Peter Gabriel’s last album, “All About Us,” had a mix of world music and techno beats that had me saying, “Wow, this is very dull.” So when I was asked to review Gabriel’s latest album, “Up” I jumped at the chance. Somewhere in the back of mind I was hoping that this new album would be something different. After all, Gabriel is a smart guy and knows how to write a catchy tune.
Peter Gabriel is an aging rocker, but he’s back this week with his most recent release, “Up.” The album is a hybrid of U2 and Radiohead that could easily be heard over supermarket airwaves.
“Up,” Gabriel’s first album in almost a decade, gives the impression that it really did take 10 years to make. It contains elements of every pop icon of the ’90s, while hiding behind David Geffen’s multi-billion dollar production studio. The disc is so versatile that it can be played in a stereo and in a computer (if you’re so inclined to sing along).
The album begins with “Darkness,” which fails to scare the listener even with the insertion of a 40-decibel volume gain in the middle of the track. Out of “Darkness” comes “Growing Up,” a Moby knockoff with the insightful refrain, “Growing up/ Looking for a place to live/ My ghost likes to travel.” And of course, the track “Sky Blue” is a wonderfully refreshing metaphor.
Gabriel’s trite lyrics and uninspiring poetry leave that feeling of emptiness after the flavor in your chewing gum is all gone. The only song that was slightly meaningful was the atmospheric “Barry Williams Show,” which was nonetheless very heavy-handed. The entire album seemed to have a vague post-9/11 theme with lines such as, “All the slow clouds pass us by/ Make the Empire State look high.”ÊWhile I’m not entirely sure what that means, it is still less intelligible than any line Thom Yorke ever sang and much less apocalyptic than “Kid A.” (As if there was a competition.)
Ultimately, “Up” is more enjoyable to listen to than most overproduced pop, but that’s no excuse for this music industry veteran. Peter Gabriel should know better than to beat us over the head with lyrics on a fifth-grade reading level and chords my rabbit could play (and she doesn’t even read music). The most engaging part of the album was the artwork, full of water droplets and blurred faces. But then again, everything in black and white looks important. What it boils down to is that this is really good party music, maybe it could go on a soundtrack or two, but it’s not worth a whole lot of attention. Maybe I never liked Peter Gabriel to start out with, but this new album reaffirms his lack of ingenuity and his great gift at stealing musical ideas and watering them down.