Daily Song Study

Peter Gabriel – Signal to Noise

In songs on August 30, 2011 at 7:26 am

The conventional wisdom about musical artists is that youth is the peak period. To a degree this is true, although I often wonder how much of that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. However, there are songs that are only possible when an artist has years of experience to draw on, and there is no better example than today’s tune.

Peter Gabriel has been known as an innovator throughout his career, going back as far as his stint in Genesis during the early 1970s. He has a reputation for throwing pretty much anything against the wall to see if it sticks, and more often than not, it does. In 2002, after a 10-year hiatus, he released the Up album. On that record, you can hear all the various stages in his musical history melding into a cohesive whole. Things that were once experiments which stood alone now mesh with other elements to create a rich sonic palette that drives the songs, which are more introspective than ever.

This one combines many of those elements (the Sufi-based vocals of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, African drums, creepy vocal effects on top of synthesized beats), but brings in a heavy string section at the end to drive the song’s conclusion into the stratosphere. It’s as good a song as he’s ever done, and he pulled it off at age 52. It’s something to shoot for.

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  1. The middle eastern vocals of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan just demolish. And with the drum led late section remind me of one of my favorite Gabriel albums of all time, Passion. Your assesment is right on, he used everything in his arsenol on this album, but all masterfully doen as opposed to stumbling upon it. A mature artist has a bag of tricks that cannot be beat.

  2. […] a contrast to our earlier Peter Gabriel study, wherein a mood is taken from one dynamic level to another in a very steady and climactic […]

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