New on Vinyl – Peter Gabriel IV (Security)

Yes, this is the album with Shock the Monkey...

When I first looked up this album to get some basic background information, I was astounded to see Robert Christgau, who I usually think is right on the money, gave this album a C+ rating. What can I say, I was intrigued and I was expecting a half-assed musical diversion. After listening to this album maybe about a dozen times over the last few days I can say that its consistent, innovative and in some cases infectious, and worth more than a C+ for the arrangements alone and musical experimentation alone.

Peter Gabriel’s fourth eponymous album, (released as Security’ in North America) does indeed feature the single Shock the Monkey, a song Peter Gabriel describes as a love song. I always liked it, even before I knew what it was about, for its unique musical stylings, not to mention the oft-repeated and somewhat bizarre (possibly sexual?) hook. I didn’t entirely know what to expect, although I was curious to see what would lead into Shock the Monkey.

The album is definitely moody, at times triumphant, at times compelling, but without a doubt generally enigmatic. I don’t know how to describe it because the sound he creates across the album is unique and different from its constituent parts, which include Ghanian drums, tapes and loops, synths and funk-like bass lines. It’s as much a ‘world-music’ album as it is a proto-industrial one, and fits comfortably in the pantheon of New Wave. I’d compare it to the Talking Heads’ “Remain in Light”, or Byrne & Eno’s “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” though these are far from direct comparisons. At other times you hear what was clearly established back when Gabriel was fronting Genesis, at other times I’m convinced he’s channeling what Boards of Canada was seeking fifteen years later.

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