Review #297: So, Peter Gabriel

Karla Clifton
3 min readJul 18, 2022

Review #297: So, Peter Gabriel

The RS blurb mentions that Peter Gabriel had a 1982 “hit” called “Shock the Monkey,” which I kind of refuse to believe exists. They fail to mention that that Peter Gabriel was a founding member of freaking Genesis. In fact, I wrote in my note, “Gee, this guy sounds a lot like Phil Collins,” who happened to replace Gabriel in his own freaking band. What gives, RS?

Anyway, this record is like Eighties caviar. The reverential, kind of churchy-slash-horny “In Your Eyes” is everything you want in a love song, which I know because it’s in Say Anything, a movie I have never seen. It’s a bit of a time capsule. If you’re a fun-hating stick-in-the-mud, you might say it’s “dated.” And, like, you’re right.

But you also suck! Because there’s a lot to love about things that are dated. The sheer bombastic drama of Eighties pop delights me so much. Nowadays, most pop musicians are more into contrasting dynamics and subtlety — think Billie Eilish whisper-singing like a disaffected angel over booming, muddled beats. But there’s just something about “Sledgehammer,” a huge song with huge horns and thousands of sexual innuendos. (Click that link, by the way — this song has a massively insane music video created by the people that made Wallace and Gromit.) “Big Time” has a BIG TIME drumbeat and some kind of terrifying lyrics — I will pray to a big God/ As I kneel in the big church. Now why does that send chills down my spine?

Gabriel’s performance gear was pretty bonkers. Accordingly, he makes some quite magical, mystical choices here. “Mercy Street” has a divine orchestra-synth combo, and “Don’t Give Up” with Kate Bush is hushed and low until Bush cuts in with a voice like a bell. (The video features them hugging it out for a full six-minutes, which looks just as awkward as it sounds.)

My favorite was the high-concept weirdo-stuff. “We Do What We’re Told (Milgram’s 37)” is a Kraftwerk-esque song about Stanley Milgram’s 1961 experiment. (Honestly? A little judgy, Peter.) And “This Is the Picture (Excellent Birds)” with Laurie Anderson is so freaking weird. It’s a remix of the two’s collaboration “Excellent Birds” and Niles Rodgers’ “This Is the Picture,” and it will feature in my nightmares until I die, as I am terrified of birds.

Not all of the songs are “dated,” in my opinion. The echoing vocals over a jingle-jangle guitar of “That Voice Again” would fit in on any album from 1960 to now. But no matter how “dated” a song is, if it’s got a groove, you’re still gonna dance.

Funniest Connection: Opener “Red Rain” is like a cheesy version of Slayer’s “Raining Blood.”

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