Played So

Listened So by Peter Gabriel from

The first of Peter’s studio albums to have a proper title So was a watershed release in his career. Its marriage of the artistic and the commercial made for an indisputable success, with the album quickly sitting atop the album charts on both sides of the Atlantic. Aside from some intriguing collaborations – with Laurie Anderson on This Is The Picture, Kate Bush on Don’t Give Up and Youssou N’Dour on In Your Eyes – it was the unity of singer, band and producer that made So such a crucial record in the Gabriel canon.

I was obsessed with this album in like 1995-6. I would play the start of Sledgehammer over and over at full blast on our speakers to hear the weird flute-y synth (?) riff. I still like all the songs on the album besides Don’t Give Up. For having a couple massive hits on it — Sledgehammer and In Your Eyes — this is a pretty weird and dark album. Not a lot of pop artists gonna write about a psychologist’s unethical experiments. It’s kind of an odd blend of funky pop and world beat influenced kinda prog rock.

Red Rain is giving me some Tears for Fears and Depeche Mode vibes. The lyrics are creepy. Like his vocals on here.

Sledgehammer is still just fun. I love the “sparkly” organ synth shit at the end.

Still can’t stand Don’t Give Up — the background is pretty but the obnoxious ladies singing put me over the edge. They make it dated.

That Voice Again starts off like it should be happy but the lyrics are heavy. I like that kind of contrast, makes me think of We Will Become Silhouettes. The background riff reminds me of something at the tip of my tongue but I can’t place it.

Mercy Street is good but I’ve replaced this version in my mental catalogue with Fever Ray’s excellent cover.

Big Time has that funky 80s bass but is still fun, and of course I love a critique of materialism. The chorus, the sweet organ, hell yeah.

We Do What We’re Told and This Is the Picture both sound more like outgrowths of his Genesis days. I can hear the same kind of haunting styling from We Do What We’re Told on his later album Up — this is the sound I think of when I think of Peter Gabriel, not his pop songs.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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