Peter Gabriel Pens Very Brady Single On Death-Inspired Up

'The Barry Williams Show' is about Gabriel's thought on reality television.

On his first studio album in a decade, Peter Gabriel is moving in the right

direction.

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

limited.

"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

carries on."

"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."