After slogging for years as underground cult heroes, the disparate threads of Genesis had become major commercial forces by the mid-1980's - the Phil Collins-led version of the group, Collins' solo career, and Mike Rutherford's side-project Mike and The Mechanics all enjoyed a high public profile, often with music that was banal compared to what Genesis created during their prime.
Peter Gabriel followed his former bandmates to success with 1986's So
, his most popular and commercially-oriented album. Signs of his new direction include an actual album title, extravagant music videos ("Sledgehammer"), and a smouldering portrait shot on the front sleeve.
Less superficially, these songs are simpler and more direct than before. While purists may've been unimpressed by material like the straightahead love song "In Your Eyes", or the faux-Motown groove of "Sledgehammer", the new direction as a whole isn't a problem, and those two songs demonstrate Gabriel's ability to write effective pop songs, even if the record is somewhat incoherent, with a marked contrast between the uptempo singles and moodier album tracks.
More telling, this record's Achilles Heel is "Don't Give Up", a sappy overwrought duet with Kate Bush that's indisputably the worst piece of product either have been involved with. The song actually has its share of good ideas, especially the pretty Gospel bridge, but its sabotaged by a horrendously treacly chorus.
Fortunately, the other singles are pretty much excellent. Opener "Red Rain" strikes a nice balance between artiness and accessibility; "Sledgehammer" is kind of awkward white funk, but still memorable; "Big Time" is an interesting commentary on 1980's values; and "In Your Eyes" is poignant and melodic. And even if a couple of the album tracks are relatively forgettable, "Mercy Street" is beautiful, and "That Voice Again" is driving and urgent.
For better or worse, this is the Gabriel album that the general public are most acquainted with - while he's made stronger records, there's plenty of substance here, and it's more thoughtful and respectable than the product his former Genesis bandmates were selling by the barrowload during the same year.Rated:
by Reviewer: Fyfeopedia
(blogging at Fyfeopedia [Defunct]