Peter Gabriel II - Track by Track
This album has, I admit, always been a problematic one for me. I have always struggled with the almost unremittingly dark nature of both the music and the lyrics. It is strange to relate however, that once again, like some of Peter’s more recent efforts, the tracks work far better in the live context so here we go, my thoughts on this most challenging of albums…
On The Air. An instant live classic, the track is somehow lacking on the album however. Big brash and brutal; perhaps this was Peter’s answer to the “back to basics” credo of the New Wave currently ruling the roost on the UK music scene? Either way, the bombast worked a treat and this one is still one of my favourite Gabriel tracks.
D I Y. An anthem for disaffected youth? A two fingered reproach to record company executives or a wider clarion call to us all to break society’s mould? Who knows? Who cares? From the opening line delivered like a petulant child, Peter is at his most savage and cutting here. The rhythm track is infectious and catchy - hardly the style of Punk but there you go. A heady and confusing marriage of the lyrical arrogance of the new wave and the musical excellence of rock proper this one is another firm favourite.
Mother Of Violence. Cicadas and flies open up this track, conjuring up an instant image of oppressive heat and indeed this track manages in a deceptively simple acoustic tune, to evoke a sense of repression and indeed; fear itself. Not easy listening but thought provoking nonetheless, as all of Peter’s best work always is!
A Wonderful Day (In A One Way World). This one definitely owes its evolution to The Grand Parade Of Lifeless Packaging. A humoresque look at the trials and tribulations of shopping of all things - all is not well in the “aisle of plenty” perhaps? The artificial nature of our shopping malls and our place in them is delivered in Peter’s own inimitably wry style.
White Shadow. An early example of how Peter is able to evoke almost visual descriptions out of the use of different instruments and sounds. Augmented by the almost apocalyptic lyrics, this one is a lazy dry evocation of a harsh and barren landscape.
Indigo. Another intriguing song. Peter perhaps acknowledging his own repressed childhood and its effects on his persona or perhaps more straightforwardly an alcoholic’s musings on his or her final days, not easy listening but a deeply evocative song nevertheless.
Animal Magic. A wonderful piss-take on the macho world of war films and cop shows although with a wry twist with its reference to Northern Ireland and the then ongoing although undeclared war that was tearing that part of the world apart. All done in a cod- Punk style which only goes to show that Peter’s sense of humour was as sharp as ever.
Exposure. An eerie and arid aural landscape conjured up by Robert Fripp and Peter’s long time cohort Tony Levin.
Flotsam And Jetsam. An anthem to unrequited love done in a style which is uniquely Peter Gabriel.
Perspective. Another nod towards the current musical trends this one, upbeat, brash and rude this one is not for the faint hearted. An early acknowledgement of the damage that mankind is doing to Mother Earth (or Gaia as she is referred to in the song). Environmentalists really should make this an anthem for their cause!
Home Sweet Home. And so we come to the album’s closer and a fine example of what I call “music to slash your wrists to”. Possibly the most depressing song I have ever heard and certainly the most downbeat one by Peter - I only wonder what inspired it?
Re-evaluating albums from time to time is a useful exercise. I said at the outset of this part of the feature that I had always struggled with this album but age brings a certain degree of perspective (pardon the deliberate pun) and what strikes me about it now is how much of it I can relate to on a personal level which is always where Peter’s work works best, still not my favourite album from his oeuvre but one I shall continue to cogitate about and that is always a good sign, isn’t it?