Monday, May 2, 2011

Peter Gabriel 4: Security

For his fourth solo album, Peter somehow let his new label Geffen (soon to get a reputation for meddling with their artists) release it under the title Security. And thus it has remained, despite still being titled simply Peter Gabriel in the rest of the world. (Plus, German-speaking countries got their own version again, this time in a markedly different mix.)
Oddly enough, while the album was to bring him his greatest commercial success to date, it’s a very challenging listen, and the strange cover photo doesn’t help. Much of this can be put down to his embrace of, for lack of a better term, tribal rhythms on most of the cuts. Indeed, many of the tracks appear to take place in pre-industrial countries. It’s not a coincidence that in the modern rock era, he’s been one of the most vocal and active champions of the genre known collectively as “world music”.
“The Rhythm Of The Heat” is an accurate title for a track that fades in on a pulse, follows an eerie path, and then, as he exclaims, “The rhythm has my soul,” explodes into a frenzy of furious drumming supplied by a dance company from Ghana. The effect can alternately be felt as either unsettling or exhilarating. From there it’s a trip around the Southern Hemisphere to “San Jacinto”, which takes its time building up to the dynamic choruses. “I Have The Touch” is more straightforward, a good example of post-punk alternative music for which he was considered a pioneer. But it’s back to weird territory on “The Family And The Fishing Net”, a thought-provoking song wherein such “primitive” practices as animal sacrifices are compared to Christian wedding traditions, and found to be not all that alien.
What sold the album, of course, was the otherwise impenetrable “Shock The Monkey”, thanks in part to its striking video in heavy rotation on MTV. To this day it’s still incredibly catchy. (The liner notes from the original Geffen CD, in addition to proclaiming it as a “FULL DIGITAL RECORDING”, suggested that the song was an adaptation of classic Motown rhythms. We’d love to know which ad wizard came up with that one.) Another song known more for its visual effect is “Lay Your Hands On Me”, which became a centerpiece of his subsequent tour when Peter would perform a trust fall back into the audience, who would then pass him over their heads as he sang. With its unlikely title, “Wallflower” gets past its initial flute sample (which evokes nothing more compelling as the Karate Kid franchise) to a series of beautiful piano couplets under a lyric that soon reveals to be sympathetic to the plight of political prisoners. At least it ends on an up note with “Kiss Of Life”, jumpy meters and all.
The American tour following Security was soon captured on a double album, playfully titled Plays Live, despite the explicit acknowledgement that various tracks had been embellished in the studio. As would be expected, the setlist is heavy on the most recent albums, with a few from the first two (including “Solsbury Hill” and a wonderful “Humdrum”). Most of the songs are similar to the studio versions, with the exception of a slower “No Self Control”, and there’s an actual rarity in the form of “I Go Swimming”, only available here. (And not really that enticing once you’ve heard it.)

Peter Gabriel Security (1982)—3
Peter Gabriel Plays Live (1983)—3


  1. Why did Gabriel record so much of his work in German? Did he have an abnormally large following in Central Europe?


  2. I haven't found a clear answer on that. But it's worth investigating.