Quarter Life Crisis: Big Time

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

I turn 25 this year and resting in a the comfortable grey area of a 'quarter life crisis'. To celebrate, for the next few weeks of September, I'm recapping some of my favorite albums and singles that are turning the big 2-5 along with me...

Ignorance is never bliss. I don't care what the original quote means, there are some things you do need to know in order to function properly in this society. For many years, the only song I knew by Peter Gabriel was "Sledgehammer" and well, that's a bit embarrassing to admit considering Gabriel is more than "Sledgehammer". For all my young years, I never knew about his innovative turns and wild animal costumes in the prog-rock years of Genesis (the pre-Phil Collins years) or of his previous experimental solo albums and soundtrack scores that made art-pop less of a nerdy indulgence. Life is for learning, like Marvin sang, and I learned that there was a full album to "Sledgehammer" and that album was 1986's So.

As an introduction to Gabriel, So is the perfect starting point. It's innovative enough to differentiate itself from the pack and features the great songwriting of Gabriel to where die-hard fans aren't alienated and where casual listeners like myself aren't completely left out of the loop. This album keeps on giving. Even though I've heard every single song off of this numerous times, I always find something new within it.

Peter Gabriel sort of made his 'Phil Collins' album with So, proving he wasn't the only Genesis member to get a 'glossy' 80's makeover and appeal to a broader audience. A lot of 70's rockers released albums in the 80's (see Steve Winwood, Don Henley, et al) and ended up getting a revival of sorts on the charts, Gabriel is a part of that pack but he's more like the cool uncle, you know, the uncle you wait to arrive to make family get-togethers much more bearable.

Some of the 80's best music moments are on this record. Lesser known tracks like the percussion exercise of "That Voice Again" and the Laurie Anderson assisted, "This Is The Picture (Excellent Birds)" are captivating, yet it's the hits provide the album's foundation. I have long since championed "Red Rain" as one of the best songs of the 80's, it's a bit over-dramatic, but for all the right reasons. Then there is the golden sexual innuendo filled "Sledgehammer" which is brassy funk the Peter Gabriel way. The beautiful "In Your Eyes" is here as well as the funk not stopping on "Big Time" which delivers a message about ego-tism that is shows off Gabriel's wit. Oh, and Gabriel's female counterpart, Kate Bush glides in like the Glenda the Good Witch she is on the soothing "Don't Give Up" wrapping So up in a neat bow.

Notable Tracks

Red Rain
Like an impending storm, this one creeps upon you like a warning and then the thunder and rain impede. The effect of this song is what I love about Gabriel's approach to music, it's simple but highly effective.

How fun is this one? The video is so iconic. For a fun twist hear Maiysha's version, which slows things down, but all the soul is still there on this #1 single.

Don't Give Up
Such a moving and uplifting song. Oddly it can be seen as an anthem for today's economic downturn as it's details a tale of a man contemplating ending his life after being disgusted with his financial situation, but with that little voice telling him to not 'give up'. Plus who is Scroogey enough to hate on the six-minute hug-a-thon in the video?

In Your Eyes
Lloyd Dobler had the right idea in Cameron Crowe's 1989 flick, Say Anything... all you need a boombox and this song and bam! you can woo anybody. I know I'm still waiting for that to happen...

Big Time
Continues what "Sledgehammer" started. Gotta love the bass-lines.

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