Peter Gabriel – Scratch


The second installment of Peter Gabriel’s self-titled tetralogy, which is also part of Robert Fripp’s pseudo-trilogy (one of three art rock albums that Fripp produces around this time), isn’t very good. And disappointing, given two of the greatest musicians of progressive rock working together. But it’s better than ”Car”, which gets a lot more attention because of “Solsbury Hill.” I’d call this one a transitional album as it’s evenly divided between pop/rock numbers (“D.I.Y.” and “Perspective”) and art rock stuff (most of the second half), but that would be a lie – Peter Gabriel would go full-blown psychological thriller on the following ”Melt” and discover rhythm on ”Security”. This one’s just formless, which I suppose is better than some of the gormless stuff on ”Car”. The synth runs on “On the Air” and the cute riff of “A Wonderful Day in a One-Way World” are nice, and “Mother of Violence” is stark and beautiful: the inherent sadness of hearing Peter Gabriel slur his words (like a Michael Stipe, just a few years before R.E.M. came to be) over the acoustic guitar arpeggiating into those piano fills (with shades of pedal steel guitar) makes it an album highlight. But the second side is a coaster: “Indigo” sounds like late-period Bowie, when he lost his voice; “Flotsam and Jetsam” has nothing going for it except the light jazz feel in the heavy drums; “Perspective” sounds like a second-rate version of the Who’s “5:15” straight down to the backing vocals. “Exposure” (which will pop up in a slightly different form on Robert Fripp’s debut album) swells nicely from the synths and bass, and both that and the closer showcase Gabriel’s capacity for powerful singing. And it’s with faint fucking praise that I say that this album sounds more like the 1980s than it does 1970s (with the exception of “Perspective”), especially on “On the Air” and “Flotsam and Jetsam.”

But “D.I.Y.”’s a good song. It’s not going to blow the doors off your Cadillac because it’s so unpretentious (which is surprising because Gabriel does have the tendency to slide into dangerous territories): just the loud smack of drums propelling an acoustic guitar, an easy vocal hook (the title’s letters, chanted, and at one point, with the acronym spelt out in slightly different snippets of melody), and an easy trick of a piano scale in the verses. If I were to cover a Peter Gabriel song, it’d probably be this one to be honest. Either that, or the folksy parts of “Supper’s Ready,” if only I could hiccup that melody like Gabriel does. One of his best, and shit, I’d take it over “Solsbury Hill.”



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