The other day we heard the first sounds from Peter Gabriels’ all orchestral indie rock covers LP, Scratch My Back, with his take on Arcade Fire’s “My Body Is A Cage.” Clearly we’ve turned a fine eye toward comprehensively covering this release. For one, Scott’s a huge Genesis/Peter Gabriel nerd; for two, Peter Gabriel’s studio LPs come only once a decade; for three, that tracklist is ridiculous. And beyond all that, this version of “Flume” might just be the album’s highlight.
You know the story: In 2007 Justin Vernon holed up in a Wisconsin cabin writing For Emma, Forever Ago for the benefit, he presumed, of handfuls. Three years on, it’s taken him around the world and earned him honors, although I’m not sure what could equal hearing Peter Gabriel imbue one of your melodies with his all of his unmistakable Peter Gabrielness. It’s an extension of the For Emma story in that way, the idea of this young guy — the youngest on a hero-heavy tracklist — who was singing to himself in the snow so recently now having his song sung by an icon. Another stanza in the poetry of Justin’s story. But the sound of this cover, like the sound of Bon Iver’s album, needs no external narrative to resonate, its affect achieved upon hearing the painterly piano and brass over which Peter first bursts, widescreen, into that chorus. “Only love is all maroon.” But it’s not only love that’s all maroon — so is the heart of this cover album’s cover art. Fitting, somehow. You should hear it:
And for all that talk about not needing additional narrative, here is some anyway. With a release like Scratch My Back, it’s worth hearing the perspective of the recording artist, especially when that recording artist is this guy. So here’s Peter on “Flume” and Bon Iver, in his own words (via The Quietus):
Bon Iver was introduced to me by my younger daughter, Melanie, who’s a big fan. When I first heard this track it immediately registered. I tried singing a couple of his songs, but this was the one that I could feel instinctively. The first arrangement that John did was all based around the brass, and although I loved what he had done, it felt too heavy and lacked contrast. Very late in the day I sat down at the piano and tried to find a really simple part for the verses, which then allows the brass entry to have more meaning. There were a couple of lines of lyrics that felt awkward at first, but the more time I spent with it the more natural it became. It is a beautiful song.
Peter’s Scratch My Back is out 2/15 via Virgin. Eventually, he’ll scratch theirs.
01 “Heroes” (David Bowie)
02 “The Boy in the Bubble” (Paul Simon)
03 “Mirrorball” (Elbow)
04 “Flume” (Bon Iver)
05 “Listening Wind” (Talking Heads)
06 “The Power of the Heart” (Lou Reed)
07 “My Body Is a Cage” (Arcade Fire)
08 “The Book of Love” (The Magnetic Fields)
09 “I Think It’s Going to Rain Today” (Randy Newman)
10 “Après moi” (Regina Spektor)
11 “Philadelphia” (Neil Young)
12 “Street Spirit (Fade Out)” (Radiohead)
Peter will perform in support of this release on The New Blood Tour. It is “Peter Gabriel, an orchestra, no drums, no guitars.” The dates:
03/22 – Paris @ Bercy
03/24 – Berlin @ O2
03/25 – Berlin @ O2
03/27 – London @ O2 Arena
03/28 – London @ O2 Arena
04/28 – Montreal @ Bell Centre
05/02 – New York @ Radio City Music Hall
05/03 – New York @ Radio City Music Hall
05/07 – Los Angeles @ Hollywood Bowl
Check the WOMAD shop for ticket purchase info. The North American dates aren’t on-sale just yet.