David Longdon Reviews Peter Gabriel's Melt

“Peter Gabriel 3 or Melt as it is unofficially called, is radical, assertive and uncompromising in its vision.”

“Gabriel utilised new developments within music technology of the era and explored the possibilities of this new musical landscape. It has stood the test of time remarkably well. The striking sleeve artwork by Hipgnosis, used photographic techniques devised by Les Krims to ‘melt’ Gabriel’s face.

“The album was written using the Fairlight CMI 2, an incredibly expensive digital sampling synthesiser that allowed the recording and manipulation of sound. It was an instrument that would become a mainstay for Gabriel for many years.

“Lean and muscular, PG3 is a dark and unsettling listening experience with many emotional and dramatic moments. The sinister Intruder nails its colours to the mast from the off. Gabriel’s voice is dry and croaky, complete with eerie whistling and tense, sometimes dissonant instrumentation. It feels predatory and creepy. It is also the debut of the thunderous gated drum sound, a sound that would define a musical decade.

“Gabriel insisted that no hi-hats and cymbals were to be used, which added lots of space within the soundscape. Tribal sounding drums and vocals abide and voices and instruments are processed then placed strategically within the stereo image.

“Although not regarded as a concept album, themes run throughout. No Self Control, I Don’t Remember and Lead A Normal Life could be about the same character, who is seemingly out of control and compulsive with failings of mind and memory. The latter song offers psychiatric help, peace and redemption.

Games Without Frontiers reached No. 4 in the UK. In the video, children are sat around a dining table aping adult behaviour, while Gabriel capers unnoticed between them, in a mocking and sinister fashion. The song is possibly about the futility of war and the childish failings within mankind.

“The assassin in Family Snapshot makes his mark by a murderous act. Gabriel would have been a teenager when JFK was assassinated and this draws on that memory. It also chillingly predicts a future event in December of 1980 when Mark Chapman would fire five bullets beneath the archway of The Dakota. The closing section shows the character returning to his childhood and facing the formative events that would forge him.

Biko is Gabriel’s anthemic protest song about the death of black anti-apartheid activist Steve Biko. Its hypnotic rhythm draws from Gabriel’s profound interest in world music. Gabriel founded WOMAD in the same year as this album was released. ‘You can put out a candle, but you can’t put out a fire’ is the poignant and powerful lyric which summed up the political plight and feeling of the situation. Gabriel closes the album with the cautionary line ‘and the eyes of the world are watching now’, placing the ball very much in their court.”