. Alas, Peter Gabriel must've known that he couldn't continue being a show innovator forever. So that leads us to the music experimenting that he reached with his solo career.
Of course Peter Gabriel
(this is the 3rd of the four [the fourth had a name in the US] eponymous albums he released, also known as Melt
) didn't begin Gabriel's adventure in the studio. The preceding albums also widened Gabriel's musical palette, but did so to a less successful extent. His debut stretched the variety too far. The sophomore effort's hazy creativity and patchy continuity garnered a dip in critical acclaim from its predecessor. Third time's a charm, though, as they say, and Gabriel combined what everybody loved about his first two self-titled albums, then took his career to a new level.
The unique way drums and percussion are used on the album is what shapes the album overall. Peter Gabriel
's famously dark mood is shaped on the thunderous, hollow drum sound that was invented during this album's recording. This is known as the 'gated drum' effect, invented by the album's engineer Hugh Padgham, which achieved the sound of a reverb-loaded drum that doesn't fade away, but cuts off quickly, leaving a dense, echoic sound. Think back to Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight
if you think you've never heard the sound. The other pioneering drum technique, isn't really a technique, but Gabriel was one of the first to use drum machines on albums. He uses them wisely to shape the mood carefully, whenever the roaring real drums aren't acceptable.
The result of these moody, tense drum sounds is shown instantly on the song's opener Intruder
, which was arranged by Gabriel after listening to the simple drum over and over again. He growls the vocals in a maniacal way, whispering in a violent tremble stalker-freak lyrics like 'The sense of isolation inspires me/I like to feel suspense when I'm certain you know I am there'
. These slightly shadowed by the grinding industrial noise and the boisterous drums. Intruder's
sparse use of synthesizers, exotic percussion, foreshadows the forthcoming more organic moments, and Gabriel's increasing interest in African music (which doesn't blossom until later in his discography.)
's use of synthesizers and guitars is similar to David Bowie's Low
, either creating an energetic new-wave atmosphere, or a scarce, spacey feel. Also like Low (the first half, at least), Melt
constantly makes innovative pop songs through intertwining instruments and styles that are usually seen as opposites. Though this record has an ominous feel because of Gabriel's very charismatic outbursts of paranoia and industrial-style drums, the subtle funky texture provided by the outlandish percussion, and the slick slicing synthesizers even things out. This is amply shown in the hit Games Without Frontiers
, a dark politically-driven song lightly touched with a robotic bassline and other wry, funky elements. Unfortunately, a lot of the music and sound elements that were fresh at the time for this album sound saturated at times in it's more pop rock moments, because of the synth, sax solo, and similar, but badly produced drum sound overkill of a lot of 80s pop music.
With a lot of lyrical depth, ranging from the narration of attempted assassination (based on a true story) to triumphant political chants, Peter Gabriel may have stopped with the queer theatrics, but his storytelling remains as imaginative as ever. The futuristic sound and overlapping themes that resonates on the album shows that the pop label doesn't restrain Gabriel at all. Yet the label puts some people off who assume Gabriel took the same turn as ex-band mate Phil Collins, who drummed on this album (without using cymbals,) abandoning prog rock and going to mildly interesting pop. Well to those people I say: if Peter Gabriel
isn't interesting, then you're probably just gay for men in weird makeup.