Peter Gabriel – Scratch My Back

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Peter Gabriel’s genius – already erratic by the late-70s when he began his solo career – more or less ended after 1992’s Uswith releases growing rarer and rarer. His follow-up to 2002’s Up took eight years, and he does the easy thing of covering other people’s songs (6 older artists; 6 newer ones) over orchestral arrangements, and asking them to cover him in return. Most didn’t, probably insulted by the travesty here, which is why he decided to do it himself on 2011’s New Blood. (A shame: I, for one, would’ve liked to hear Arcade Fire cover “Red Rain”, or Radiohead cover “Intruder” in the paranoid style of certain tracks from OK Computer.) Sufficed to say, this sucks and no one should be surprised: Peter Gabriel’s voice has been reduced to a fraction of the stuff of Gods that it once was (listen to the wet sounds he makes when he tries to hold “Fade out again” at the 1:43 mark of “Street Spirit” or the “I” hook from “The Book of Love”; Bon Iver’s “Flume” was only a good song because of Justin Vernon’s falsetto lending soul and obscuring the lyrics), and the arrangements often seem like it’s supposed to soundtrack TV suicides (and lo, “My Body Is a Cage” is used on a House M.D. episode where House fake-suicides into a fucking hotel pool). The only exception to the latter rule is Talking Heads’ “Listening Wind,” where the sawing strings provide temporary respite among all the melodramatic soup.

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