Peter Gabriel

Geffen Records, 1992

REVIEW BY: Sean McCarthy


Fewer albums in my collection are more fluctuating in my grading than Peter Gabriel's album Us. It's one of those albums that is either glued into your tape deck for a week solid or is gathering dust near your Poison Open Up And Say ....Ahhhhhh! tape. It's dirtier and more abstract than his previous pop album So. If anything, it's closest to Passion, the soundtrack to the Scorsesse movie, The Last Temptation of Christ.

Gabriel poured his soul out to us on Us. Most of the songs reflected on his divorce. Some artists (Fleetwood Mac, Smashing Pumpkins to an extent) have been able to take divorce and make it into a great work that is accessible to audiences. Unfortunately, much of Us sounds more like a therapy session with Gabriel's psychiatrist.

The third world influence in Us at least gives some dimension to Gabriel's grief. Third world artist Shankar contributes some fine violin skills, especially on "Only Us" and "Love To Be Loved". Sinead O'Connor gives a beautiful performance in "Blood Of Eden." All of this makes my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Us more of a universal album and not just an artist's excuse to vent.

The catch is for the audience to snap up, however. "Washing Of The Water,""Fourteen Black Paintings" and "Secret World" aren't exactly songs that jump out in front of you and evoke a reaction. It takes a couple of quiet evenings, a couple of drives and a lot of patience for the songs to settle but when they do, you're absorbed by Gabriel's pain. With a striking minimal piano chord, Gabriel sings "Bring me something to take this pain away" on "Washing Of The Water." It's a great play by Gabriel, letting his guard down as well as his metaphors and just saying "I'm hurting."

After that, Gabriel's 'hit' songs comes on, "Digging In The Dirt.". Cetainly no "Big Time" or "Sledgehammer", "Digging In The Dirt" proclaims Peter Gabriel has something inside that is...'dark and sticky'. The muddy sound of the instruments add a nice play on Gabriel's words.

Us would have been a much easier album to like if Gabriel would have dropped his pretensiousness down a notch or two. As great as it is to have an artist who doesn't talk down to an audience, you get the feeling that Gabriel is banging into your head, "this is an important album!" To further this point, he even had twelve different artists paint a picture that represented what each song meant to the artist. It's cool that these artists got a nice commission, but come on, there's no way Pearl Jam or even Tori Amos could get away with such a feat without being called 'pretentious snobs' by critics.

"Steam" and "Kiss That Frog" are the two rays of sunshine in this murky collection. While they make probably the most pleasurable listening moments of Us, they feel slightly out of place. However, it still is nice to see the mood lifted in what is otherwise a somber album.

Your perception is essential to appreciating Us. I was even reluctant to give this one a grade. If you feel that an artist has no right to dump their problems on your lap for fifty minutes, then, by all means, pick something else out of the 'used' racks at your local record stores. For those who are the self-absorbed type, Us will fit like a nice black turtleneck. For those somewhere in the middle (myself included), Us will no doubt will have to find a place in your ears. You will no doubt hear another album like it. But it's going to need a lot of nurturing to grow on you.

Rating: B

User Rating: A-



© 1998 Sean McCarthy and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Geffen Records, and is used for informational purposes only.