Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Peter Gabriel - Melt


When Peter Gabriel played L.A.'s Greek Theater in the spring of 1980, he was touring PG3 (AM10), although it had not been released. When the lights dimmed, the cacophony of  the crowd "melted" into the Burundi beat so prevalent on the album. "Intruder" thundered through the Hollywood Hills. From the back of the theater came a handful of men dressed in black, like thieves in the night, armed with searchlights they shined across the audience. Upon reaching the Greek's stage, a distinctly chilling voice murmured, "I know something about opening windows and doors." The beginning of the concert exemplified the originality and vitality of everything Gabriel was doing at the time.  It was the culmination of what began with "Humdrum" (AM10, single); the evolution of Genesis. 

When the album was subsequently released, I was blown away all over again (thanks 1980s terminology). It wasn't progressive rock or new wave or post punk, it was indefinable, crossing styles and genres in ways that may not be out of the ordinary today, but were unheard of in the late seventies. I remember devotees of everyone from Joy Division to the Clash or the Jam, the Stones or Kate Bush all embracing it for a myriad of reasons.  From the Stunning "I Don't Remember" or "Games Without Frontiers" (feat. Kate Bush) to the haunting "Family Snapshot" and the groundbreaking, world shaking anthem that closes the album, "Biko," every track is superb.  


Gabriel impelled production techniques and engineering with the introduction of the Fairlight Programmable Synthesizer, and the list of musicians is exceeded in few places (Joni Mitchell's Court and Spark (AM10), Steely Dan's Aja (AM10)).  Fripp, Paul Weller (of The Jam), Tony Levin (King Crimson), Dave Gregory (XTC), Phil Collins, elevate the masterful songwriting and topical, time-sensitive complexities to something greater.  "Biko" did more than a little to inform the world of its injustices, but had it been a song merely of protest, its significance today may have waned.  Instead, every song maintains its impact.  "Family Portrait" isn't about Kennedy, though everyone thinks it is.  Doesn't matter.  "Family Portrait" is a song that questions our insanities while putting a face to humanity's frailty; a song that doesn't ponder why terrible things happen, but why they don't happen more often; a song made hauntingly more beautiful through its musicianship.

Peter Gabriel is a beautiful, contemporary album.  I'm still a bit more partial to PG2 than 3, but that's not AM, that's me thinking back to days gone by.  PG2 doesn't make me cry, it makes me reminisce.  PG3 makes me stop in my tracks.  Even without a "Humdrum," PG3 is an AM10.

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