Few music artists frustrate me like Peter Gabriel.
He has not released an album of new compositions since 2002.
You get the sense that he’d rather be investigating anything but his own music, such as teaching monkeys to Skype.
That’s not to say he has not made albums since then, but they were ill-advised forays into reinterpreting songs from his catalog and those of other artists.
And I don’t think he’s ever made an album I love all the way through, although I am obsessive about certain songs of his.
His third album, commonly known as Melt, comes closest, but I’ve never been a fan of Biko, which, while admirable in its intent, just feels out of place on the album.
And I also have a few issues with So, but not in the way most die hards do.
Those come down to his instincts as to what to put on his albums, what to leave out, and how to sequence them.
For one, I could never agree with his intent to have In Your Eyes end the album.
Its celebratory, devotional tone just wouldn’t work for me, but I could be biased after years of listening to the album.
For another, I never cared much for Milgram’s 37 (We Do What We’re Told), which feels more like an excerpt than a fully realized song and falls flat as the final cut on the vinyl.
(On the original CD, This is the Picture closes out the album and renders Milgram’s unecessary.)
I always thought that So fell off sharply after Mercy Street (although it took me a long time to appreciate That Voice Again, which I still don’t entirely love, as he sounds strained on the chorus in a way I find off-putting).
And I always wondered why he didn’t put Don’t Break This Rhythm on the album.
The B-side to Sledgehammer, Don’t Break This Rhythm is vague in its intent in a good way, in that you can look at it as the undeniability of a great song or as a meditation on the destructive tendencies of mankind and progress.
In which case, the rhythm that should not be broken is how we move together as human beings.
The beat of our own hearts.
Rhythm has a phenomenal, vibrant, restless rhythm to it, something born of Gabriel’s long-standing interest in African music.
You could suggest he is a cultural appropriator, but I would counter that Gabriel’s desire to bring music from around the world to a wide audience is so strong that he risked bankruptcy to do it via the WOMAD festival, which he salvaged in part by doing a one-off reunion concert with Genesis.
In all honesty, I think Rhythm is probably among his five best songs, so who knows what he was thinking in leaving it off So.
All I know is he hasn’t made an album since So I’d consider owning.
Regardless, I wish that momentum that he says keeps stealing through would compel him to complete and release another album of new material.
Even if I suspect there would be a lot of songs left out that would be better suited for it.