Thursday, 28 November 2019

Peter Gabriel - 1 ("Car") (1977)

Eagle flew out of the night....


Released on 25th of February 1977

Running time 41.42

This was Peter Gabriel’s first post-Genesis solo album and began his reinvention from pretentious, indulgent proggy to innovative, experimental and eventually far more commercial world music/post punk-influenced enthusiast. The album saw him delving into all sorts of styles in an effort to show just how “non-niche” he was. He does seem to be trying to be all things to all people, though, a bit, but it resulted in a most diverse offering. I find it still a bit of an acquired taste and certainly, in 1977, although I had a bit of time for Solsbury Hill, I had no time, really, for stuff like this. There was an overblown pretention to it at odds with the punk/minimalist/new wave ethic of the age. To be honest, despite my far more rounded approach these days, I still feel somewhat the same about this album. Many I am sure, will disagree.


1. Moribund The Burgomeister
2. Solsbury Hill
3. Modern Love
4. Excuse Me
5. Humdrum
6. Slowburn
7. Waiting For The Big One
8. Down The Dolce Vita
9. Here Comes The Flood                                 

Moribund The Burgomeister has some interesting moments in its mysterious, Eno-influenced verses but its big, synthy chorus has, like the song’s title, too many prog rock aspects for me. Gabriel was trying to break away from that Genesis thing, but old habits were dying hard. (A couple more listens, however, and it grows on me). The grandiose acoustic/orchestral strains of Solsbury Hill gave Gabriel a hit single, deservedly, and, while it again retains a bit of progginess about it, it also has some really infectious parts, both instrumentally and vocally. This brought Gabriel’s unique brand of intelligent but hooky pop to the public’s attention. It is so redolent of 1977 too, when things like War Of The Worlds and Yes’s Wondrous Stories were just as popular as any punk or new wave songs.

Modern Love has lots of catchy, chunky guitar riffs, a Who-like structure and vocal, although it is a tiny bit blighted by too many synth runs. It is a good vibrant track, however. Gabriel was almost trying to be a bit punky on this one and I quite like it. Excuse Me, though, is a pretty dreadful piece of Queen/Paul McCartney-style oompah-driven whimsy. It has a few hints of Leo Sayer’s early material too. Personally, it just not my thing. Humdrum is a beguiling, unusual song that needs a few listens to appreciate its many changes and moods. Slowburn also feels like a Who number, with another Daltrey-esque vocal.

I do like some of the bassy, jazzy parts of Waiting For The Big One, but the track once again suffers from a directionless feel derived from a desire to be over-creative. Its good parts, and there certainly are some, are over-run by indulgence. It has a great guitar solo near the end, mind. Surprisingly, next up is a Trampled Under Foot-style slice of thumping, clavinet-driven but heavily-orchestrated disco funk on Down The Dolce Vita. It is, apart from Solsbury Hill, the album’s best track, but the impressive funk is drowned out at times by an overbearing prog string orchestration. The track changes in tempo too many times, just stick to the funk, Peter. Here Comes The Flood, again, despite some good points, is a bit of a cacophonous mess, in my opinion. Look, all this stuff just sounds too King Crimson/Pink Floyd for my liking. It just doesn’t float my boat.

I also have problem with the sound of the latest remaster and indeed the album in general. It is way too clashing and bombastic for my taste, too orchestral and not enough bass. (Apparently it has always been bad, even hard core Gabriel fans admit that). This is something Gabriel would address on later recordings as he became more influenced by the bassier rhythms of soul, funk and world music. This album carries too many proggy cobwebs with it, as far as I am concerned. I went to a boys’ Grammar School in the seventies and many of the boys there lapped this sort of thing up. It is a Grammar School album, listened to by those who would meet up (snd still do) to sit together in a dark room listening intently to every note of Dark Side Of The Moon. Each to their own. I will admit, though, that after a few listens it is more appealing each time so maybe that is its strength, if I am looking to end on a positive.