Label – Charisma/Mercury/Geffen
Produced by Steve Lillywhite
Gripped by a turn of the decade world strangled by Cold War paranoia, drowning in Political turmoil, deconstructed by incomprehensible dictatorship and racism, Gabriel had the ideal backdrop for the most haunting and obsessive album of his illustrious career. Having enjoyed modest success from his previous two solo recordings, Gabriel relentlessly pursues his avant- garde, musically leftfield notion that the independent will of his experimentalism will inexorably galvanise an inquisitive following. And boy does it work.
His first step was to employ young rising Production genius Steve Lillywhite to develop intriguing sounds, using the rudimentary Fairlight samples and difficult rhythms. To maintain the dark feel of the album, Gabriel insisted that no cymbals were to be used on any song, and this would add to the theatrically bleak rhythms, and certainly impress Phil Collins enough to use the method for much of his 1980’s work, and we all remember the success of “In The Air Tonight” (Collins performed on some of the tracks).
The tone for the album is set by “Intruder”. Eerie, voyeuristic, and genuinely scary, Gabriel sounds like Hannibal the Cannibal articulating “I know how to move quietly, to creep across creepy wooden floors” and is weirdly flooded by booming bass drum effects to further perplex the listener. Dick Morrisseys sweet Sax plays a lament that could have been the soundtrack to Bladerunner (“Strange”), and drifts along for just over a minute, until Gabriel and co. crash in with thunderous Power chords for the terror fueled “I Don’t Remember”. This time Gabriel is the interrogated victim, Bass drums Goose stepping whilst he blurts out for mercy. It’s brilliantly compelling and starts a run of diverse songs that magnetise the listener to the close. “Family Snapshot” is compelling, describing the real life assassination attempt on a U.S. presidential candidate. “And Through The Wires” pessimistically provokes a thought that not everything transmitted through the airwaves is wholesome. “Games Without Frontiers” jibes about the Cold War mentality of the time, and the closer, the dark story of murdered anti apartheid activist Steve Biko (“Biko”) is one of the first songs to truly confront the barbarous South African regime.
The musical backdrop to all of these songs is unflinching, gritty, sometimes ugly but always relevant. Each song is a masterclass in developing a mood of music to fit the lyrical subject of the song. O.K, I accept that it’s not pretty, but the world in 1980 wasn’t a pretty place and Peter Gabriel captures it all in this sensational album.
A1 Intruder 4:51
A2 No Self Control 3:51
A3 Start 1:20
A4 I Don’t Remember 4:36
A5 Family Snapshot 4:25
A6 And Through the Wire 4:55
B1 Games Without Frontiers 4:00
B2 Not One of Us 5:17
B3 Lead a Normal Life 4:13
B4 Biko 7:24
Games Without Frontiers
I Don’t Remember