Peter Gabriel [3]

Peter Gabriel

Geffen, 1980

REVIEW BY: Michael R. Smith


The third album in Peter Gabriel’s self-titled trilogy, often referred to as Melt, also happens to be his first  fully-realized package of songs.

Produced by Steve Lillywhite of U2 fame, it is one of those albums where there certainly isn’t a shortage of band members playing a wide variety of instruments. Lillywhite and engineer Hugh Padgham even provide the whistles, while someone else supplies the “screeches.” The credits may not point to a pleasant listening experience, but it is.

The first track, “Intruder,” lets us know that this is a new and improved Peter Gabriel that is ready for what the 80s might have in store. With a line like “I like to feel the suspense, when I’m certain you know I am there,” it is made clear that he intends to make the creepy popular. Melt is all about making the big statement. It’s got radio-ready fare like “I Don’t Remember” and the college staple “Games Without Frontiers,” as well as the chilling anti-apartheid anthem “Biko.” my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Gabriel also shows what an impressive composer he is with the instrumental “Start” and the mostly instrumental “Lead A Normal Life.” Such tunes seem to be pointing him in the direction of soundtrack scores and world music, which he would delve into later in his career.

What is most impressive about Melt is how well it walks the line between the experimental and the emotionally engaging. On one hand, you have light and loose funky numbers like “Not One Of Us,” while on the other, there bold multi-parters such as “Family Snapshot” that leave you stunned by their beauty. Undoubtedly, Gabriel and company worked harder on this album than the two previous efforts because the growth is remarkable. The obscure Peter Gabriel who used to toil in vain during his progressive rock days with Genesis is nowhere to be found in 1980.

The only two instances where Peter Gabriel appears to falter are on “No Self Control” and “And Through The Wire.” Not only do such minor tracks sound dated, but the lyrics and Gabriel’s gravelly vocal seem to need a little work. Whenever a rock song like “And Through The Wire” calls for Gabriel to push his voice as far it can go, it ends up sounding strained. His voice is perhaps the least interesting aspect of the man who has been labeled a genius in the world of music by any number of critics and industry executives.

Still, judging from how limited his range seems to be here, he would have benefited from some singing lessons. Yes, his voice is unique and is interesting in its textured quality, but when you factor in concert performances into the equation, there’s no way he would ever make it through the entire duration of a tour. If he’s a smoker, than surely he needs to give up the cigarettes. It makes me wonder if smoking is what Peter Gabriel was referring to on “Self Control” with the incessant refrain of “I don’t know how to stop.” Things that make you go hmmm…

That aside, though, this is an amazing piece of work from a brilliant musician.

Rating: A-

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© 2008 Michael R. Smith and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen, and is used for informational purposes only.