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Peter Gabriel - I/O (Album Review)

Friday, 01 December 2023 Written by Chris Connor

Photo: Nadav Kander

Peter Gabriel has led an eclectic career, initially as a flautist and vocalist for prog icons Genesis before launching a hugely successful solo career studded with hits including Sledgehammer, Solsbury Hill and Big Time. But, remarkably, it has been 21 years since his last album of original material, 2002’s ‘Up’.

Gabriel now returns with ‘i/o’, which has been in the works on and off since the mid-1990s. Fans will be reassured to hear it lives up to the hype and some.  The album is attended by mixes of each track that have been dubbed alternately ‘Bright-Side’ or ‘Dark-Side’, giving us glimpses of their different iterations over the years and a sense of Gabriel’s creative process, which shows no signs of slowing down. 

Panopticom is a strong opener that finds Gabriel in fine voice, gripping the listener’s attention with a strident chorus melody breaking from measured verses.

The Court’s skittering percussion and recurring piano loop, meanwhile, feel more contemporary, removed from Gabriel’s previous work, showing his interest in other genres. 

Playing For Time is subdued and languid but contains a haunting beauty at its core built around Gabriel’s vocals, which are typically strong. Olive Tree is a perfect pop tune with its horns recalling Gabriel’s love of world music and also Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’. 

The title track feels like classic Gabriel and wouldn’t be out of place on his classic 1986 LP ‘So’ — it shows his ear for a hook and musical understanding to perfection. There is a huge sense of scale to the songs here, with many running over six minutes, yet they are deeply intimate and vibrant, with the expected amount of variety on display.

These often epic tracks prove Gabriel has lost none of his storytelling power or lyrical prowess. What has clearly been a passion project for the now 73-year-old, stands as one of his finest works years, more than justifying its existence and the lengthy wait. 

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