(All Album Reviews by Jonathan Pine)
Being a great admirer of the artist, I was waiting for Up very impatiently as his previous studio album (Us) had been released ten long years before (in September 1992). To be precise and frank with you, I must say that my torment of waiting was a bit loosened by the releases which appeared in the meantime: Secret World Live (1994 a double disc album featuring well known 15 tracks) Ovo -The Millenium Show (2000), Long Way Home (2000 - the soundtrack to Phillip Noyce's touching movie, Rabbit Proof Fence). Nevertheless the above mentioned painkillers were just a drop in the ocean of my high expectations.
”Everything comes to those who can wait” at long last. Not only can this CD be comparable to the best of Peter Gabriel’s works, but it seems to be his masterpiece.
The opening track “Darkness” begins with innocently peaceful synthesizer sound to be torn apart by loud and brutal riffs after the first 29 seconds or so. Then the atmosphere quiets down unfolding a beautiful melody driven by vocal. The disturbing noisy riffs come back contrasting with delicate passages to the very end of this composition. The following piece – “Growing Up” is more rhythmic (like track # 8 “More Than This”) containing a fine guitar work, a catchy refrain and electronic shrieks in the background. The next track is “Sky Blue”- one of the best ballads I have ever heard (the composition appeared in a special instrumental version on the Long Walk Home - the soundtrack to ”Rabbit Proof Fence”). The song reaches its culmination at the end when the Blind Boys of Alabama starts their gorgeous chants. “Sky Blue” is followed by another moving number – “No Way Out.”
Lyrically most of the compositions concentrate on mortality. An exception is “The Barry Williams Show” in which one can take a close look at the disgusting mechanism of talk shows. Perhaps the most important feature of this album is the fact that it includes no weak spots. Each song has its own charm, at the same time being a consistent element of the superbly produced entirety. However Up is not an easy record. Due to complex nature of the music this release needs time to get into. After my first listening I discovered 3 interesting songs only: “Sky Blue”, “Signal To Noise” (a splendid piece featuring the late Ostad Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan on backing vocals and gentle symphonic keyboards) and the closer “The Drop.” Now I find the entire album one of the greatest I have ever heard.
Summing up: Excellent work, a must have both for Peter Gabriel’s fans and for anyone who loves intricate and challenging music.