On his first studio album in a decade, Peter Gabriel is moving in the right
Up, due September 24, follows in the two-letter tradition he started
with 1986's So and continued through his last studio recording,
1992's Us. The determining factor in coming up with the title of
Gabriel's ninth proper album (not including 1989's Passion, his
soundtrack to the Martin Scorsese film "The Last Temptation of Christ") was
left to his fans. He gave them the choice between Up or I/O,
which stands for "input/output." As he explains it, his options were
"The title was there about 10 years ago," Gabriel said. "I was playing with
words, and I put myself in this two-letter-title box for a number of years."
For the follow-up to So, which featured the hit "Sledgehammer,"
Gabriel simply changed one letter to come up with Us. Another quick
fix led to Up, and I/O will probably be the title of the next
LP, noted the methodical former leader of Genesis at their '70s prog peak.
Despite the immediate connotation of the title, Up is anything but
cheery. It's actually downright gloomy, rife with themes of loss, loneliness
and the most obvious premise derived from song titles like
"Darkness," "Dark" and "I Grieve" death.
The music enhances such surface feelings with sparse melodies and delicate
structures held aloft by breathy electronic atmospheres. Gabriel's trademark
worldbeat influences abound, but unlike before, they're not immediately
perceived as celebratory. The telltale track "I Grieve," as it moves from
solemn to a more upbeat groove, helps makes sense of the album as a cohesive
body of work, especially in its mantralike chorus: "They say that life
"Quite a few of the songs are about death, and in a way, people think that's
a pretty miserable, depressing subject, but I would say the opposite
probably," he explained. "If you live in a dominant youth culture that
pretends death doesn't exist, you're sort of ending up going directly toward
it. Whereas if you face it head on and accept it as a part of life as
a lot of other cultures do then you live life more fully."
The LP's first single is one of the few offerings on the 11-track album
that's more social commentary than introspective soul baring. While it may
seem "The Barry Williams Show" would be the best thing to happen to the
actor familiarly known as Greg Brady since The Return of Johnny
Bravo, it actually has nothing to do with him. Rather, the song,
ominously driven by a plunging bassline and punctuated with horns, is about
the proclivity of reality TV.
"In some ways it's more outside observation and less of an internal track,"
Gabriel said. "But somehow sonically it still feels of the same palette."
Gabriel is planning a video to accompany the song, though he kept ideas for
the treatment under his hat. However, he did reveal his choice for the ideal
director: Sean Penn.
"I like his films a lot," said Gabriel, who met with Penn Thursday to bandy
ideas about. "And this track should have a dark edge to it, and he
definitely knows how to get that."
Obviously, Gabriel's is a condemning view of the current TV craze, so you
won't be seeing him on "Dog Eat Dog" anytime soon, but that doesn't mean
he's not watching.
"I think we're probably just beginning with reality television in some
ways," he said. "I can enjoy watching it myself sometimes, but it's a little
like junk food after consuming it, you feel like sh--. And you're
just conscious that some people's suffering is turned into advertising
dollars, and it doesn't always feel very good."