It’s perfectly normal to be nervous when you see one of your favorite albums reissued; God knows I felt it when I read that Peter Gabriel’s third solo album Peter Gabriel (aka “Melt”) was next on the Experience Vinyl monthly release list. Thankfully, they chose to forgo their standard release-our-own-variant business model (though we do get a custom 7”) and use last year’s stunning, 180-gram black half-speed remaster, a real treat for audiophiles and collectors alike.
Melt is an experimental rock album with tremendous pop hooks, most notably Gabriel’s massive hit “Games Without Frontiers.” Joining up with an impressive roster of Brit musicians like Robert Fripp, Paul Weller and even old Genesis bandmate Phil Collins, Gabriel set out to make something sonically challenging, yet void of the inherent sterility in certain prog and avante-garde rock music of the time.
Experience Vinyl includes an insert with notes from the curator in each box; July 2017 was Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane) who chose Melt as her third favorite album of all time. Slick writes that “every song on the record is uniquely disturbing,” an incredibly succinct yet spot-on way to describe the dark soundscapes and troubling lyrics featured throughout. On “Intruder” Gabriel sings of “slipping the clippers through the telephone wires,” while on “No Self Control” he sings, “I hate to hurt you, I hate to see your pain, but I don’t know how to stop”; we’re exploring darkness songwriters rarely venture into here.
Side B is a little more chipper, but not by much. The two clear highlights are “Games Without Frontiers,” featuring Kate Bush singing the often misheard “jeux sans frontieres (she’s so popular),” and the anti-apartheid anthem “Biko,” written about murdered South African activist Steve Biko. Gabriel still closes most shows with “Biko,” letting the crowd sing the defiant finale of “ahs” and “ohs” after the line, “and the eyes of the world are watching you now, watching you now.” It’s a simple yet powerful tune, combining the anger of injustice with resolve of hope, a theme that keeps this song ageless.
The last few years have been great for Peter Gabriel fans. For the most part his whole catalog has had a refresh, with the earlier albums being remastered (in a good way) and cut using half speed masters. Forgive the pun but Melt is dripping with texture; the sterile electronic drums are mixed in a way to give them life while Gabriel’s vocals pierce through even the thickest bass and guitar lines. One thing of note: by design, there are no hi-hats on this album.
The packaging mirrors the original release, with the exception of 180-gram vinyl. Far more impressive is the 12” booklet with writing from Grace Slick, including a picture of her handwritten note and a listening guide in “top 10” format. There’s also notes about the included bonus 7”, a beautiful color variant of Jefferson Airplane’s 1967 hit “White Rabbit.” It was a smart move to include this 7” variant instead of making a variant for Melt; you already have an incredible pressing that’s widely available so there’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
Peter Gabriel (Melt) was available as the July 2017 release through Experience Vinyl and can still be purchased here.