It made sense when Peter Gabriel began to drift from the pop sphere into the movie world in the mid-80s. His most vivid work always had a cinematic quality, from Return Of The Giant Hogweed and The Battle Of Epping Forest to The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway, the latter his own personal version of a Marvel blockbuster. Even as his productivity slowed, his songs continued to appear on soundtracks for films as diverse as WALL-E and Natural Born Killers.
Originally released as a vinyl LP on Record Store Day 2019, the smartly-titled Rated PG collects 10 of those songs. The earliest, Walk Through Fire (from romantic thriller Against All Odds), dates back to 1984 and sounds like it – the fussy synthetic production date-stamps it to an era of soft-focus sex scenes and big perms.
But as the 1990s dawned, Gabriel found his groove, which was a world away from the increasingly opaque albums he was making under his own name. This Is Party Man, from 1995 sci-fi flick Virtuosity, is as low-key and lovely as the movie was brash and forgettable, while the Babe: Pig In The City-soundtracking That’ll Do found Gabriel giving life to a beautiful Randy Newman song with the aid of a brass band, which is way more than the sequel to a movie about a CGI porker deserved.
Most astounding of all is Taboo, which originally played out over one of Natural Born Killers’ most memorable scenes. It sees Gabriel standing aside to let late Qawwali singer-mystic Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan transform it into something otherworldly. It’s a trick he repeats to almost as striking effect with Speak (Bol), from 2012’s The Reluctant Fundamenatlist.
Rated PG isn’t a complete document of Peter’s Great Big Cinema Adventure – there’s nothing from his own soundtracks to Birdy, The Passion Of The Christ or Rabbit Proof Fence, though they’re all at right angles to the ‘pop’ Gabriel presented here. But it’s still a fascinating snapshot of the other journey taken by one of music’s enduring visionaries.