When oh when will Peter Gabriel finally release his new cd?? It's been too long, I've been clinging to this artwork for far too long, and I want something new! Seriously though, Peter Gabriel deserves a museum built for him, and he should be put on a pedestal in an air-tight show-case for these cd's. All right, enough of the sycophant from me.
The cd opens with the brilliant track 'Come talk to me'. The juxtaposition of sounds and instruments achieves a breathtaking effect, a song that constantly evolves, that keeps on subtly bettering itself. Peter Gabriel has chosen to return to far more surreal lyrics on this cd, specially on this song, leaving the exclusively pop orientation of "So" behind him. "Us" is the go-between for "Security" and "So". It uses the breadth of sounds from "Security", but adds more radio-friendly elements that make it more accessible than his master-work, "Security". On "Us" Gabriel is experimenting with Asian and Indian sounds and textures rather than the characteristic African beats. 'Come talk to me' is pervaded by a subtle instrumentation, reminiscent of Indian music. 'I Love to be loved' opens with a drum beat that is unequivocally Indian in nature. 'Blood of Eden' is one of the better songs on the cd, emphasising Indian sounds in the echoing guitar work. "Is that a dagger or a crucifix I see?" A song of the downfall of humanity is captured in this beautiful image where the borders between holiness and evil are blurred, evoking the desecration of mankind.
'Steam' lightens the ponderous mood, with its easy-going pop, light-hearted lyrics and catchy pop hook. 'Only us' is probably the most clearly Asian song in the line-up. The wailing is appropriate to the mood, as is the erratic changing beat and the low humming instruments. Like 'The family and the fishing net' before it, 'Only us' is the most uncompromisingly native song on the cd. 'Washing of the water' is a rather more conventional ballad, and 'Digging in the dirt' is an excellent pop song, switching to mechanical drum machine beat from the erratic talking drums. It's also the hardest and most aggressive rocker that we've heard from Peter Gabriel in a long time. 'Fourteen black paintings' is a delightful musical piece, sounding somewhere between Asian and Middle Eastern, as if it had come off "Passion". The simple pop of 'Kiss that frog' follows on from here, and the final track is the touching 'Secret world'. The live version from "Secret World Live" is an impressively powerful rendition which I infinitely prefer to the album version, but the song is nonetheless effective, dealing with each persons' private universes that inevitably jar with reality and with other people: "In our secret world we were colliding.... what was it we were thinking of?"
It may not have the unconditional artistry of "Security", the aggression and tension of the third album (the melting face), or the pop power of "So", but "Us" is a whole different cd. Subtle, insidious and above all masterfully performed, it is an absolutely essential and rewarding listen.
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