Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Peter Gabriel, Vol. 1, No. 2: Scratch

Vol. 1, No. 2 is much darker and far more removed from the overblown Genesis concept The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway than was Car. Here we find tracks of white noise, red heat, purple funk, and colorless loss. "On the Air" blows up with Who-like guitar from Sid McGinnis while glistening synth bells tinkle in the background. Gabriel is playing the part of Mozo (A play on Moses), a pirate radio DJ broadcasting from his amateur radio in a cabin by the river. Mozo is lost and lonely and screaming out via his microphone. He wants everyone to know "that Mozo is here". He is in the world, but not of the world. For the most part hidden and invisible, Mozo can only express himself and be heard with the aid of technology – specifically radio technology. The figure of Mozo lives in a fantasy world created by what he picks up and transmits on short-wave radio. "Through his short-wave radio he becomes whoever he wants, but in real life, on the street, he's totally ignored," explains Gabriel.

"DIY" is Gabriel's very un-punk sounding tribute to the punk ethos that prevailed in the late 70s. The track is prescient in that it foreshadows much of what is on PG3, if without the confidence. "Mother of Violence" has some of the most achingly moving singing and melodies on the album, though there are many. With just piano, acoustic guitar and McGinnis's steel guitar, this ballad cries. 

"A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World" is pop reggae, while "White Shadow" is one of three premiere pieces for both Gabriel and producer Robert Fripp. Fripp's solo at the end of "White Shadow" blisters. One of his best on any record he's appeared; it's underrated at worst and masterful at best. (An aside: on the original LP, the inner grove leaves a gap to allow the last few Frippertronics the opportunity to play over and over; high as a kite in '78 we listened to it for an hour. my good friend Ray said, "Man, this album is long.")

The LP's stunners, alongside "White Shadow," are "Indigo" and "Home Sweet Home." "Indigo" is Gabriel at his lyrical best and Fripp's basic instrumentation, building, stopping, flowing, wrenching, heartbreaking, is clearly a masterpiece. Conversely, the lyrics on "Home Sweet Home" are taken verbatim from a newspaper story Gabriel read about a woman who jumped out of a window with her baby in her arms. The widower used the insurance money he got to gamble at a casino and won big. Life sucks and fate's a cunt here, no other word is apt. But it's Gabriel's voice that makes the song (and makes the album). Near the very end, Gabriel wails. He's not singing any words, he's just wailing and no music before or since makes one’s hair stand up like that, even KB's "Hello Earth," simply because this news report is harrowing.

Interesting that Fripp considers this a part of a trilogy that includes his own solo, Exposure, and Daryl Hall's Sacred Songs. Fripp encouraged Gabriel to work fast and be spontaneous, and although Gabriel was apparently unhappy about being rushed, Fripp restrained him from his instinct towards over-elaboration to great effect. The rather abstract song fragment 'Flotsam and Jetsam' sounds a lot like the material on Fripp's solo album, and, indeed, Gabriel gives a risky but emotional vocal performance on "Exposure," a track also recorded (with a different vocalist) for Fripp's LP. PG3 is considered Gabriel's masterstroke, but after this recent relisten to PG2, I'm not so sure.