On the program this week, I/O, Peter Gabriel’s first original album in 21 years, and the release of Up from Michael Stipe’s band.
Peter Gabriel, pion intact
It took 21 long years to Peter Gabriel to follow up his album UP. Of course, the Briton was not inactive during this period. He recorded a fairly conceptual album of covers, and devoted an album and a tour around versions of gems from his own repertoire. And there was also the tour celebrating the anniversary of So, his biggest success. Announced a year ago, divided into several sequences published on the occasion of each full moon, i/o arrives a few months after its author’s last visit to Paris.
Heard in its entirety, the album is astonishing, immediately joining the best pieces of a discography of only ten original albums. Powerful, vibrant, moving, i/o is a sum produced with the complicity of the artist’s faithful lieutenants (Manu Katché, Tony Levin and David Rhodes). Available in two versions (a mix by Mark Stent rather bright, and the other, signed Tchad Blake, darker), i/o is a collection of songs that are both serious and imbued with optimism. Gabriel, 73, casts his lucid but never detached gaze on the world as it is going (badly), without giving lessons but transmitting hope. Very vocal, ultra-concerned, Peter Gabriel delivers here a late masterpiece. One of those records that only fully reveals itself after a certain number of listens. Enough to wait 20 years before the next one?
i/o (Virgin/Universal Music)
REM, forced reinvention
In 1998, fifteen years after the release of their first album, Murmur, the formation of the southern United States was at a turning point in its history. The global success of losing my Religion had made this quartet one of the biggest groups of the 1990s, the American equivalent of U2. Victim of a ruptured aneurysm in the middle of a world tour, their drummer Bill Berry subsequently left the group after one last album to become a farmer. Michael Stipe (vocals), Peter Buck (guitar) and Mike Mills (b) decided to continue as a threesome. The album Up is the result of this new situation.
Trading acoustic drums for machines, REM then took a more electronic and experimental direction, far from the stadium rock of Monster. Up is therefore the sound of a group that reinvents itself, and searches deeply for the strength to continue. That’s what makes this record fascinating. Misunderstood upon its release, little sold, the record has taken on a beautiful patina as this welcome reissue appears. The combined influences of Brian Eno and Brian Wilson make this album unique. The group will stop moving forward after this record. Alongside the boxed release of UpREM’s four subsequent albums were released on vinyl. Reveal And Around the Sun, released respectively in 2001 and 2004, are still boring, but the last two productions of the Americans, the aptly named Accelerate Then Collapse into Now still look good. Separated in 2011 after a final world tour, Stipe, Buck and Mills swore that they would never be taken back and are keeping their word for now.
Up (Craft/Universal Music)