Saturday, June 6, 2009

G - Peter Gabriel - "Peter Gabriel" (debut)

Yeesh, I’ve got to start making these things shorter. I’m not trying out for freakin’ Rolling Stone, plus this does seem to take a little more time than my usual playing the record and going, “’s ahhhIGHT”.

There’s always been a disconnect between Peter Gabriel and myself. I’m not sure who’s to blame for it (not me), but he’s one of those guys that I’m pretty sure I’m SUPPOSED to like, or at the very least, RESPECT - for his music, his art, his human diginity, I don’t know. He’s just never been all that. I had a few of the early Genesis albums he was on during my ill-thought out “art rock” phase, and never listened to them because they were boring and pretentious (man, I never hope that word comes up in any future spelling bee’s I’m in, cause I never spell it right.) I did like his early videos though – when MTV first started, they played the hell out of “World Without Frontiers” and “Shock the Monkey”. Both videos complemented the songs very well. The former was arty without being too farty, and was pretty funny (I still can’t hear the song without picturing Peter in a black leotard whistling and crawling in front of a backdrop of mechanical crawling babies –THAT’S humor), while the latter always seemed to consistently be tied with “White Wedding” for the #1 scary video on the MTV Halloween countdown (of course, watched now, the monkey video is still pretty creepy, while Billy Idol is just silly). That said, I didn’t like his mid 80’s pop stuff at all. It was too fake sounding, and was far too radio friendly for my taste. (ASIDE: One morning in 11th grade at Humble High, me and my fellow dorks were hanging out in the library (several of us had actually been banned from the library – just wanted to let you know how truly nerdy we were) when Kris Larsen asked me if I’d seen “Sledgehammer”. I started going off about how I didn’t like that crap, and MTV was junk (I was then entering my 60’s phase, and I used 1977 as a cutoff point – any groups formed after 1977 were notallowed to hang in my collection. Now technically Peter Gabriel made the cut, seeing as he was grandfathered in due to Genesis. But, dude, “Sledge Hammer”, “Big Time”, “Don’t Give Up” – all sucked, uh, big time. HOWEVER, Lloyd Dobler holding up the boombox playing “In Your Eyes” in the rain in “Say Anything” is one of the greatest moments in cinematic history. And now, back to the action…) He said, “No, I’m not talking about the song, I’m talking about the sitcom with the renegade cop who talks to his gun.” Well, no, I hadn’t seen it yet, but within the next couple of weeks, my family forsook “the Cosby Show” at 7pm Thursdays to start watching the sitcom “Sledge Hammer” (you know, the one with the renegade cop who talks to his gun. TV guide may have actually billed the show as such), which is one of my favorite TV shows of all time. (I’ll give Donald credit – he was watching it before the rest of us kids, but I don’t think by much. However, I will take credit for introducing the family to “The Charmings”, the heinous sitcom about Prince Charming & Snow White being magically transported to modern times, and all the crazy weird anachronisms that resulted. It was somehow magically renewed for a second season, but they got a new actress to play Snow White; the same actress also played Valerie, Peter Brady’s fiancé in “A Very Brady Christmas”. And I digress again. But really, which would you as a teenage nerd find more entertaining?

This guy…

Or this guy?

(To be fair to Mr. Gabriel’s offbeatitude, at one time, he looked like this guy…)

Anyway….I’m trying to say that I’ve never been much of a Peter Gabriel fan, so I wasn’t expecting much from his debut solo album. I’ve had this forever, and may have listened to it once or twice. I know “Solsbury Hill” but that’s it. Imagine my shock and awe when the needle drops on the first song…um…”Moribund the Burgermeister”…and I LIKE it? Certainly not expecting that. It succeeds in one of the most difficult genres: absolutely ludicrous yet likable and catchy. “Solsbury Hill” is next, and its still a very good song. So I’m feeling like, okay, now its either going to get all dull world music-y or art rock nonsense, but it doesn’t. “Modern Love” is next, and it’s excellent. Huh. (This record was produced by Bob Ezrin, who certainly had a very distinct production sound. 4 years prior to his work on this record he recorded Lou Reed’s wrist slitting nonsense “Berlin”, 2 years prior he turned Alice Cooper into a cabaret act with “Welcome to My Nightmare”, 1 year prior he had Kiss singing with a CHOIR on “Destroyer”, (he never worked with Richard Prior though) and 2 years later, he’d have Pink Floyd singing with a KIDS CHOIR on “The Wall”. He seems tailor made for our floral friend.) Oh but then everything screeches to a halt with “Excuse Me”, which begins with a damn BARBERSHOP QUARTET. (There are few things in the world I hate more than barbershop quartets, and those things are mimes. One of the most frightening nightmares of my life was being in an empty theater watching a barbershop quartet of mimes perform. They had the whole getup – the aprons, the red & white striped shirts, the towels over the arm (maybe they were waiters too? I hate waiters), the handlebar mustaches – and white faces, and they were singing in perfect harmony, YET THEY DIDN’T MAKE A SOUND. I shudder.) When the music starts it becomes an old timey showbiz tune that Paul McCartney would back away from as being “too schmaltzy”. Ooh, its bad. But the record does recover, only losing it’s grip on the more stylistic cuts “Waiting for the Big One” (blues that sounds like Harry Nillson, and which never seems to end) and “Down the Dolce Vita” which throws a 70’s disco beat in with no real purpose. “Here Comes the Flood” closes out the record, and man, is it ever an epic. And completely wonderful.

I am very taken aback by how much I enjoyed this record. It’s strange - it’s like “Peter Gabriel” has been biding its time in my collection, just waiting for me to give it a spin, to give it a chance to appreciate its charms. I feel that, after all this time, somehow Peter and I have made some kind of amends, and I feel a little bad about blithely disregarding him so, but he pats me on the back and says “don’t think twice, my lad - grab your things, I’ve come to take you home.”


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