March 9, 2010

Scratch my Head?

Peter Gabriel's new album, Scratch my Back, is perfectly saccharine: few moments of niceness, marred by fundamental flaw.  Perhaps I'm jaded because he butchers my favorite song, Book of Love, taking it from bass to basic in under a minute (literally, he has to switch octaves) and flattening the lovely irony of Merritt's melodies with an overly-sentimentalized style.  Or perhaps it's because the whole thing falls flat.

To be fair, the music backing his creaky, speaky vocals is pretty lovely, but far from rich; as Merritt might say, I wish he had an orchestra behind him.  Gabriel covers a myriad of music, from indie darlings to American songbook contenders, but really doesn't stray from a signature sound--that, might I add, which seems a cry from the Gabriel of yesteryear (well, In Your Eyes and Solsbury Hill, anyway).

The worst part about the album is its entirety; Gabriel takes it too old school, making a melting pot out of a once beautiful mosaic.  It's clear he's been hitting the Hollywood pretty hard (with credits on
Babe: Pig in the City and Wall-E), because the songs could easily soundtrack a tearful scene (My Body is a Cage, por ejemplo), or a suspenseful turn (Bowie's Heroes).  In other words, they all kinda sound the same.

The point being, once Gabriel scratched his favorite artists' backs, they'd proverbially scratch his back, with covers of his stuff.  So far he can't pin down Thom Yorke (knock me over with a feather), but the reception has been generous.  Though, even in a positive quip, Regina Spektor
remarks re: his cover of her Apres Moi, "The leash has been let go from my voice, and now it doesn’t just belong to me.”  Now that just seems sad.

Sure, I'm lacking the reverence for a clear content contributor.  However, not only did he butcher my fave song, he also refused to perform with Genesis at their R&R Hall of Fame due to "prior commitments."  Which probably means you could actually spend money to see Gabriel smother your former favorites LIVE in person!  If you want to check out the album, I suggest doing so in small stints--it's overall way too dramatic for serial listening.

1 comment:

  1. Totally agree. I am NOT a fan of Street Spirit. I get it; OP's can make music too. Bully for them. And while I like a lot of aging rock stars later works, Peter needs to think more Levon Helm, who knows his limits in composing and performing.