peter gabriel scratch my back
  • THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2010

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When senior citizens write music they have a really, really tough job. And that's not ageism or any sort of sextagenarian discrimination in anyway. It's just that most people over 60 write music for, well, other people over 60. Some have done incredible things with it, like Johnny Cash's last album, a beautiful send off and an incredible album of covers. It was an amazing passing of the torch moment and if you've had a few drinks it could probably make you kind of emotional.

Peter Gabriel recently released an album himself. It's also a covers album, titled Scratch My Back. On it he covers songs from Paul Simon, The Magnetic Fields, Regina Spector, and The Arcade Fire, among others. Crazy right?

Well, it's not so crazy when you start listening to it. The album is mainly strings and Peter Gabriel's voice and it's strange, but in a neat way. It's incredibly uneven, but not in a wanting to turn it off and listen to Genesis kind of way. The string arrangements come courtesy of The London Scratch Orchestra and they're a really great source of atmosphere throughout the whole album.

The songs that work, "The Power Of The Heart" originally by Lou Reed, "My Body Is A Cage" by The Arcade Fire, and "The Book Of Love" by The Magnetic Fields are actually all in a block in the middle and they're damn good. Everything works and they're really dynamic takes on already pretty great songs.

"My Body Is A Cage" is especially notable because of how symphonic and explosive it is. It's placed in the middle of the album and for good reason. It's an almost exhausting climax. Around the 2 minute mark the song starts building and layer upon layer of dark strings cut through, crescendoing with a full orchestra. Peter Gabriel's voice drops to a low growl almost and it occaisional feels like The Imperial March from Star Wars.

In interviews about the album Gabriel blamed shows like American Idol for forgetting the songwriting aspect of music. And that's what's really being celebrated on Scratch My Back; lyrics and songwriting. The acts he chose are all known for their ability to perform unbelievable songs but also to write great stuff.

So, know that Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back is a mixed bag but also know that that's not really what matters. Instead, just listen to it with some curiosity and an open-mind. Not all of it works, but when it's said and done it's Peter Gabriel giving attention to other artists, many of them younger. It's a gesture that you can't really spit at. - Ryan Broderick

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MP3: Peter Gabriel - "Book Of Love" (Scratch My Back)
Peter Gabriel on Myspace

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