Peter Gabriel [Melt] (1980)

Categories: 1980 and Music.

On December 31, 2008, I wrote the following:

This may sound stupid, but this sounds little too much like 1980. They had a good thing going, those Genesis guys…and while I know that version of the band could never have topped The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, neither Gabriel nor the rest of the band ever demonstrated that kind of creativity again. That being said, this record is fine. There are some fine moments. However, the “world music” feels almost flown in compared to everything else. Both Bowie and the Discipline version of Crimson do aspects of this better. I will probably like it more in time. but it just seems somewhat underwhelming at this point.

I continue to struggle with this record, but not so much because of the production. I now recognize the production for what it is: extremely innovative for the time (the cymbal-less drums, the gated drums, the early use of drum machines and brand new synthesizers, the use of world music instruments and ideas in the arrangements). Saying this is “too much like 1980” was kind of disingenuous of me, because the 1980s owes this record so much.
My problem is more with the set of songs. I like some of the lyrics but I dislike others. I find most of the songs feel almost pieced together (which may have been the point) where a chorus or a bridge feels completely (or nearly) divorced from a verse. And that, masked in the overly “modernist” production always rubbed me the wrong way enough for me to ignore the things I did like: the presence of Fripp, the bonkers xylophone solo on “Intruder” (and the marimbas – credited as xylophone but certainly they sound like wood – on “No Self Control”) and other tricks.
Really, the whole things is so shocking/daring for mainstream pop music. But the combination of Gabriel not sounding like (1974 era) Genesis and writing catchy songs that were weird but somehow both too weird and not weird enough for me really caused me to denigrate this a little.
And I think I’ve been really wrong about that for the last seven and a half years. It took me a really long time, but I think I’ve come around to the idea that this is a brave, bold, innovative record – a near masterpiece that would have been better only if it didn’t have that terrible ’80s saxophone (which it likely birthed as well) on “Start.” (I exaggerate slightly.)
I was wrong. I’m sorry.
9/10

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