Peter Gabriel 3: Melt
Reis Rmst Dig ed.
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Peter Gabriel 3: Melt (Remastered)
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MP3 Music, September 28, 2010
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Originally released in 1980. Remastered in 2002. Peter Gabriel's third eponymous album finds him crafting work that's artier, stronger, more song oriented than before. Consider its ominous opener, the controlled menace of "Intruder." He's never found such a scary sound, yet it's a sexy scare, one that is undeniably alluring, and he keeps this going throughout the record. For an album so popular, it's remarkably bleak, chilly, and dark, even radio favorites like "I Don't Remember" and "Games Without Frontiers" are hardly cheerful, spiked with paranoia and suspicion, insulated in introspection. For the first time, Gabriel has found the sound to match his themes, plus the songs to articulate his themes. Each aspect of the album works, feeding off each other, creating a romantically gloomy, appealingly arty masterpiece. It's the kind of record where you remember the details in the production as much as the hooks or the songs, which isn't to say that it's all surface, it's just that the surface means as much as the songs, since it articulates the emotions as well as Gabriel's cubist lyrics and impassioned voice. He wound up having albums that sold more, or generated bigger hits, but this third Peter Gabriel album remains a masterpiece.
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I have the first U.S. vinyl pressing, and both the original and remastered CD discs. I've listened to this album many, many times and know its sounds intimately. The clarity of this high resolution release is stunning. None of the earlier releases can compare to the SACD remaster, which simply sparkles. The highs are crystalline, the mid-range more detailed and "in-the-room" than I have ever heard, and the bass is solid but not overpowering. And very importantly, there is no hint of the compressed, over-loud audio that is present on the CD remasters. If you can find the Gabriel SACD titles at a halfway reasonable price (hard to do right now, unfortunately), do yourself a favor and grab 'em.
The album is quite eclectic borrowing from new wave, world music, hard rock which was established in previous albums. The atmosphere is to die for, and he takes on multiple persona's to a much greater effect than when he was dressing up in Genesis performances. Again this album is all the proof you need to show that Peter needed to leave Genesis to artistically grow into this. Which benefited Genesis because they became more lucrative under Phil Collins that however doesn't mean they were as artistically inclined as this album.
The production of the album creates a technologically advanced yet primitive world, much like the one in Ridley Scott's "Blade Runner." I get the feeling that the movie's entire soundtrack was based off the instrumental "Start," the only sweet spot on this album. While I can understand criticism of the production as dated, I would argue that its dissonance, distortion, and booming tones are more out of time than anything else. In "I Don't Remember," the abrasive guitar and elastic bass are never quite where they seem, reinforcing the narrator's confusion and paranoia. The off-kilter rhythm and eerie synthesizer on "Games Without Frontiers" underpin an alternating militaristic and carefree sentiment. While it is the most complex work here, I cannot say which is the most memorable. This is Gabriel's masterpiece.