Peter Gabriel - Scratch My Back
I feel we know each other well enough now to be completely honest. Sometime in the late '80s Peter Gabriel just stopped trying. His music became derivative of his previous work and he took few, if any chances. He's pretty much been that way ever since.
There was a palpable air of hope that blew over me when I heard about Gabriel's new album Scratch My Back. The album sees the former Genesis frontman cover music veterans (David Bowie, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, Neil Young) and trendy indie darlings alike (Bon Iver, Arcade Fire, Elbow, Regina Spektor). Could this be the catalyst to reignite a legendary career?
The short answer is no. The renditions on the album are unimaginative. Most suffer from overwrought string arrangements and listless vocals. There's precious little variance in the presentation from one song to the next, with even less attention paid to melody.
While Neil Young's "Philadelphia" lacked much in the way of character to begin with, Gabriel has managed to strip the original charm from many of the songs. Paul Simon's "Boy In the Bubble" has had the life ripped right out of it in it's transformation into a dull piano ballad. Even Stephin Merritt's music has been rendered humourless in Gabriel's hands.
Scratch My Back is not all a loss. Gabriel's vocals on Reed's "The Power of the Heart" do lend an emotional gravitas to the song. "My Body Is a Cage" is one of the rare instances on the album where the tempo matches the arrangement to provide an exceptional rise and fall. Gabriel's version of Radiohead's The Bends closer "Street Spirit (Fade Out)" is more organic and engaging than the original.
As much as I love covers and have enjoyed Peter Gabriel's overall body of work, Scratch My Back is an extreme disappointment.
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on 2010-03-17 dscanland Said:
Wow! A convincing review. You've talked me into NOT trying out this Scratch My Back.