“Still Not Quite One Of Us” - Peter Gabriel’s new album US reviewed by Alan Hewitt.
Almost five years since So and three since Passion have passed with much personal trauma in Peter’s life which have formed the subject matter for this album. As a long standing fan of Peter’s music I was not surprised by the more eclectic style which he has adopted for this album, but I am afraid that as a successor to both the albums mentioned above, his falls somewhat between two stools.
The album opener: Come Talk To Me is certainly a strong song, one examining in painful detail the isolation that comes from failure to communicate on a one to one basis or on a wider scale. The music combines the more rhythmic elements of Passion with the same soul baring vocals that are one of Peter’s trademarks.
Love To Be Loved and Blood Of Eden examine similar intriguing subjects, in the former it is the need to be wanted and loved and the latter deals with a man’s loss of his grip on reality and what is important. Both feature suitably evocative musical accompaniments to the profoundly thought-provoking lyrics. Peter has if nothing else, succeeded more on this album in portraying raw emotion of the subjects he is portraying in the songs themselves and it is perhaps this deeper aspect of the work as a whole that may make this album more difficult for people who may have bought So on the strength of the videos on TV and the more catchy elements of that album.
I must admit I prefer the single version of Steam, known as Quiet Steam which works far better overall, although I admit I am still not exactly sure what either song is actually about! The weakest track by far on the album has to be Only Us, which is appalling - a banal mixture of incomprehensible lyrics and music that to me at least sounds like an out-take from Passion.
Washing Of The Water is far better. A song about the absoltuoin of sins. Its appeal is the simplicity of both the music and the lyrics which combine to make a wonderfully expressive song where Peter really exposes his thoughts in almost as brilliantly a way as he expressed his ideas on Here Comes The Flood almost fifteen years ago.
The first single from the album is next, and Digging In The Dirt is certainly a painful expression of the dark inner side of humanity. The lyrics and music combine to express a repressed violence which is at times quite frightening and is greatly helped buy the video for the song which is Peter’s best in my opinion - far more original than either Sledgehammer or Big Time, even though the BBC obviously don’t share my enthusiasm!
Fourteen Black Paintings is another deeply emotive piece, combining the best elements of Passion with the lyrical depth that is Peter’s greatest strength - a painful piece of music expressing the hopes of people for change, be it intheirown personal circumstances or on a broader context world-wide change, and its message is so simple “from the people come the power/From the power come the change”.
Kiss That Frog certainly owes some of its power to the rhythmic expressionds of So. This is the closest thing to humour on this album and as such I think it must be my bet for the next single. Finally, Secret World rounds of the album in typically moody style, telling the story of two people who have hidden their true feelings from each other in their own secret worlds, an apt analogy for Peter’s own relationships, which he has bravely examined, warts and all on this album.
The album certainly represents a complete change of direction for Peter, and as such, reminds us of the old title given to the shows on his 1980 tour - “Expect the unexpected”. The album is certainly a grower but a slow one that simmers rather than boils, but the patience expended on listening to it will be rewarded in many ways - intriguing and well worth the wait! But if you were expecting “Son of So” this album will probably be a disappointment to you.